7 Sleep Hacks That Really Work

by MindJournal - 6 min read

7 Sleep Hacks That Really Work - MindJournal

Stuck staring at the ceiling?

You're not alone.

Whether you're a new dad, work the night shift, or find it hard to stop thoughts from racing around your head, difficulty getting to sleep is more more common than you think.

In fact, research suggests insomnia is prevalent in anywhere between 10-60% of the population.

There's good news for anyone who finds themselves tossing and turning, though. Just like any alarm, this clock can be reset.

Daydreaming about a restful night's sleep? We'll get you drifting off in no time. Here are seven sleep hacks that really work.

1. Burn Off Some Energy

There's plenty of evidence to suggest that exercising during the day can help you sleep at night. A sleep survey in the US reported that as high as 76-83% of Americans polled reported higher levels of sleep quality when they engaged in light, moderate or vigorous exercise.

Just try and avoid vigorous exercise in the evening, though. That's because it raises your heart rate and core body temperature, making sleeping more difficult. Three hours before bed is a good idea, but if that's too tricky, 1.5 hours ahead of getting your head down is OK.

2. Clear Your Mind

One of the most common culprits for lack of sleep is whirring thoughts. Work, family, wondering whether you paid that bill - you name it, and you'll be obsessively thinking about it when you need to rest.

"When you lie there thinking about things you must do, it keeps your mind alert," says Chris Idzikowski, author of How to Sleep Well. "By writing it down on a pad kept near your bed, you can forget about it and relax into slumber," he suggested to Men's Health.

At MindJournal, we're big advocates of getting your thoughts out of your head and onto paper. And before bed is no exception. Whether you prefer a journal or planner, writing about your day or preparing for tomorrow will help you ease into a state of relaxation, ready for a good night's sleep.

Want to give it a try? Head here to download the first three entries of MindJournal.


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3. Be Mindful Of Your Diet

What we consume throughout the day can have a pretty big effect on what happens to our bodies at night. We all know that experts recommend refraining from substantial caffeine intake for six hours before bedtime (at least). 

But what about the things that can help you get to sleep?

Chamomile, lavender and decaffeinated green teas all have a calming effect before bedtime. Milk is also a good choice because it contains tryptophan. And this converts into our sleep-assisting friend melatonin. So if you're up in the dead of night giving your newborn the bottle, try pouring yourself a glass of milk too. It'll give you a much better chance of getting back to sleep when they do - whatever the time.

Vegan on lactose intolerant? No problem. Have a drop of cherry juice instead. There's evidence to suggest that it increases tryptophan levels in the body, which leads to better sleep. No matter your choice of beverage, try and avoid drinking any fluids 1-2 hours before bedtime. There's nothing more disruptive than a 3 am pilgrimage to the loo.

It's not just drinks that can help you snooze, though. Sure, a big meal before bed is generally a bad idea. But chowing down on a carby snack, e.g. toast or cereal, about four hours before you hit the hay can help hasten sleep.


4. Bring Your Body Temperature Down

Research suggests that having a bath about 90 minutes before bed can help get you off to sleep much faster. Strangely enough, the hot water actually changes your core temperature, so you go to bed cooler. And it's this drop in temperature that signals to your body that it is time to go to sleep. So grab a book and soak those cares away.

Don't have a tub? No worries. Try the Wim Hof method before bed. Start by switching to cold water for 15 seconds at the end of your shower. Then gradually increase this duration to two minutes over time to feel the maximum benefits. Not only is it guaranteed to bring your core body temperature down, but it'll also give your mind a healthy boost in the process.

5. Relax, Military Style

If you're trying to squeeze in some sleep while the baby snoozes or have only a small window to get some shut-eye, it can feel like a race against the clock to nod off. But this pressure can make drifting off feel like running a marathon.

Here is a tried and tested approach that may help.

In 1981, coach Lloyd Bud Winter first described a method for falling asleep within two minutes in his book Relax and Win: Championship Performance. The old US army technique goes like this:

  1. Lie face up in bed - relax your face, including your forehead, tongue, jaw and muscles around your eyes.

  2. Drop your shoulders as low as possible - relax your upper and lower arms on each side, and then finish with your hands and fingers.

  3. Breathe out and relax your chest - feel the sensation of your lungs filling up with air.

  4. Relax your legs - first, release the tension from your thighs and let the sensation run down your calves. Finally, repeat with your ankles and feet.

  5. Clear your mind - focus on one of two images: yourself in a canoe surrounded by the water of a clear lake or lying in a black velvet hammock in a pitch-black room.


6. Stay Out Of The Blue Light 

Watching TV or YouTube as a way to unwind can be tempting - we get it. But try avoiding screens, including your TV, phone, tablet and computer, before bed.

The blue light these devices emit suppresses melatonin production and disturbs our sleep cycles. Charge your phone as far away from your bed as possible so those flashing notifications don't catch your eye. Essentially, you want your bedroom to be as dark as possible, with nothing artificial getting in the way of your circadian rhythm.



7. Don't Force It

OK, if you haven't fallen asleep after 20 minutes, don't panic. Instead of lying in bed and overthinking it, get up and do something else for a while.

That's because lying awake can create a negative association with your bed and make it harder for you to fall asleep in the future. Instead, try engaging in another relaxing activity, e.g. listening to calming music, journaling or reading in another room.

Now switch off, snuggle up and take some deep breaths.

A good night's slumber awaits.

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