Last updated on July 24th, 2017
When you’ve tried all the standard tactics, but still can’t sleep, maybe you need to try something different.
There’s plenty of advice out there on how best to deal with restless nights – sleeping pills, chamomile tea, cutting out the caffeine. But what if none of these work for you?
Whether you lie awake in bed, work shifts to make a living, or are a medically-certified insomniac, here are 5 alternative sleep hacks could be worth trying if you’ve exhausted all of your options.
1) Have more sex
We know, right? This one’s easier said than done. But it might even be more effective at inducing sleep than exercise, especially if it’s done right. The next time you actually orgasm after sex, notice how you feel more relaxed and ready to slumber. It’s not entirely psychological. Here are the chemical reasons why sex relaxes you like nothing else can:
- Oxytocin: Also known as the ‘cuddle hormone’, oxytocin reduces blood pressure and has other anti-anxiety effects.
- Cortisol: This is a stress hormone, and it influences your fight-or- fly response. Its production is significantly reduced during sex.
- Serotonin: This hormone calms and soothes the brain as well as your whole body. It can also directly increase your melatonin, letting you fall asleep easier.
- Prolactin: This hormone is released in men after orgasm. It causes drowsiness, the same feeling when the ‘sleep gate’ is opened by your circadian rhythms.
- Nitric Oxide: This after-sex hormone is what relaxes the male member and returns it to a less high-maintenance state of flaccidity. It’s also very relaxing for the rest of the body.
- Estrogen. Higher estrogen levels in women after sex result in enhanced REM or Rapid Eye Movement sleep, improving the overall quality of sleep, especially after orgasm.
2) Polyphasic Sleeping
Polyphasic sleeping is the unorthodox practice of sleeping multiple times during a 24-hour period. As compared to monophasic sleeping (one long sleep per day) and biphasic sleeping (one long sleep plus one nap per day), polyphasic sleeping isn’t exactly recommended for everyone.
In fact, Dr. Claudio Stampi, the leading expert in polyphasic sleep, only recommends it for people who work in life-threatening situations that require them to be awake most of the time, like solo competitive sailors or NASA servicemen.
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This is mostly because polyphasic sleepers only sleep for about 2 to 5 hours a day, depending on their chosen polyphasic method or cycle – a far cry from the National Sleep Foundation’s recommended daily sleeping duration of 7 to 9 hours per day (for adults aged 18 to 64).
This, however, hasn’t dissuaded some practitioners. While some who’ve slept polyphasically in the past claim success and long-term benefits, others are not so convinced that the perceived benefits are worth the dangerous risks.
If you’re willing to give polyphasic sleep a shot, there are several different schedules you can follow:
- Dymaxion Cycle: Sleep 5 times for 30 minutes every 6 hours over a 24-hour period. Total amount of sleep: 2 hours
- Uberman Cycle: Sleep 6 times for 20 to 30 minutes every 4 hours over a 24-hour period. Total amount of sleep: 2 to 3 hours
- Everyman Cycle: Sleep 3 times for 30 minutes every 5 hours, supplemented by one 2 to 3-hour nap. Total amount of sleep: 4 to 5.5 hours
Remember, as Dr. Stampi advises, polyphasic sleep is only for those whose lives, careers, and aspirations require them to be awake for most of the time. If you’re having trouble with keeping a regular monophasic or biphasic sleeping schedule, there’s no reason to experiment with polyphasic sleeping.
But if you think that it’ll help you be more productive while working with irregular shifts and schedules, you can go ahead and try it. Just take note that you might feel woozy and strange during the adjustment period, which can last for days or even weeks.
3) Block out blue light
This sleep hack is less controversial than polyphasic sleeping. There exists scientific evidence that links exposure to light in the blue spectrum to reduced overall sleep quality.
While all types of light can interfere with your trying to fall asleep, blue light has been found to be especially bad for the synthesis of melatonin, aka the ‘sleep hormone’ – responsible for bringing on feelings of sleepiness through various bodily changes.
This effect is known as blue light hazard. What can you do to avoid blue light hazard from affecting your sleep?
- Stop looking at electronic screens 3 hours before bedtime. It can be hard to avoid the temptation of looking at Facebook, Instagram, Snapchat, or checking your mail. But if you’re an insomniac, you should know that computer monitors, smartphones, and TVs are contributing to your lack of sleep.
- Wear protective glasses or use protective screen covers. If you simply can’t avoid looking at screens at night because of work or some other important reason, at least protect your eyes. Some blue light cancelling goggles can be quite stylish.
- Sleep in complete darkness. The lack of light encourages your body’s circadian rhythms to respond by producing hormones related to sleep. It’s simply how our brains are wired.
- Use red and other warmer colors as night lights. If you must use night lights, at least don’t use blue light. Yellow or orange lights work just as well and are less likely to disrupt melatonin production.
- Expose yourself to blue light during the workday. Blue light’s not all bad. They can be beneficial during times that you need energy, like the beginning or the middle of your workday.
4) Get a firmer mattress
No amount of changing your life can give you a good night’s sleep if you’re not comfortable with your mattress. Stop trying to make do with an old spring, air, or cotton mattress. Here are some alternatives that can give you the right combination of comfort, firmness, and support:
- Latex: This firm and bouncy mattress is made via the tedious process of tapping rubber trees. The resulting liquid latex is then poured into molds, undergoes manufacturer processes, and then baked into solid, natural latex. People who are allergic to natural latex can look for synthetic forms of latex, which is just as firm and bouncy as the natural version.
- Latex and Memory Foam combination: Latex can prove to be too firm for some people’s backs. On the other hand, the popular alternative, memory foam, can be too soft and isn’t good at heat dissipation. Manufacturers attempt to solve this problem by combining layers of the two materials in one mattress. The result is usually a mattress that’s just the right amount of firmness.
Before you commit to buying a mattress, it’s best to try it out first. Look for manufacturers with trial periods that let you sleep on their mattress for more than several nights before you actually commit to a purchase. If you’re buying from a walk-in store, insist on trying out the mattress first.
5) Avoid exercise at night
Exercise is great for boosting energy and awareness during your waking hours. In fact, a comprehensive study has found that 150 minutes of significant exercise a week can improve the quality of your sleep by about 65 percent. However, it’s not exactly a good idea to do it at night so close to bedtime, as the resulting energy boost can and will affect your ability to fall asleep.
- Instead, do it as soon as you wake up. It will help with your circulation and definitely raise your energy levels, giving you a much-needed boost against lethargy before you take on the workday.
- If you absolutely need to exercise at night, try Yoga. If you have the resources, you can also practice archery. Practicing archery and improving your yoga poses aren’t like regular exercise. Instead of leaving you flustered, alert, and pumping with adrenaline, they leave you relaxed, focused, and relieved of anxiety and stress. These are the only types of exercises that you should do if your only free time to exercise is several hours before bedtime.
About the author
Peter Mutuc is an artist and writer who relies on running, Muay Thai, and longboard skating to regulate his sleeping patterns. Like a true sleep-obsessed Internet junkie, he spends a lot of time looking at adorable cats and managing web content for Onebed Australia.