Insomnia – 23 Proven Methods to Help You Sleep Better
A Modern Day Curse
Insomnia is a far too familiar term for many of us!
It seems to be one of those modern day curses that goes hand in hand with a busy lifestyle.
What is insomnia?
Insomnia is defined as “a sleep disorder which includes difficulty falling asleep, or staying asleep, or waking too early resulting in impairment during the day.”
Before we go on I have an important message – If you are suffering from long term insomnia, it is important that you speak to you family doctor or specialist first. As insomnia can be the sign of a more sinister underlying illness.
Here's a Harvard Medical School (Harvard Health Publishing) quote:
Here’s some good news:
So, here we provide you with the best 23 hacks we could find for reducing your insomnia and getting a better night’s sleep.
No time to read it all?
Click here to go straight to the list of our 23 best insomnia hacks.
1. Listen to relaxing music.
This one has good quality science behind it.
Many scientific studies have demonstrated that listening to soothing music before bed time: shortens the time to get to sleep; improves the quality of sleep; and reduces waking during the night.
The intervention (soothing music) exhibited beneficial effects on sleep quality in adults with insomnia. (Huang et. al. 2016)
They also found that most people preferred to listen to soothing music over other interventions such as going for a brisk walk.
So get out your head phones, put on your favourite soothing music (Enya, Metallica or whatever floats your boat really!) and spend some time winding down to get ready for a great sleep.
Combining this with one or more of the suggestions below may have even greater effect!
2. Keep a sleep diary
This is a popular technique used by sleep health professionals in getting to the bottom of the severity of insomnia.
What many people find is that their insomnia may not be as severe as they first thought.
This will therefore reduce the stress around trying to get to sleep.
And if it turns out that it is as bad as you thought, you can always move on to hack number 3!
3. Get out of bed at the same time everyday, no matter how tired you might be.
This helps reset the circadian rhythms – the internal clock that tell your body when it should be going to sleep and when you should be getting up each day.
Circadian rhythms can be upset by many things including stimulants like caffeine, too much screen time and exercise.
4. Stay up Later
Similar to the previous hack, this can help circadian rhythms to get back to normal.
It should also of course make you more tired and ready to go to sleep.
This can improve your sleep efficiency as you are not giving your body as much time to sleep, thereby forcing it to be more efficient.
5. Morning Sunlight
Get some sunlight first thing in the morning.
Melatonin is a hormone created by the pineal gland during night time to help us sleep.
It’s production is turned off as soon as the eyes see sunlight.
This is another one of those tricks that helps reset the circadian rhythms so that your body knows when to be awake and when it’s time for sleep.
6. Give yourself a break!
As mentioned earlier, worrying about not getting enough sleep is one of the biggest contributing factors to insomnia.
I’m sure I’m not alone in lying in bed thinking, “I’ve got to get to sleep, I’ve got to get to sleep! Big day tomorrow, oh no!”
7. Valerian Root
Many people including myself have had great success with this one.
Valerian is a herb and is not habit forming like some of the prescription medications for insomnia.
We’re all about the science here, and for Valerian the results have been mixed.
Some good quality studies suggested that Valerian helped in the treatment of insomnia, whilst other good quality studies suggested that it does not.
So, really then it’s up to you to give it a go! If like me you feel it helps treat your insomnia, then you can add it to your armoury.
If not, then we’ve got a heap of other things you can try!
8. Don’t nap during the day!
Quite a logical one really.
If our bodies thinks they’re going to get a nice dose of sleep in the afternoon, why would they bother too much with sleep at night?
This is yet another habit which plays havoc with our circadian rhythms.
9. Limit Screen time
Many studies have shown a correlation between increased screen time and reduced sleep duration and quality.
Our phones, tablets and computer screens emit blue light, which is different to the white light emitted by the sun.
Blue light is environmentally more friendly as it uses less power, and is great for keeping us alert whilst we work.
But, it has a negative effect on our ability to get to sleep.
So, hard as it may be, put away that phone, tablet or PC an hour before bed.
10. Put Your Thoughts to Bed
This hack is particularly effective for those of us who have so much going on in our heads that we can’t switch off at night.
Jotting down your concerns can help to put them to bed before you put yourself to bed.
No one seems to know why it works but it has become a very popular hack for some of the most successful people on the planet.
11. Don’t exercise in the 4 hours leading up to bedtime.
This is one that we did a blog post on earlier – “Exercise and Sleep, is it beneficial?” Read Here
Many of us have believed for a long time that exercise will help us to sleep better, and that is still true.
But what is of great importance is what type of exercise and what time of day you should exercise.
Vigorous and continuous exercise is considered to be the best for improving sleep.
This includes, running, walking, cycling and swimming.
Whilst lifting heavy weights, sprinting and other anaerobic (non oxygen demand) exercises may not help.
In turn performing vigorous exercise increases your body temperature and it is recommended that you give yourself 4 hours for your body to cool down.
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12. Avoid caffeine in the hours before going to sleep.
Most of us will know that coffee is a caffeinated drink which can keep us up at night.
But many people don’t realise that the following are also culprits:
- hot or cold chocolate drinks
- Cola flavoured sodas or soft drinks whether sugar or sugar-free
- Milk chocolate
- Dark chocolate
- Energy drinks
- Guarana – about twice as much caffeine per milligram as coffee!
Surprisingly studies have found that caffeine has a negative effect on our sleep even when consumed 6 hours before going to bed!
They have therefore recommended 2p.m. as the cut off time for food or drinks containing caffeine. Quite a shock to me!
13. Avoid alcohol and cigarettes.
Whilst many people associate drinking alcohol with sleepiness, it may not produce good quality sleep.
