50 Sleep Hacks for the Ultimate Insomniac

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March 28th, 2010

Not getting enough sleep is not only a major annoyance, it is also bad for your health. If you find yourself struggling to get enough sleep because of insomnia or if you know other nurses or patients struggling with sleep issues, then browse through this list. You will find 50 sleep hacks that range from setting the right bedtime mood to tricks to make falling asleep come more readily to herbs and anti-stress tips that will help overcome sleep problems.

Before and During Bedtime

Use these hacks to ensure you are doing the right thing before and during your bedtime to promote sleep.

  1. Exercise. Be sure you get some form of exercise during the day, but not too late, as exercising a few hours before bed will have the opposite effect and keep you awake.
  2. No caffeine. Stay away from any caffeine from the afternoon on. Some people are more sensitive to the effects of caffeine and discover that even one drink in the mid-afternoon can prohibit sleep later that night.
  3. Avoid napping. Even if you feel exhausted from a restless night of little sleep, avoid napping during the day so you are more prepared for bed at night.
  4. Avoid heavy meals. Eating heavy meals just before bed is a sure way to disrupt your sleep. If you absolutely need to eat before bed, keep your snack small and healthy.
  5. Set the mood. Turn off any stimulating TV or music, find a calming activity, have a relaxing cup of tea or warm milk, and set the stage for bedtime. Some experts recommend getting ready for bed this way as much as an hour and a half before your actual bedtime.
  6. Warm bath. A warm bath may just have you in such as state of relaxation that sleeping comes much easier. Try adding some aromatherapy drops in your tub for maximum calm.
  7. Soothing music. Listen to soothing music just before bedtime or as you are dozing off. Research indicates music may be an excellent cure for insomnia.
  8. White noise. Some people find white noise helps them drift off to sleep. If you don’t want to invest in a white noise machine, try something as simple as turning on an oscillating fan.
  9. Warm milk. Many feel that drinking a glass of warm milk before bed relaxes them. While research doesn’t indicate that any chemical reaction happens to induce sleep, the warm beverage itself may be a good enough relaxation tool get you ready to doze off.
  10. No alcohol. While it might seem that drinking a glass or two of wine or beer would make you sleepy enough to doze off, the reality is that alcohol is a stimulant. After the initial drowsy feeling, the alcohol will actually keep you from sleeping well.
  11. Don’t drink too much. No, this isn’t a repeat of the last hack. Drinking too much of anything just before bed will have you waking in the middle of the night to use the bathroom. Avoid drinking anything just before bed.

Sleep Routine

Incorporate these hacks as a part of your sleep routine so that you give yourself the best chance possible for a great night’s rest.

  1. Wind down. Give yourself about an hour or so to wind down before bed. Make sure you are doing low-key activities such as reading instead of stimulating activities.
  2. Go to bed at the same time. Have a set time for going to bed and stick to it every night. Giving your body the routine and expectation for sleep will help you sleep better.
  3. Wake up at the same time. Wake up at the same time every day–even on the weekends–for better sleep every day. If you are getting enough sleep, you will not need to sleep late any morning.
  4. Don’t snooze. Hitting the snooze button is not a healthy sleep habit. Break the habit so you can enjoy quality sleep before you actually need to wake up.
  5. Use your bed for sleeping. Experts recommend that you use your bed only for sleeping. Keep TV watching, books, conversation, or work out of your bed so your body and mind know the bed is just for rest.
  6. Don’t stay in bed. If you find yourself unable to sleep, don’t stay in bed, tossing and turning. Instead, get up and do something else to take your mind off the fact that you aren’t sleeping. When you feel more tired, go back to bed and try again.
  7. Learn how much sleep you need. Some people feel they are suffering from insomnia when really they are just trying to force themselves to sleep longer than their body needs. Everyone has different sleep needs, so determine how much sleep you need to make sure you are sleeping the right amount for you.
  8. Make it dark. Make your bedroom as dark as possible. Use a clock that is not illuminated and remove any electronic devices with glowing lights. If you have light from outside, then invest in window coverings that will block the light.
  9. Comfortable bedding. If your mattress is uncomfortable, your pillow is too flat or too lumpy, or the sheets and blankets don’t feel comfortable, then change what you can to make your bed more inviting.
  10. Comfortable room temperature. Keep your room at a temperature that is not too hot or too cold. Some experts recommend that a sleeping room never be warmer than 70 degrees.

Sleep-Inducing Hacks

Try these little tricks to see if you don’t drift right off to sleep. These work whether you are having a hard time falling asleep when you get to bed or if you have awakened during the night.

