The National Health Interview Survey (NHIS) conducted a survey that included an interesting statistic about sleep deprivation. According to the survey, between 2005 and 2007, 30 percent of adult participants reported getting six hours of sleep or less every night. I generally fall and stay asleep easily, so I had no idea how prevalent this problem was among my demographic. Not to brag, but I can break almost every sleep rule and still regularly get eight hours of rest. So looking into unique ways to fall and stay asleep had been more of a casual interest of mine rather than a priority…until one fateful night when I found myself wide awake at 2:00am, unable to fall asleep.
Normally, I don’t experience this dilemma, but the cumulative effect of:
1.) Planning to move,
2.) Getting rear-ended in a car accident,
3.) Watching the season premiere of The Mentalist,
4.) Taking a non-drowsy sinus headache medicine tablet,
5.) Drinking coffee at 8pm and
6.) Eating a whole pint of coffee frozen yogurt
rendered me wide awake until well after midnight. Finally at 3 a.m. I gave up, got out of bed, brewed some coffee, and intensified my search on getting and staying asleep. Fueled by need, this exploratory session proved more fruitful than previous ones. Below is my (inspired by experience) Top 10 List of Not-So-Conventional Ways to Fall and Stay Asleep:
1) Voo Doo
To get the mind and body ready for sleep, Yumi Sakugawa from TheSecretYumiverse.com and others recommend creating a ritual. The series can be simplistic but should be a sequence of activities you conduct only when prepping for sleep. The exclusivity is as key as the order. Like a baseball player up-to-bat superstitiously tapping his nose, cheek, and cleats at the plate to ensure a hit, sometimes a person needs a ritual to have sleep come right on cue.
2) A Sleep Siren
Most of us sing in the shower from time to time, but bed singing is a little less talked about, particularly when it’s you singing a lullaby to yourself. Sarah Jio, blogger for www.Glamour.com admits it feels odd but that a late night song can help bring sleep on more quickly. Robin Westen explains on www.TheThirdAge.com that singing works by disrupting the auditory channel. Basically a song can mask other sounds in your environment or quiet internal chatter, distract you, and aid drifting off.
3) Rub your Belly
Just do it. Touch can be soothing, even when it isn’t done by someone else says Sakugawa. The rhythm and sensory input of touch causes the body to relax and drop to sleep.
4) On your toes
The toes may hold the power to set you adrift. Jio, Sakugawa, and Westen recommend toe curling. Curling toes in, holding the contraction, and then releasing helps muscles ease and as they do the mind and whole body follow suit. Some recommend contracting and releasing not just toes but also other muscle groups throughout the body to amplify the effect.
5) The Mentalist
Recall your entire day from beginning to end has a benefit says Sakugawa. Reviewing it helps cease racing thoughts. Listing and reflecting on the entire day prevents dwelling on single events, which scares sleep away by keeping the mind alert. Counting backwards starting from 100 by 7s or other increments can also achieve the same effect, says Westen.
6) Lung training
Patients with sleep apnea noticed some benefit from learning to play the Didgeridoo. (The didgeridoo is a wind instrument used by indigenous Australians that resembles a hollow wooden tube.) Westen reports the findings of a study conducted in Switzerland that indicates the lung strength, and capacity the instrument requires, has a positive impact on those experiencing sleep apnea. Because breathing improved in learning the instrument, breathing while asleep did as well.
7) Bottoms up!
Drinking cherry juice, tart as it may be, helps deepen sleep, says Sakugawa. The juice is rich in melatonin, which is the hormone that regulates sleep, and helps sleepers stay at rest, says Karen Asp in AOLHealth. I can personally testify that my parents drink cherry juice and stock up twice a year when they visit Wisconsin.
8) Bedside Manner
Keeping a journal by the bed can be a good way to jot down and trap nagging thoughts that come during the witching hours, says Robin Westen. Instead of letting thoughts flit about or rehearsing them for recall, jotting down ideas doesn’t keep you asleep but sends you back on your way more rapidly.
9) Would it smell so sweet?
Aromatherapy is not unusual, but it’s prevalence and the variety of options makes it unconventional. To read more, check out this article previously posted on Sleep Geek called “A-BROmatheraphy.” (include link to Mike’s article here)
10) Hard to Swallow
There are many elements and supplements Karen Asp recommended for getting your Zzzz’s. Some include: Calcium, Magnesium, Hops (in the concentrated flower form), L-theanine , and Valerian. Though they boost sleep and are often safe, be cautious of side effects and over dosing and discuss with your physician.
If you’ve tried everything under the sun…err, moon to fall asleep and stay behind the eyelids, maybe it’s time to try something unconventional. Add these 10 tips to your bedtime repertoire and let us know if they work in the comments section (or, hop over to our Facebook page).