Do you find it hard to fall asleep?
Maybe you’ve even tried melatonin and it didn’t help. There are more ways to sleep than taking a page from Yoda’s book of meditation. Sometimes, just curling your toes can help.
Don’t believe it? You will, soon.
Here are 21 unusual ways you can improve the quality of your sleep today:
Camping is a great way to have some fun and set your sleep cycle to the natural rhythms of night and day.
Your circadian rhythm depends on exposure to sunlight. When you’re out in the woods, your body tunes with the natural rhythms of sunlight, waking you up early in the morning and putting you right to sleep at night.
But you’re not allowed to take your smartphone or laptop with you. If you take any devices, keep them put away so that they don’t disturb your sleep cycle.
Don’t worry, you’ll still have fun!
Go for a hike with friends, bring along some card games and board games, and let your sleep cycle fix itself without worry! This is better than trying hard to sleep in your bed and fighting the ruthless insomnia monster.
Though it may sound crazy, actively trying not to sleep can help you sleep better! How, you ask?
Here’s the deal:
When you say, “I don’t want to see apples”, what does your brain do? It shows you images of apples in your head. So if you try not to think about something, you will think about it. In the same way, when you tell yourself, “I am not going to sleep”, your brain will take it as an instruction to sleep and you will feel sleepy soon after. This is known as the sleep paradox.
Here’s how it’s done:
Tell yourself, “I’m not going to sleep” and don’t engage in any stimulating activities. Also, don’t drink coffee or start using technology when you are trying not to sleep.
How you can get busy: Ways to keep yourself awake.
Think about your day.
Don’t avoid your worries if they intrude your thoughts. Be gentle and let them flow through your awareness.
Keep your eyes open and blink.
Dream about your happy place.
Read a book.
Listen to soothing music.
Engage in any other quiet activity - knitting, meditation, etc.
Most people are unaware of the potential of their own physical body. If you use it right, you can climb Mount Everest. Then sleeping must be a far easier goal, right?
Your body has a built in tranquilizer: your breath. But you need to use it the right way.
Here’s the secret:
Every emotional state has a corresponding breathing pattern. When you’re anxious, your breath is shallow and fast. And when you’re relaxed, your breath is deep and slow.
The best part is that you can control one to control the other. Simply take control of your breath to relax your mind. Practice box breathing for 10-15 minutes and you’ll feel deeply calm, like you do when you’re relaxing on a beach and looking at the ocean.
Here’s how you do box-breathing:
Sit straight and exhale, releasing all the air inside.
Inhale slowly and deeply through your nose, down to the diaphragm
Count to four gently in your head on the inhale
Hold your breath for a count of four
Exhale for a count of four, emptying out all the air
Hold again for a count of four
Do this practice at least four times
Don’t be afraid of losing track of time when hiding all the clocks in your room. In fact, keeping track of time is the problem. Constantly checking out the time makes you stressed. When you don’t meet your expectations of going to sleep, you worry, and it further steals your sleep.
So, hide all the clocks and don’t worry about the time.
Parents often tell stories to put their kids to sleep. But what if stories worked on adults too? They do.
Pick up a novel you like. Whatever it is - romance, mystery novels, or sci-fi - read a genre that you really like as long as it is fiction. Don’t read non-fiction as it puts your brain into problem-solving mode.
Here’s why storytelling works so well:
Stories gives us meaningful insights into our living experience. Through stories we make sense of our lives and the world around us. And it is also through stories that we experience our dreams. When you’re in REM sleep, you’re dreaming about fictional scenarios loosely based on your own life story. So if you deliberately put your brain into storytelling mode, it will know that it’s time to sleep and create a relaxation response.
When you’re tossing and turning in your bed, there’s one tool you can use to escape into a dreamy place: your mind.
No, it won’t make you crazy.
Navy SEALS, olympic athletes, psychologists, neuroscientists - everyone knows the profound effects of visualization.
How to do it:
Go to your happy place. Imagine yourself sitting on the beach, perhaps with a martini in your hands and a bonfire burning away all the worries you ever had. See the waves of the ocean making that soothing noise; feel a pleasant, cool breeze blowing on your face. Feel your hands touching the moist sand and as you look into the horizon, see the waves crashing onto the shore.
Sammy Margo, author of The Good Sleep Guide, says that you should use at least three senses to make the best use of visualization. Hear the sounds of the ocean waves, the smell of moist sand, and see the endless beauty of the infinite ocean.
People tend to take high doses of melatonin when they have continued sleeping problems. This seems logical at first, but may actually worsen your sleep issues. The right dose of melatonin is about 0.3 mg.
