If you can’t sleep and think you have tried everything, most likely, there are other things you can still try. These non-standard and unorthodox methods may be things you haven't tried, but could help you get the best sleep that you've had in a while. These sleep strategies are effective and backed by studies and experience, and are great to try when you think you've tried everything.
Review Your Day in Reverse, In Minute Detail
One technique to relax your mind is to review your day in reverse, recalling as many minute details as possible. Essentially, this is a relaxation technique similar to counting sheep.
You can try this mental activity by doing the following steps:
- Start the moment before you got in to bed
- Narrate (in your head) everything that you did, working backwards
- As you narrate, recall as many details as you can – colors, smells, sounds, shapes, etc.
- As you narrate, visualize what you are narrating
Get a Rocking Chair and Hum
A recent study on sleep and rocking found that rocking helps adults sleep more deeply and wake up fewer times during sleep. The study monitored the sleep of 18 adults over three nights who slept in bed and rocked gently. Electrodes recorded brainwave activity throughout each night. Results concluded that adults slept better, deeper, and longer when they were rocking in bed.
Rocking before bed may help the onset of sleep, such as in a rocking chair or certain yoga exercises that involve rocking.
Make Your Room a No Screen Zone
In addition to no screens, there are other things you can do to make your room an excellent sleep zone
You may have heard that being electronic-free is a great way to help you get into bed. This includes making sure that your room is screen free.
Screens emit blue light, which delays the release of melatonin. Furthermore, delays in sleep while you are in your bedroom create negative associations between sleep and your room which is not good for sleep.
It’s difficult, but try and actually practice a no-screen zone in your room, at least at night. No smart phones, TVs, laptops, or anything else with a screen. Do it for a couple of weeks and see how it improves your ability to fall asleep.
Instead of screens, pick up a book, a journal, or do some other activity before bed.
4-8-7 Breathing Technique
There is a yogic breathing exercise that is great for sleep – and it’s very effective for many people. It’s called the 4-7-8 breathing technique and it works like this:
- Close your eyes and lie on your back in bed
- Place the tip of your tongue on the roof of your mouth just above your teeth – your tongue should stay here for the whole exercise
- Forcefully exhale completely through your mouth by pushing the air out with your belly
- Close your mouth and inhale slowly and quietly through your nose for four seconds (slow seconds!)
- Hold your breath and count to seven
- Exhale completely through you mouth for eight seconds, making a “whoosh” sound at you exhale
- Deep inhale through your nose, and repeat steps 3-7 THREE times, remembering to only inhale through your nose and exhale through your mouth
Why does this breathing technique work? Oxygen relaxes the parasympathetic nervous system and promotes relaxation.
Cold actually helps us sleep better, as biologically, our bodies are designed to sleep at the night when it is cold. Melatonin prepares us for sleep, and is released by two triggers:
- Changes in light (from light to dark)
- Cooling of temperatures at the onset of nighttime
Keeping a cooler room at night tells our bodies that it’s night time, and time for sleep. Colder rooms queue our bodies to produce melatonin, which will help you get to and stay asleep. A temperature between 60-68 degrees is reasonable for a “cooler” room.
In addition to sleeping in a cooler room, taking a hot bath before bed simulates the same “cooling” effect. This works because after you get out of a hot bath, your core temperature experiences a drop. It’s the same kind of drop your temperature would experience if you were outside during the transition from day to night.
Taking a hot bath right before bedtime and then making sure your room is cooler will queue your body to start producing melatonin.
What if Nothing Works?
If you have tried these tricks and everything else, there may be deeper underlying issues that are causing you to not sleep properly, such as:
- Circadian rhythm disorders
- Restless leg syndrome
If you live in Alaska and still can’t sleep, take our online sleep test and get in touch with our sleep specialists.