Anyone who’s ever Googled “how to fall asleep” knows about the endless supply of sleep hygiene advice: tips, like “take a shower before bed” or “don’t eat after 6 p.m.”, that are meant to help clean up your bedtime routine and enhance sleep quality. Though some might be helpful, people who often suffer from sleep problems such as insomnia, need to cultivate a completely different lifestyle that pushes them towards a healthier sleep routine.
Although you might find great tips online that help you fall asleep, when you think about it these tips don’t end the root problem. So, to understand the condition before you go on to fix it would be the first step. One must always be open to the idea of incorporating a lifestyle change that can reverse the condition because of close supervision.
Below are some of the strange-sounding, sleeping pill-free therapies a doctor may prescribe for people who can’t sleep.
Stimulus control: People tend to do stimulating things in bed that have nothing to do with sleep, like reading and watching TV. Try adopting a “bed = sleep” mantra. “When you’re in bed, you’re asleep,” says Grandner. “If you’re in bed and you’re not asleep, you get out of bed.”
The goal is to strengthen your body’s association with the bed as a place you only sleep. As we have mentioned in earlier articles as well, the bed is a sanctuary. In some cases, people may feel a bit sleep deprived in the first few weeks of practicing stimulus control, since they may have to get out of bed a few times. But it’s a core part of cognitive behavioral therapy for insomnia (CBT-I), which targets a person’s thoughts and behaviors for better sleep, and Grandner says the therapy is simple and powerful.
Sleep restriction: Ironic, right? “This is the worst name for an insomnia treatment, but it’s shockingly effective,” says Grandner. In sleep restriction, another CBT-I practice, a person limits the amount of time they spend in bed not sleeping.
Imagine trying to sleep eight hours a night, but only succeeding for five of them, spending three hours lying in bed awake. Using this technique, a doctor may tell you to only spend five hours in bed and then get up. Reducing the amount of time spent in bed causes some sleep deprivation, which can help a person feel more tired the next night. As sleep improves, more time in bed is added.
Paradoxical intention: It’s a fancy phrase for tricking yourself into trying to stay awake. “This is a technique used for people who are very worried about not sleeping,” says Grandner. “If you need to obsess about something, don’t obsess about trying to be asleep. Instead, obsess about trying to stay awake.” Getting rid of the frustration may help people relax and drift off.
Polyphasic sleep: The idea behind it is that humans don’t naturally sleep in one big chunk. “Traditionally, humans took naps, and even at night, sleep was often broken into 2-3 bigger chunks,” says Grandner. Some people may go to sleep early, wake up, do a task, then go back to bed—and Grandner says that’s totally normal and possibly beneficial.
Polyphasic sleep has caught on among those who think they can “hack” their sleep for more productivity by only taking short naps throughout the day. This can be very dangerous for the mind and body in the long run.
Thought challenging: Some people lay awake and convince themselves that if they don’t fall asleep soon, something horrible—like a car crash or a layoff—will happen to them the next day. One way to challenge those thoughts is to ask people how many times that has actually happened, Grandner says. By making the case that those possibilities are very unlikely, people can let them go. “It arms you with some ammunition to combat irrational thoughts,” he says.
Meditation: Relaxing through imagery, meditation or breathing exercises can help the body ready itself for rest. Mindfulness mediation, which emphasizes focusing on breath and bringing your mind into the present has been linked to a host of different health improvements, and sleep doctors think it can work for insomnia symptoms, too. “It’s all about creating some distance between you and feelings that can have a mind of their own,” says Grandner.
These are just a few unique, not tried and tested by many, ways you can experiment with if you suffer from a sleep problem.