According to the Sleep Health Foundation, 1 in 3 people have some type of insomnia. Whether you struggle to fall asleep or you have a hard time staying that way, insomnia can take a serious toll on your overall health.
If you're tired of reaching for sleep aids, and you've tried just about everything to get the rest you need, we've some ways to help insomnia that might get you back to sleep.
1. Try to Stay Awake
Most people who suffer with chronic insomnia would try just about any whacky tip or trick to fall asleep. But experts say that trying too hard could actually be preventing you from getting the rest you need.
Sleep specialist Colin Espie told Dr. Seth J. Gillihan at Psychology Today that insomnia can become a sort of performance anxiety. Like blushing or stammering, the more you dwell on it, the harder it can be to overcome.
Instead of lying in bed staring at the ceiling or your alarm clock, get up and do some kind of light, passive activity like reading or watching a low-key television show. As you feel your eyelids get heavy, try to stay awake. As Gillihan writes, “Allow sleep to come when it will, rather than chasing it.”
2. Get Rid of Your Clock
As chefs say, “a watched pot never boils.” Sleep experts say you can apply the same advice to insomnia. When you look at your clock as you struggle to fall asleep, you create a competition in your brain, with the clock as your opponent.
Every time you see that another half hour, hour or more has gone by, you “lose” to the clock. This creates anxiety, which makes it even more difficult to fall asleep. Instead of keeping your clock on your nightstand, try putting it in a nearby room or placing it face-down at night.
3. Practice Sleep Yoga
As a general rule, sleep experts caution people to avoid strenuous exercise before bed. However, certain forms of slow, gentle exercise can actually prime your body for sleep.
There are several yoga poses that can slow your heart rate and improve blood circulation — two things that make it easier to drift off to dreamland. Yoga Journal recommends six yoga poses for sleep, including the child’s pose, supported half frog pose, reclining bound angle pose, wind-relieving pose, corpse pose and supported reclining twist.
4. Do Some Progressive Muscle Relaxation
Progressive muscle relaxation offers a number of benefits, including pain management, stress reduction, lower anxiety and, of course, less insomnia. WebMD describes progressive muscle relaxation as a gradual, steady clenching and then relaxing of major muscle groups. You don’t have to clench your muscles in any specific order, but experts say it might help to start at your head or feet and then work your way down or up.
To do progressive muscle relaxation before bed, lie down and then pick a muscle group. For example, if you pick your thighs, squeeze/clench them tightly for five to 10 seconds, and then release. Then move on to the next muscle group.
5. Journal Before Bed
A common insomniac complaint is that their body is bone-tired but their brain just won’t turn off or shut down. If you lie awake with thoughts from the day running through your head, it might help to put them somewhere. This is where journaling can help.
Whether you choose to type your thoughts on the computer or write them down on paper, keeping a daily journal and chronicling your day shortly before bed may help you clear your thoughts, so you can get down to sleep.
6. Wear Some Amber-tinted Glasses
If you spend a lot of time looking at your computer, phone or tablet before bed, amber-tinted glasses may actually help you get to sleep without tossing and turning. Researchers at Columbia University Medical Center found that people who wore amber-tinted glasses — which block blue-wavelength light — before bed slept 30 minutes longer than those who went without.
So if you can’t break away from your smartphone before bed, some new amber-colored glasses might help you avoid lying awake at night.
7. Drink Some Cherry Juice
Research has shown that tart cherries help boost melatonin, the neurotransmitter that helps regulate sleep. In one study, participants who drank two 8-ounce glasses of tart cherry juice upon waking and just before bed experienced less insomnia. You can find tart cherry juice in many health food stores. Additionally, some supermarkets now carry it, as it has other health benefits besides reducing insomnia.
8. Do a Few Belly Rubs
Massage therapists recommend a few different massage techniques for helping insomnia. Perhaps the easiest to do on yourself is the belly rub, which promotes digestion as well as possibly easing insomnia.
To do it, lie on your back and gently rub your abdomen in a clockwise motion 20 times, followed by a counterclockwise motion another 20 times.
9. Put Your Feet Up
Of course, you might already put your feet up at the end of a long day. But did you know that elevating your feet may also help you fall asleep more easily? This is actually a spin on a popular sleep yoga move known as Viparita Karani, or “legs up the wall.” Health experts say its benefits include reduced edema (swelling) in the legs, reduced strain on the leg muscles and a calmer central nervous system.