Higher doses suppress your natural melatonin production, further adding to your sleep problems.
If you suffer from insomnia, ask your doctor about the correct dosage of melatonin.
This may sound stupid, but it works.
A headstands circulates refreshed blood to the master glands in our brain - hypothalamus and pituitary, which control all the other glands in our body. It also cleanses and detoxifies the adrenal glands, making us think positive and warding off depressive thoughts.
As your worries and anxieties fade away, you’ll naturally doze off into a restful slumber.
If you’re a beginner, don’t worry. You won’t fall down if you learn to do it right.
Here’s how to do a headstand:
Strengthen core and upper body
Doing a headstand requires the use of your upper body and core muscles. So it makes sense to make these muscles stronger.
Here’s a great exercise:
To strengthen your upper body and core, one of the simplest exercises you can do is the half-boat pose.
Lay down on a yoga mat, extend your arms forward as if you’re going to hug a friend and as you rise up, also lift your knees bending them through the way. Rise up till your hands touch your knees and then go back down without touching your feet and head to the ground. Do three sets of 15 reps each.
Do the half-boat pose for 4-5 weeks to increase your core strength.
Use the correct hand placement
A common mistake people make is keeping their palms open and placing their head in their hands.
The right way:
Hold your hands together as if you were holding a tennis ball in between. Then, put your head in the wrist crease at the bottom of your hands.
While kneeling down, use your shoulder blades to push the upper portions of your shoulders away from your ears. The point here is to keep most of your body weight on your forearms and not your head.
Use the wall for support
Now that you know the hand placement, come down on all fours, your knees touching the ground. Curl your toes and lift your hips up. Now walk your feet toward the wall until your hips are right above your shoulders.
You may think that you’re going to fall, but you won’t, as long as you’re using the strength of your forearms and core. Once in the this position, lift your knees up slowly, letting your hips move toward the wall. Put your feet on the wall and walk them up to make them straight.
4. Come down slowly
To come down, work your knees back down to your chest, putting your legs on the floor.
If you can’t sleep at night, learning the headstand is a fun activity to do. And while you’re having fun, it’ll also put you to sleep.
Do it for 1-5 minutes and come down right when you feel uncomfortable and have to put in excessive effort to stay up.
You already know by now that your breath is a powerful tranquilizer if used correctly. Put a finger on your right nostril and breathe through the left nostril, taking slow and deep breaths.
How it works:
In yogic science, the left nostril provides access to Ida energy which represents moon energy: calm, soothing, passive, female, reflective; it slows you down and keeps you relaxed. And the right nostril is associated with sun or Pingala energy: fiery, awakening, active, and male; it charges your fight or flight response. One is yin, the other is yang.
The bottom line:
Whenever your mind is racing, breathing through the left nostril will activate your parasympathetic response, rescuing you out of the fight-or-flight mode of the mind.
You can use this knowledge of Ida and Pingala energies to feel energetic when you’re feeling sluggish in the morning.
To feel more active and energetic when you’re feeling lazy, put your left thumb on your left nostril and take slow, deep breaths through the right nostril.
This is simply amazing. You can feel energetic or calm at will with this simple exercise.
What does it mean?
Hitting a mental remind means going through all the events of your day from the last one at night to the first one in the morning. Our mind makes sense of our life through stories compiling different sights, sounds, sensations, and conversations that we experience.
The scientific reason:
When you recall the story of your day one scene at a time, your brain reaches a restful state, perfect for sleep.
As a matter of fact, in REM sleep, which is essential for recharging our brain during sleep, our brain conjures up fictional stories in our dreams, making us play a character in a parallel world. This shows that storytelling is a relaxing cue for the brain and we can use this for our own advantage.
What is acupressure?
Acupressure is considered very powerful by natural health experts and is an integral part of Chinese medicine. In this form of therapy, the emphasis is on balancing the chi energy or life force.
Chi flows through fourteen meridians in our body and if there is a blockage in any of the meridians, it leads to disease in the body. To release the blockages, we need to press the acupoints, which are nerve endings along the meridians.
It takes zero effort to press some pressure points in your body when you want to relax. You just need to know the right acupoints.
What you need to do:
1. Use your thumb to press the point between your eyebrows, at the top of your nose. Keep pressing for twenty seconds, then release for a moment. Do this three times to feel the soothing effect.
2. Next, press the Heart 7 acupoint, also known as Shenmen, which translates to “spirit gate”. This is located at the bottom of your palm, on the side of your little finger (see picture). Use your thumb to press the Heart 7 on the other hand. Keep pressing for one minute to feel deep relaxation.
The Heart 7 points works very well for insomnia and anxiety.
