It happens to me all the time. I’m sure it happens to you. After a long day, you climb into bed ready to sleep and out of nowhere your brain decides it is time to go into overdrive. Next thing you know, you are reading emails and catching up on Facebook.
It’s taken a while, but I’ve discovered a few science-backed hacks that have made it easier for me to sleep every night. These three hacks can help you harness sleep on your schedule.
Turn off your screens
Our addiction to glowing screens is disrupting our sleep patterns. And that’s not just something parents made up for their kids, it’s science. Certain types of light stimulate our brains and keep us awake according to a study from Harvard. Snapchat and Instagram really can keep you up at night.
Plus, the radiation from mobile phones can increase insomnia. One last email before bed or that first thing in the morning Facebook scroll can wait until you get out of bed. Better sleep awaits.
You can help mitigate these effects by turning off your phone, tablet and laptop at least a half an hour before bed.
Release tension from the day
I take the ten minutes before bed each night to do a short series of supported yoga poses. This process helps me tune in to my body and let the day start to fall away. Personal and anecdotal evidence aside, research from Harvard shows that taking a few minutes to move through a restorative yoga series before bed can help you sleep better.
I started my daily practice with a restorative wall yoga series created by Yoga Journal and have adapted it to fit my needs and my body. My routine is:
- Foam roll/tennis ball to release muscles — I do this first to help work on muscle knots/fascia adhesions. It increases flexibility slightly and allows me to enjoy the stretches once I make it through the pain of rolling.
- Feet up the wall pose (the best-named yoga pose there is) – This pose gives a gentle hamstring stretch and allows tension to flow out of your lower back.
- Wall Supported Bound Angle Pose Variation —This pose opens your hips, stretches your inner thighs and external hip rotators and helps to calm the nervous system.
- Wall Straddle (Upavistha Konasana variation)— This pose stretches your inner thighs and the backs of your legs. It’s not about going as far as you can, just enough to get a gentle stretch.
- Thread the Needle (a wall supported pose)— Another hip opener (important for us desk jockeys) also stretches your glutes and external rotators.
- Reclining Hero Pose — I move away from the wall for this one and use it as my transition to sleep. This stretches your quads and opens your chest.
Breathe your way to sleep
This hack is one I couldn’t believe when a friend posted it on Facebook about a year ago. I was certain it was total hooey, you know, internet pseudoscience with a click-bait headline. I was wrong. Sure, there was quite a bit of hyperbole in the article my friend shared, but the simple breathing technique outlined in the article helped me fall asleep in record time the first time I tried it.
It’s really simple, you just have to remember 3 numbers: 4-7-8. You breathe in through your nose for 4 counts, hold your breath for 7 and exhale through your mouth for 8. You focus on your breathing and counting as you repeat those steps continuously until you fall asleep. Having trouble with your breathing after you have fallen asleep? Check with your doctor you aren’t suffering from a condition like sleep apnoea.
This technique is advocated by Dr. Andrew Weil, MD, a highly regarded integrative medicine doctor and leading expert in healthy living. Dr. Weil recommends practicing this breathing technique twice a day for a couple of weeks – it can be used to calm your nerves during the day in addition to helping you sleep. After a few weeks of practice, he claims you can fall asleep in 60 seconds. I’ve not mastered the technique well enough for that speed, but I’m asleep in under 5 minutes each time I try.
These small adjustments to your evening routine can make your sleep restorative as well as help you maximize your sleep time.
Have you tried any of these hacks? Do you have any tips or tricks for falling and staying asleep?
Mary Fran Wiley is a well known gluten-free and positive living blogger from Chicago where she writes Curiouser and Curiouser, maintains the Chronic Positivity Project, and has been featured in Allergic Living Magazine, Care2.com and Today.com.