To do it, simply lie on the floor perpendicular to the wall with your arms straight out on either side of your body.
Then, slowly lift your legs and let your heels rest on the wall. Yoga instructors say to scoot your upper body and hips backwards if your proximity to the wall puts too much strain on your legs. This move should be gentle and relaxing rather than physically challenging.
10. Create a Bedtime Routine
There’s a good reason bedtime routines tend to work great for kids. At the end of a busy day, the brain and body don’t always recognize that it’s time for sleep. By repeating the same healthy sleep habits every night, you signal to your mind that bedtime is approaching.
The best part is that you can create whatever kind of bedtime routine works best for you. There are no hard and fast rules when it comes to making an effective bedtime ritual. Some people enjoy a relaxing bath, while others prefer reading a book for 30 minutes.
You can also try experimenting with aromatherapy, gentle massage or even listening to quiet music. The key is to make these activities a nightly routine.
11. Try 4-7-8 Breathing
Deep breathing and meditation can be lifesavers when it comes to conquering insomnia. Sleep experts frequently recommend trying the 4-7-8 breathing technique, which is easy to do and remarkably effective.
To do 4-7-8 breathing, start by lying down or sitting up with your back straight. Then, follow these four steps:
- Exhale totally through your mouth.
- Close your mouth and inhale through your nose to a count of four.
- Hold your breath for a count of seven.
- Exhale totally through your mouth for a count of eight.
And that’s it! This is one cycle of 4-7-8 breathing. You can repeat it as many times as you like, focusing on your breath and becoming more deeply relaxed each time.
12. Brew Some Banana Tea
If you suffer with insomnia, changing your diet might help. Certain foods boost serotonin and other helpful chemicals. In fact, bananas are a natural muscle relaxer, which helps you feel less stressed. Bananas also contain an amino acid that gets converted to serotonin and melatonin — both of which can help with sleep.
Many insomniacs enjoy sipping some warm banana tea before bed. You can find a number of recipes for banana tea online. Of course, just make sure you’re not allergic to bananas (or any other ingredients) before you give it a try.
13. Put on Some Socks
According to the National Sleep Foundation, warming the feet causes dilation of the blood vessels, which signals the brain that it’s time to sleep. If you can’t tolerate wearing socks to bed, you can also try using an extra blanket at the bottom of the bed, or putting on some slippers as you move around the house before bedtime.
14. Blow Some Bubbles
If you prefer a fun way to get rid of insomnia, buy some bubble solution and try blowing bubbles before bed. Johns Hopkins Medicine recommends this technique on its Brain Talk Podcast.
The idea is that the act of blowing a bubble requires you to slow down your breathing, as well as concentrate on what you’re doing. When you’re intently focused on making a bubble, your brain doesn’t have time to think about how you can’t fall asleep.
15. Use a Weighted Blanket
Have you ever felt relaxed under a thick down comforter or heavy sleeping bag? Or maybe you feel calm when the dentist puts that heavy x-ray shield over your chest during your cleanings? You’re definitely not the only one. In fact, there’s a scientific reason why you feel relaxed, calm and soothed under this type of pressure.
Research has shown that firm but gentle pressure helps the body produce serotonin, the “feel good” chemical in the brain and the same thing you feel when you get a firm, gentle hug. Like a baby in a swaddle, you feel secure and comforted.
Therapists even use this pressure in a type of therapy called deep pressure touch stimulation, which involves gentle squeezing and pressing on the body. With a weighted blanket, you can experience this therapy and the cozy, comfy feelings any time you want.
Even better, research has shown that people who use weighted blankets sleep better, feel less anxious and wake feeling more refreshed. Weighted blankets are typically 10 percent of the users’ body weight.
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Tired of feeling tired? If you struggle with insomnia, a weighted blanket may help. For a weighted blanket made just for you, start your custom weighted blanket order today, or choose from our wide selection of ready-to-ship finished weighted blankets that ship the next business day after your order.
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Disclaimer: The content on this website is not intended as a substitute for medical advice. Talk to your doctor or healthcare provider before undertaking any type of therapy or treatment.