The better we sleep the better we are at just about every single thing we do. It’s for this reason that sleep has been referred to as the single greatest natural performance enhancer known to humankind.
On the flipside, by almost every metric known to medical science sleep deprivation is bad news. Consistently getting less than seven hours a night increases your risk of obesity, diabetes, raised blood pressure, strokes, heart disease, heart attacks, cancer and even Alzheimer’s.
It’s not just your physical health that suffers, your mental health is at risk too. Poor sleepers are a much greater risk of developing anxiety, stress, depression and even committing suicide. Yikes!
So, as you can see sleep is a pretty important part of the human experience to get right. Yet for whatever reason we continually disrespect it. A full one-third of the American population gets less than the doctor recommends eight hours of sleep a night. Such is the state of our sleep that in 2014 the Centre for Disease Control declared the prevalence of sleep disorders to constitute a public health epidemic. Jeez!
Consistently getting less than seven hours a night increases your risk of obesity, diabetes, raised blood pressure, strokes, heart disease, heart attacks, cancer and even Alzheimer’s.Tweet This!
It seems that knowing we should sleep well and actually doing so are two very different things. If you’re one of the sleepless, don’t despair and don’t reach for the sleeping pills just yet. Below are my top five sleep hacks to help you get back on track…
5 Sleep Hacks to Help You Get More From Your Sleep
1. Sleep in nothing but socks
Not the sexiest look in the world I know – but one that could help you fall to sleep faster.
Researchers believe that the brain needs to drop its temperature by about 2-3 degrees Fahrenheit in order to be able to initiate sleep. This temperature drop happens naturally as we get drowsy but it’s something you can help along a little by ensuring your bedroom is nice a cool.
Cooling the body before bed will not only accelerate sleep evidence suggest it will also promote a better transition to deep non-REM sleep. This being the real good stuff that helps to power you through the endeavors of the next day.
So sleeping in your birthday suit might be a great idea. However before you go throwing away your pajamas and covers completely, the slight paradox is that having hands and feet that are too cold will have the exact opposite effect – keeping you awake. So, make sure you’re cool but not too cold. This is where the socks come in.
2. The iceman sleepeth
One of the principle reasons we struggle to sleep is because our monkey mind is overstimulated. We might be physically tired when we go to bed but our brain is still wired. Thanks, smartphones! The result is that hour, or two, of frustrating tossing and turning.
A very neat sleep hack that can help snap your mind out of this cycle of supercharged thought is to dunk your face in a bowl of ice water. Yup, ice water. No, I’m not mad. Apparently, the sensor triggers a physical phenomenon known to science as the Mammalian Dive Reflex.
Instead of shocking you wide awake as you imagine it might, an icy face dunk, in fact, does the exact opposite. The process seems to distract and de-stress, resulting in a reduction of blood pressure and a slowing of heart rate. Two things perfect for sleep. Plus, we’ve already learned that dropping the temperature of the brain is perfect for inducing sleep. Win-win.
3. Get your bath on
If dunking your face in a bucket of ice doesn’t tickle your fancy then here’s a slightly more appealing sleep hack. Have a nice hot bath before bed.
You won’t be alone, many people swear by the sleep-inducing power of a hot bath before bed. They believe the warmth lulls them to sleep. Well, these pre-bed bathers are half right. A hot bath before bed does have a soporific effect but not because it warms them, the exact opposite is true.
When you have a hot bath, your blood rushes to the skin in a process known as vasodilation. Hence the red cheeks. When you step out of the water, heat from your body is rapidly transferred to cool air and you experience a massive thermal dump. You’re core temperature plummets and you get sleepy.
4. Tense to relax
The next time you find yourself lying in bed wide awake why not try a little Progressive Muscle Relaxation, or PRM for short. Don’t know how? Well, all you have to do is tense your muscles.
If you’re thinking to be too tense is part of the reason you can’t sleep, I hear you. I know it sounds a little counterintuitive but believes me it works.
The key is not just tensing your muscles but how you tense your muscles. PRM involves systematically moving around the body and tensing each muscle group in turn.
Starting with the toes, tense for 5 seconds and then slowly releasing for 30. Next, the calves, then the thighs, then the glutes, and so on and so forth. Working up the body, tensing and releasing in turn, and then working back down if needed.
PRM works in basically the same way as counting sheep. It’s a distraction exercise that focuses the brain away from worries but doesn’t overstimulate it. Plus it has the added benefit of helping to relax the muscles too.
The technique might sound a little bit out there but it’s well known in sleep therapy circles and has been used around the world for over a century now.
Another weird one for you here. This hack is great for helping you nod off or helping you get back to sleep should you have woken in the night. It is basically a more scienced-up version of counting sheep with a little bit of exercise thrown in.
As with learning any new skill or technique, getting used to PRM will take a bit of getting your head around – within no time at all, however, you’ll be tensing yourself to sleep in seconds.
5. Target your supraorbital nerve
Sleep is the perfect antidote for stress. While we slumber our cortisol levels drop to their lowest. Unfortunately the more stressed we are the harder it is to fall asleep. A cruel cycle indeed.
One way to give yourself a little stress relief is to massage your supraorbital nerve, that is the nerve right above your eye-line. Gentling rubbing this area has been proven to release some of the pressure that builds up when we are stressed.
And so sleep hack it is…
Well, there you have it sleep hunters – five weird and wonderful life hacks to help improve your odds of a better night’s sleep. Give them a whirl. What’s the worst that can happen? You lose some sleep!
Hey, Sleep Fans, I’m Sarah and I’m a self-confessed sleep nerd. When I’m not curled up getting my eight hours, you’ll find me at my desk writing about all things slumber-related for the Sleep Advisor blog. Whether it’s a guide on how to choose a better bed or advising readers on what foods to avoid at bedtime. I truly believe that if we all slept a little bit better at night the world would be a happier, healthier, and safer, place to live.