Source: The Fusion Model
3. Another great acupoint for inducing sleep is Pericardium 6, also known as Nei Guan, which translates to “inner gate”.
PC6 is often referred to as the most powerful acupoint, so you shouldn’t miss it. This is located on your wrist (see the picture). Press firmly for about one minute to feel relaxed.
Squeezing your muscles is a simple technique that provides full-body relaxation. It’s like enjoying a great massage at a luxurious spa without paying any money.
Now, who wouldn’t want that?
Here’s what to do:
Lie down on your back, take a deep breath and squeeze your toes as if you were curling them under your feet. Hold for moment, then release the tension. Next, take another breath and squeeze your feet by curling them towards your shins.
Note the pattern: take a deep breath, squeeze a muscle, and release.
Do this starting from your toes; doing your feet, calves, thighs, entire legs, stomach, buttocks, chest, arms, shoulders, neck, face; to the top of your head. This is also known as progressive muscle relaxation.
Once you finish this exercise, each cell of your body will feel at peace and soon you’ll doze off into a deep slumber.
What is a ritual?
A ritual is an activity that you practice every day, in the same fashion. For example, when you listen to a certain song, you feel a certain way. Similarly, when you practice a certain ritual you evoke certain emotions, preparing yourself for an important thing.
How do you create a sleep ritual?
A ritual doesn’t have to be something complex. It can be as simple as washing your face and listening to your favorite music before bed. Some people like to read fiction before they sleep, others like to talk to their spouse. As long as you don’t use technology and don’t do anything mentally stimulating, anything will work.
Here are some sleep rituals you can choose from:
Count three things you’re grateful for. It may include family, a part of their lifestyle, or a personality trait such as creativity. Remember that you don’t need a Ferrari to be grateful. Tony Robbins, a renowned personal growth coach, feels grateful for wind blowing on his face each morning.
De-clutter your room
Clean your room, putting all the electronics away from your bed, and maybe use a fresh bedsheet for sleep. Sleep experts say that cleaning your room subconsciously rids you of anxiety and stress, relaxing you when it’s time to sleep.
Write in your journal
Journaling is a great practice to wind up your day. You recall all the good stuff that happened during the day and write down any major insights you discovered. It is recommended to write in a physical diary instead of writing on your smartphone, or laptop. Because using tech devices may distract you, making you stressed and sabotaging your whole sleep ritual. If you have to write on a device, turn off the WiFi before doing it.
4. Take a walk
Taking a walk will relax you when your mind is too alert or anxious. Research by Stanford University shows that walking makes you 60 percent more creative. So you can use this ritual to calm your mind before sleep, and also when you need some creative inspiration during the day.
Researchers have found that meditation physically changes your brain, building more gray matter and weakening the connections to the prefrontal cortex, which is responsible for all the “me” stories - “I should have that”, “my life is not good enough”, etc. This helps you sleep better at night. Meditation also improves your power to focus, increasing your ability to recall important information.
This is ridiculously simple but it actually works. Here’s how to do it:
Curl your toes, hold for a couple seconds and then release. Repeat this a few times to feel calm in the body and the mind.
Now you might be wondering, what’s the science behind this?
The answer is that, this exercise is monotonous and so relaxes your body and mind instantly. And you get the same relaxing feeling that you get after a foot massage, so it’s definitely worth trying.
The primary thing that keeps us from falling asleep is our thoughts. So write them down to hear the message your brain is trying to tell you. Once you write everything down, your mind will relax since there won’t be anything else to think about.
Another benefit of writing down your thoughts is that you are better able to understand your emotions. 40 years of research by James Pennebaker, a renowned professor at the University of Texas, has shown that writing down things immensely helps with emotional processing. In other words, when we write things down, we know why we feel how we feel and we are able to better process it.
Writing about intense emotional events helps us see them from a fresh and healthy perspective. The natural tendency in people is to avoid tough emotions, so working directly with them by writing things down is very good for your mental health and improves your quality of sleep.
Try the below exercise to write things down:
1. Set a timer for 20 minutes.
2. Write whatever comes to your mind - your love life, your career, events from last week, month, or year.
3. There’s no right or wrong way, write freely.
4. When the timer goes off, stop writing and go back to bed.
No, we’re not telling you to sit in a time machine and go back in time!
What we’re saying is, you need to change your perspective of the past. In psychology, this is known as reframing. You take a past experience or event, which might be bugging you, then reframe it into a positive one.
But how can you change a negative experience into positive?
Here’s what to do:
Take an experience you feel bad about: a fight with your family, failure at work, or anything else.
Become aware of the facts of the situation. Are you jumping to conclusion and assuming the worst will happen?
