If you've been suffering from insomnia for a while chances are you've tried all the usual ways to get to sleep. If chamomile tea and lavender drops aren't quite doing the trick, and valerian or white noise hasn't worked, don't despair. One of these more surprising methods may lull you into slumber instead.
It's worth trying a few of these sleep tricks to see what works best for you, as depending on what is causing your restless night the best way to get to sleep will vary from person to person. Most of these tactics don't require any special remedies or products, so they're easy for anyone to do.
1. Listen to bacon frying to sleep better
We're not suggesting you start cooking last thing at night – obviously – but listening to a recording of a couple of rashers sizzling in the pan may well lull you off to sleep. A YouTube video of bacon frying went viral for just that reason. The theory? This kind of comforting, repetitive sound triggers Autonomous Sensory Meridian Response (ASMR) – a combination of positive feelings, relaxation and tingling sensations, all of which encourage peaceful slumber.
2. Employ some reverse psychology to beat insomnia
Can't get to sleep? Try to stay awake instead. A study at the University of Glasgow found that sleep-onset insomniacs fell asleep much easier when they were instructed to try to do the opposite.
This method is known as Paradoxical Intention (PI). By lying in bed with your eyes wide open, any anxiety associated with your inability to drop off will start to diminish. And as you become more relaxed, you're more likely to fall asleep. Job done!
3. Get up to trick your brain
If you're not asleep after 15 minutes of trying, get out of bed and do something relaxing, such as reading, in another room instead. Then go back and try again. 'If you lie in bed unable to sleep for long periods, you start to associate your bed with wakefulness and maybe agitation,' explains Brendan Street, clinical lead for cognitive behavioural therapy at Nuffield Health. 'The only way to break the cycle is by realigning the bed-sleep association.'
4. Don't count sheep
Counting sheep tends not to work because it's too mundane to keep our anxieties away, say University of Oxford researchers. Instead, they suggest conjuring up a more relaxing image, such as a waterfall or sandy beach.
5. Do count your breaths to fall asleep
Employing a simple sleep meditation that's connected to your breathing can reduce stress, detach your mind from troubling thoughts and improve your sleep, according to yoga advocate Lucy Edge: 'Close your eyes and begin to count your breaths, slowly and deeply. Breathe in for one count, out for two, in for three, out for four, and so on. When you reach 10, start again. Observe any thoughts as clouds passing across the sky. Become aware of any space between the thoughts and drop into the deep calm. Sweet dreams!'
6. Warm your feet to bring on sleep
As your body cools, it sends sleep signals to your brain. Placing a hot water bottle by your feet – or wearing bedsocks if you prefer – redirects the blood flow to your feet and so encourages heat loss, say Swiss researchers.
7. Tense your toes to reduce tension
Here's another trick with your (hopefully warm) feet: try alternately tensing and relaxing your toes for a count of 10 each time. This draws tension away from the rest of the body, helping you to relax, according to sleep experts at the University of Maryland.
8. Hum like a bee for a serotonin boost
Warning: this may irritate your partner (but it apparently does work)! 'The "bumblebee breath" is incredible for insomnia,' says 'sleep guru' Anandi. 'It calms the mind, gets rid of negative emotions and stimulates the feel-good brain chemical serotonin. Turn the lights out, lie down comfortably on your back and make the bumblebee sound for 10 minutes. Just inhale and hum on the exhale, and that's it.'
9. Try eating some cheese
Good news for cheese-lovers: it doesn't cause nightmares and could actually help you get to sleep. 'Yes, the idea that cheese causes bad dreams is thought to be a myth,' says nutritionist Cassandra Barns. 'In fact, cheese can contain high levels of the amino acid tryptophan, which aids sleep. But avoid high-fat cheeses late as night, as the fat can disrupt your rest. Cottage cheese – naturally low in fat – with oatcakes may make the perfect bedtime snack.'
10. Listen to a bedtime story before bed
It's normally a no-no to take your smartphone into the bedroom – but you might choose to make an exception for the Sleep Stories app, which offers soothing words and sound effects to lull you off to sleep. Choose from more than 65 bedtime stories, including classic tales and nature essays, read by the likes of Joanna Lumley, Stephen Fry and Radio 4 Shipping Forecast presenter Peter Jefferson. Alternatively, listening to the Shipping Forecast itself also works for a lot of people...
Still struggling to beat insomnia and get to sleep? Try The Sleep Book author Dr Guy Meadows' tips for beating insomnia, or check our guide to common sleep problems and their solutions.
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