11 Body Hacks To Fall Asleep Faster, Without Drugs
An estimated 50-70 million Americans are experiencing insufficient sleep. I should know, I'm one of them. But as debilitating as sleep deprivation can be, I've always kept my distance from drugs in an effort to do things au naturel and stay away from any sort of chemical dependency.
Contained here are 11 ways to safely manipulate your own body that will have you quickly catching Zzzs without addiction, serious injury, or late nights spent wide-eyed, counting livestock.
1. Do tensing and relaxing exercises
The "squeeze and relax method," aside from being your favorite NC-17 movie, is a viable way to lower your blood pressure, relax your colicky muscles, and chill out your busy mind as you are lying in bed, seeking Zzzs.
2. Chill out
If your girlfriend is always complaining about your bedroom's temperature roughly approaching the last scene in the Shining, you can tell her the scientifically proven optimal temperature for sleeping is somewhere between 60-68 degrees Fahrenheit. Apparently, a drop in core body temperature initiates sleepiness, because it puts your body in conservation mode, bogging down metabolic functions like heart rate and breathing.
3. Use this special breathing technique
If you want an all-natural way to get tired, just breathe. Using a method developed by Dr. Andrew Weil, called the "4-7-8 breathe technique," you can relax your mind via your lungs. Basically, you exhale fully, count to four, inhale fully, count to seven, and and exhale slowly, counting to eight.
Dr. Weil calls it “a natural tranquilizer for the nervous system," and claims it helps you fall asleep because it rapidly fills your body with uber-relaxing waves of heightened oxygen.
4. Get your feet out from under the covers
I stick one of my feet outside the covers whenever I'm trying to sleep. I've always assumed I'm weird, but turns out, I'm border-line genius. By sticking your feet out of the covers, you can cool off quickly. Why? Your feet contain blood vessels (called arteriovenous anastomoses) that can rapidly expel heat. Many people fear exposing their limbs, due to the prevalence of under-the-bed monsters, but it's time to grow up and accept science, people: Monsters only attack children.
5. Eat the right food
You don't have to pop Ambiens or some wishy-washy herbal supplement (that's probably full of sawdust anyway) to get some sleep-inducing chemicals in your body. Cherries, for example, contain natural melatonin, which can help you regulate your circadian rhythm, and get you on a regular, consistent sleep schedule.
Contrary to popular belief, turkey doesn't contain as much shut eye-inducing tryptophan as many other common foods. So, now you have no "I'm tired" excuses to leave Aunt Linda's after Thanksgiving. Sorry.
6. Keep your circadian rhythm consistent
Unless you are reading Supercompressor every night before sleep time (please, don't stop doing that) you should only stick to old-school paper media in the immediate time before falling asleep. Besides getting all worked up over your high school acquaintance's Facebook rants, you can muck up your natural circadian rhythms by exposing yourself to the cold, hard light of your tablets, iPhones, and laptops. Read Atlas Shrugged. That will put you right to sleep. Also, make sure to get plenty of sunlight as soon as you can in the morning, as that will help "reset" your rhythm, and put you well on the right track.
7. Take a piping hot shower
As previously stated, controlling and manipulating body temperature is a key way to get to sleep quickly, without messing with your mind. If you take a hot shower or bath a short time before you attempt sleep, and then step into your (hopefully) much cooler bedroom, your body temperature will drop rapidly, causing it to enter full "shut-down" mode. This induces sleepiness. Your only concern? A soggy pillowcase in the morning. But hey, at least you'll be rested.
8. Exhaust your body
You may have heard that you're not supposed to exercise within three hours of attempting to go to sleep. This is primarily bullshit. Exercising every day, as much as you can, is one of the biggest keys to getting to sleep at night. It makes a little bit of sense to not go straight from the Stairmaster to your sheets, because your adrenaline is pumping and your core temperature is high. But overall, your body will rest much better at night if you have given it the proper exertion during the day.
9. Rub your own foot (or ear)
Reflexology is often recommended as a means to cure sleeplessness, with a particular focus on the pressure points on the ear and foot. Massage your big toes for a couple of minutes, and also the center of your feet—ask a friend or hire a stranger if you are unable to do so yourself.
Or, if feet aren't your thing, you can massage your ears, focusing on these points. Reflexology is supposed to relax your head, brain, pituitary, and pineal gland reflexes—ideal for a refreshing night's sleep.
10. Nap intelligently
Naps are an incredible thing. I just took a nap under my desk, to be quite honest. But it's cool—doctors say naps at work can actually increase productivity. However, there is a catch. As Dr. Daniel Barone told me previously, "naps late in the day, or longer than 20-30 minutes, can lead to problems going to sleep at night. If you aren't very regulated and strict with your nap routine, it could be a problem."
11. Massage this one particular nerve on your head
I only like massages if they result in happy endings. And the happiest ending of all is getting a good night's sleep. The supraorbital nerve is right above your eyelid, and by massaging it softly, you can release some pressure and relax your mind/head in one fell swoop. If a headache—or stress—is keeping you up at night, rub these nerves softly to settle it down. It gives new meaning to the phrase "rub one out before bedtime."
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