These tricks from sleep experts may seem a weird at first, but one could prove to be your answer for deep and restful sleep.
Try to stay awake
If you want to fall asleep faster, think about staying awake. “It sounds counterintuitive, but for those who find it difficult to sleep because they keep worrying about not falling asleep, do the opposite,” says Sujay Kansagra, MD, director of Duke University’s Sleep Medicine program and Mattress Firm’s sleep health consultant. Most of the time falling asleep is an involuntary process that takes virtually no effort on our part, but if we’re anxious, we do things like looking at the clock and calculating how little sleep we’re going to get, which then causes sleep performance anxiety. “Instead of worrying about falling asleep, think about staying awake instead. This often lessens anxiety and gives your mind a chance to relax enough to fall asleep. It’s a technique known as paradoxical intent, a cognitive behavioral therapy technique used to lessen the anxiety around falling asleep,” says Dr. Kansagra.
Keep your toes toasty
If you have cold feet, your brain may not get the signal its time to snooze. According to Joseph Krainin, MD, founder and president of Singular Sleep, LLC, and Chief Medical Expert for SoClean, wearing socks to bed can decrease the amount of time it takes to fall asleep. “The benefit of wearing socks to bed seems to be vasodilation. The best explanation is that warming the feet causes blood vessels to dilate, and this signals to the brain that it’s time to fall asleep.”
Try autogenic training
This sleep trick involves a little practice, but when you get proficient at it, it has big payoffs—not just for insomnia but other stress-related issues you may have. According to Svetlana Kogan, MD, integrative and holistic doctor and author of Diet Slave No More!, autogenic training is a self-relaxation technique dating back to the 1930s. It is based on self-hypnosis coupled with progressive muscle relaxation. The training produces a feeling of warmth and heaviness throughout your body, which results in a deep state of physical relaxation and mental peace. “International research studies, including a 2002 study published in Applied Psychophysiology and Biofeedback, support that it works,” says Dr. Kogan. If you want to give it a shot, make an appointment with a qualified hypnotist.
Rub on soothing oils
Studies show that an ancient treatment called Shirodhara may help with insomnia. “This ancient Ayurvedic treatment involves dripping warm brahmi oil onto the forehead of the patient,” says Dr. Kogan. Ananta Ripa Ajmera, a certified Ayurveda health practitioner and yoga instructor and author of The Ayurveda Way, offers another option from the Ashtanga Hridayam text: “Oil your feet, the top of your head, and the backs of your ears before sleeping.” But who wants to crawl into bed with an oily head? No worries. Sit on a towel and warm the container of oil in a bowl of hot water. Ajmera recommends sesame oil for winter and spring or if you have pain, and coconut oil for summer, as it has a cooling potency. Follow with a warm shower and non-drying soap.
Magnesium is a busy mineral in our body, responsible for hundreds of bodily functions, including promoting relaxation. Bananas contain a lot of magnesium but the banana peel is where it’s at for sleep. Michael Breus, PhD, of SleepScoreLabs, a diplomat of the American Board of Sleep Medicine and a fellow of The American Academy of Sleep Medicine, created a recipe for banana tea that can help you fall asleep. “Take an organic banana, wash it, cut off the tip and the stem, and then cut it in half, leaving the fruit in and the skin on. Put it in boiling water for three to four minutes, and drink the water with a little honey.” Why honey? According to Dr. Breus, it helps regulate blood sugar throughout the night, which is a common reason why some of us wake up in the middle of the night.
Blow some bubbles
Martin Rawls-Meehan, CEO and founder of the sleep technology company Reverie, shares this technique with his clients, because blowing bubbles activates a similar mechanism to taking deep, meditative breaths. “It also has the effect of redirecting your thoughts from the worrying to the more lighthearted. The act of blowing bubbles reminds us of the joy of childhood, which is a good way to de-stress,” says Meehan.