  1. Count sheep. While it may seem like an old wives’ tale to count sheep to fall asleep, it actually works to free your mind from distractions and focus your mental energy on something calming.
  2. Alphabet game. If counting sheep isn’t your thing, try a variation of the alphabet game. Choose a category (such as vegetables, state capitals, or names of people from your high school) and work your way from A to Z thinking of things in the category you selected that start with each letter. You may find you rarely make it to the letter Z.
  3. Deep breathing. Deep breathing, such as the style of breathing used in yoga, has a relaxing effect on your body. Focusing your attention on breathing may just send you right to sleep.
  4. Meditation. Give meditation a try when you are struggling to sleep. This is especially effective when coupled with deep breathing exercises.
  5. Progressive relaxation. Start with your head and consciously focus on relaxing all the muscles in your face, then work down to your toes. Other versions have you tense the muscles prior to relaxing them or start with your feet and work up.
  6. Journal your concerns. Instead of taking your worries to bed with you, spend some time writing them down, then physically and mentally put them away before bed.
  7. Sex. For many, sex is an excellent form of relaxation that has been known to induce sleep in many.

Herbs

Many of these herbs have been used for hundreds of years to calm and relax the body. Some work well for reducing stress and preparing your body for sleep while others are excellent, natural sleep aids.

  1. Valerian root. Valerian root has been used for centuries as a sleeping aid and is a popular herb for getting a good night’s rest.
  2. Passionflower. Another popular herb to help cure insomnia is passionflower. Not only will this herb help you sleep, but anxiety sufferers may be interested to learn that a study indicated that it is also effective as an anti-anxiety treatment.
  3. Chamomile. Perhaps one of the most well-known calming herbs, chamomile tea can be found in just about any grocery store and is an excellent drink to have before bed.
  4. Hops. This companion herb is helpful for alleviating anxiety and restlessness and works best when combined with passionflower, chamomile, or valerian root.
  5. Lemon balm. Similar to hops, lemon balm helps aid sleep and is an excellent companion herb to be used with chamomile or valerian root.
  6. Verbena. Verbena is a good herb for those feeling anxious or depressed. It is also known as wild hyssop or vervain.
  7. Skullcap. This herb is great for reducing nervous tension. Drink it as a tea or use it as drops or capsules.
  8. Kava Kava. From the South Pacific, the root and rhizome of Kava Kava are used to treat anxiety and induce sleep. Those with liver problems should avoid using this herb as there is concern that it may cause liver damage to those with liver issues.
  9. Cowslip. Cowslip works to eliminate insomnia and anxiety, among some of the many disorders it combats.
  10. St. John’s Wort. Used for centuries as a cure for anxiety and depression, this herb may help you relax enough to fall asleep.

Reduce Stress

One of the major reasons people suffer from insomnia is because their lives are filled with stress. These hacks are great for reducing the stress in your life.

  1. Massage. Getting regular massages–either professionally, from a partner, or by yourself–releases tension from your body.
  2. Yoga. Not only is yoga an excellent form of exercise, but it also promotes relaxation and better sleep.
  3. Aromatherapy. Aromatherapy can be used in a number of ways, from essential oils in the bath to herb pillows to an atomizer, to help promote relaxation and sleep. Lavender and chamomile are two popular scents for sleep.
  4. Take care of yourself. Making sure you give yourself the gift of time for yourself every day. The time you spend doing something you enjoy–even if for only 30 minutes or an hour–will rejuvenate you and give you peace.
  5. No. Some people have a hard time saying no to extra projects, favors, and tasks. If you have this problem, discover how much less stressful your life becomes when you learn to say no.
  6. Emotions. Pretending you don’t have feelings of anger, sadness, or loneliness will just push these feeling down deeper, and they will come back in negative ways. Stay in touch with your emotions and acknowledge how you are feeling in each moment.
  7. Anger. While it is important to recognize when you feel angry, don’t let that anger take over your life. Learn how to manage anger for a more stress-free life.
  8. Time management. Learn how to better organize your time so that your energy can be spent on completing tasks instead of worrying about what it next on the list.
  9. Identify stressors. Take a look at your life and discover what about it makes you feel stressed, then start making changes to eliminate these stressors.
  10. Stop multitasking. Multitasking may make you feel like you are accomplishing plenty, but you are actually not getting any more done that if you were doing one thing at a time. When you stop multitasking, you will find you are accomplishing tasks more efficiently and with less stress.
  11. Let go of control. Many people experience stress because they want to control every aspect of their lives. Give yourself a break and learn how to let go of some of that control. some things are beyond your ability to control. Once this expectation is gone, you will likely discover a reduction of your stress.
  12. Laugh. Learn to laugh at life and find the joy in the every day. This change will take you a long way to reducing stress and helping you find a more restful night’s sleep.