Whilst it can allow you to fall asleep quite quickly, it adversely affects the continuity of your sleep, causing you to frequently wake up during the night.
This means that you have less REM sleep, the important restorative part of sleep.
Whilst cigarettes and other tobacco products can interrupt sleep due to nicotine being a strong stimulant.
Another cause of sleep disruption for regular smokers can be withdrawal as your body craves the fix of nicotine during the night.
14. Carbs Before Bedtime
Researchers from Sydney, Australia studied the effects of different foods, eaten at different times by young healthy men before bed.
They found that carbohydrates with a high glycemic index like Jasmine rice, eaten 4 hours before bed, was the most beneficial.
This combination was best for both sleep quality and time to fall asleep.
15. Only the two ’S’ words in the bedroom!
Yes, the one you’ve been waiting for!
The only two activities you should save for the bedroom are sleeping, and sex.
Watching TV, reading, looking at social media on your phone or computer and pretty much anything else you can think of should be conducted somewhere else.
16. Meditate or other relaxing activity before bedtime.
Meditate or other relaxing activity before bedtime.
Many successful people as well as many of the rest of us have found great benefits from mediation.
From Ellen DeGeneres to Arnold Schwarzenegger, from Katy Perry to Jerry Seinfeld and Clint Eastwood.
All of these famously successful people have stated publicly that meditation helped them get through stressful times and achieve a certain amount of calm amid the storms swirling around them.
If it’s good enough for those people and many others around the world, it’s certainly good enough for me.
Maybe the habits of these stars may help you to achieve better restorative sleep.
17. Try a Heavy Blanket
People who’ve used a heavy blanket describe it as feeling like they are getting a hug.
This hack is particularly popular with those of us who suffer from anxiety or chronic pain.
These blankets can contribute to less movement during the night which may help us achieve deeper sleep quickly.
Around 10% of your own weight is a common recommended weight for your blanket.
The body needs to know that once we’re in the bedroom one of two things is going to happen.
For most of us the majority of times it will be to sleep, half your luck if you’re managing the other the majority of times!
18. Don't Watch the Clock!
This one really feeds our anxiety.
I’ve been guilty many times of thinking, “Ahh it’s 2am and I’m still not asleep! I’ve got to get up at 6!”
So to try and reduce the anxiety around insomnia, turn your bedside clock around, you’ll still hear the alarm.
Morning is going to come whether you like it or not, so you might as well try to relax, and sleep may follow.
19. Only go to bed when you feel sleepy.
Seems like an obvious one, but not always.
Not only will it take you longer to get to sleep if you’re not ready, but it will also increase your frustration and anxiety around insomnia, only compounding the problem.
20. If you can’t get to sleep, get up.
As for the number 13, if you lie in bed unable to get to sleep it will only compound the problem.
Experts recommend that we don’t let it frustrate us, but instead get up and read or some other quiet activity until we feel sleepy enough to have another try.
21. Ensure ideal room temperature.
Many of us go over the top when it comes to keeping warm.
Too many blankets or a thick duvet (doona or quilt) plus having the room heating on too high can cause us to wake up through the night or toss and turn.
It can also cause us have to wake up to remove some of the bed clothing or turn the heating down.
On the other hand being too cold can of course make it very difficult to get to sleep in the first place.
22. Create a peaceful environment in your bedroom.
Make sure that loud noises are not going to disrupt you from sleep.
If you live in a noisy area or have noisy neighbours then a pair of earplugs may be helpful.
**Important: Make sure you are still able to hear any smoke or fire alarms that are installed as this far outweighs any other considerations.
23. Ensure you are comfortable.
Apart from the very young, no one finds it easy to go to sleep on a rock.
This doesn’t always mean that you need to spend big dollars on the latest and greatest in bedding technology.
Sometimes ensuring you have the correct pillow height, or the correct density of your mattress can be enough to ensure you a much better sleep.
For more on the ideal mattress and pillow combination for side-sleepers check our earlier blog here.
A roundup of all our 23 sleep hacks:
- Listen to relaxing music.
- Keep a sleep diary
- Get out of bed at the same time everyday, no matter how tired you might be.
- Stay up later
- Morning Sunlight
- Give yourself a break! (Don’t obsess about not getting enough sleep)
- Valerian Root
- Limit Screen Time
- Don’t nap during the day!
- Avoid caffeine in the hours before going to sleep.
- Avoid alcohol and cigarettes.
- Don’t exercise in the 4 hours leading up to bedtime.
- Put Your Thoughts to Bed
- Eat Carbs Before Bed Time
- Only the two ’S’ words in the bedroom! (Yes that’s sleep and sex!)
- Meditate or other relaxing activity before bedtime.
- Try a Heavy Blanket
- Don’t watch the clock.
- Only go to bed when you feel sleepy.
- If you can’t get to sleep, get up.
- Ensure ideal room temperature.
- Create a peaceful environment in your bedroom.
- Ensure you are comfortable.
The Good News!
Often even just one or two of these hacks will help you to greatly improve your sleep time and quality.
It could be as easy as taking that cell phone out of the bedroom or knocking back that third cup of coffee between you and a great sleep.
You probably don’t need to be told how much impact can be made on your work and social life by ensuring you get an extra hour or two of good quality sleep.
We must reiterate that we’re not suggesting these tips are insomnia cures, if you are suffering from chronic insomnia, we strongly recommend you consult your family doctor or sleep specialist.
Let us know in the comments below if you have any other great sleep hacks that people can add to this list!
We’d love to have you join our community and start reviewing hotel mattresses that you’ve slept on!