Now ask yourself, “What did I learn from this?”, “What’s so great about this?”, “How does this make me a stronger, better person?”
How it works:
An event is bad only because you give it a bad meaning. As the saying goes, nothing is good or bad but thinking makes it so. When anything bad happens to us, our brain automatically makes up a story about what happened. This is the biological nature of our brain. Now if we end up believing every story that it makes up, then we’re in serious trouble. So it’s essential to become conscious of the stories your mind is telling you.
Our brain conjures up a story about everything and most people believe it. Make sure you change the story if you don’t like it.
This is really simple. Before you hit the sack, submerge your face in a bowl of ice-cold water.
Here’s the fascinating science behind this phenomenon:
Per Scholander, a Swedish researcher, found that that when we submerge our face in water, we activate the “mammalian diver reflex”. In this reflex, the blood in our body flows away from the limbs to the vital organs like brain and heart, decreasing our heart rate and blood pressure.
The only condition is that the water must be cooler than the surrounding air.
This was a profound discovery made on the human body, as this happens only underwater. Scholander called it the “Master Switch of Life”.
People usually listen to music to relax their mind. But the best solution is to drown out all outside noises, using white noise. White noise drowns out disruptive sounds in your room and help you fall asleep faster. If you hear traffic sounds, snoring, or your nextdoor neighbors making loud noises at night, this is the best solution for you.
White noise is an ambient noise, it works in the background. Your mind eases into it and relaxes easily into sleep. Noise is important because our brains can still process sounds during sleep.
But you need to see if white noise works for you, since many people become more sensitive to underlying sounds with white noise. Nonetheless, it works for some people and produces better noise than the disturbing sounds you may hear at night, so it’s worth a try.
When it comes to sleep, temperature is one of the most important things you need to monitor. Our body uses temperature to set our circadian rhythm, or internal sleep clock.
A common mistake people make is they sleep in a room that’s not cool enough. Here are some things to help you cool down and get your zzz’s:
A simple yet effective way to cool down is to sleep naked. Sleeping naked will cool down your body temperature, signalling to your brain that it’s time to sleep. It feels good too - no tight clothing, you can move around freely, and more freedom.
Sleeping naked also makes you more confident. This is because you become more comfortable with your body and improves your self-image. Research by University of Melbourne shows that confident people earn significantly more, up to $28,000, than less confident people.
Take A Warm Shower
Now, how does a warm shower help when you want to cool down?
The thing is, after you take a warm shower, your body temperature drops because of your cooler bedroom. This drop in body temperature is your brain’s cue to make you sleep, and slow down your heart rate, blood pressure, breathing, and digestion.
Keep your shower short - 5-15 minutes, and at the right temperature - less than 104°F.
Cool Down Your Room
The third and final way is to cool down the room you sleep in. Turn on the A.C. but before you sleep open your windows for a bit so that hot air can flow out of your room. At night, the outside temperature drops down and the room inside is usually hot, so it’s essential to open the windows for a while and let the hot air flow out.
You can go one step further and buy a cooling pad or mattress to sleep on. They’re a bit expensive but worth it in the long-term.
You already know that parents sing lullabies to their babies to put them to sleep. But what if you could use it on yourself?
Because, why not?
Sit in a chair and hum a soothing song. Don’t sing rap or metal, which is heavily stimulating and will wake you up. Go with the likes of Coldplay, Pink Floyd, or Radiohead. Choose a light, soothing song that slows you down mentally and prepares you for a good night’s sleep.
If nothing comes to mind, listen to this scientifically proven sleep music:
Now don’t roll your eyes thinking this is stupid, or maybe do it. Because hey, it can put you to sleep!
Rolling your eyes is similar to the eye movement you make during sleep. It triggers your brain to release the natural sleep hormone, melatonin. When you are dreaming about talking to your crush, remembering things about the past, your eyes are rolling up and down, making small movements. You can make these movements deliberately to go into that relaxed state of mind.
Here’s how to do it:
First, close your eyes and become aware of your mind and body, and how it feels. Then, roll your eyes down and pay attention to your breathing and notice the relaxing feeling. Then, roll your eyes up, pay attention to your breathing and notice the relaxing feeling.
There are plenty of interesting ways to get a healthy sleep - go camping with your friends and talk horror stories, try the headstand and surprise yourself, discover your body’s in-built tranquilizer and doze off right away, submerge your head in ice cold water and flip the body’s magic switch.
Now that you know 21 new ways to sleep, try the one that catches your fancy and see how it improves your sleep. A quick reminder, though. If you have been facing sleep problems for a long time, consult a sleep specialist.