Getting a good night’s sleep is not always easy, but sometimes switching up your routine can help you rest better.
Having a bad night’s sleep can leave you weary and restless the following day. It can also affect your overall health, drain your mental abilities and make you prone to serious medical conditions down the line. However, making small, positive changes to your daily routine and bedtime habits can impact your sleep cycle in a good way. Here are some unconventional ways to get a night of restful sleep. It’s better than counting sheep, right?
1. Drink lettuce water
Having trouble sleeping? Drinking a hot cup of lettuce water may help.
This recent viral trend, which promises to help people fall asleep fast just by drinking hot lettuce water before bedtime, has been making the rounds on TikTok, where it’s garnered a whopping more than 34.6 million views, so far.
There isn’t much science behind lettuce water as a sleep aid on humans. There have been some experiments done on mice where researchers found that phytochemicals in romaine lettuce helped improve sleep duration.
The theory is that drinking warm vegetable water can help soothe your nerves at the end of a busy day because romaine, naturally contains lactucarium. This phytochemical has sedative and analgesic properties that can cause a sleep-inducing effect.
2. (White) noise helps you sleep better
This might seem counter-intuitive: Noise can make you sleep better! But here’s the science behind it.
It’s not noise that ruin a good sleep. It’s a sudden inconsistency in that noise, like a slamming car door in the middle of a silent night, or the sound of elevator doors outside your apartment door. White noise is a consistent sound that can help to drown out the unexpected sounds that prevent you from falling asleep or rudely wake you up from your sweet slumber.
What you want is a noise that’s low, but consistent, like an electric fan, or your air-conditioning fan. You can also play soundtracks of nature such as rain or ocean waves, or download white noise apps on your phone to get a full range of sounds.
3. Don’t hit snooze on your alarm
Setting your alarm clock way earlier than you intend to get up, and hitting the snooze button multiple times can disturb your deep REM sleep. It’s because you’re constantly (and most probably grumpily) drifting in and out of sleep.
Try setting your alarm for a slightly later time and skip the snooze button – you’ll wake up feeling more energised, and in a better mood.
4. Get out of bed if you really can’t sleep
Lying sleepless in bed and stressing out about not being able to sleep makes it even more difficult to get those zzz’s in.
If you’ve counted your 500th sheep but still find yourself wide awake, get out of bed and read a magazine or take a walk around the house – anything relaxing that doesn’t involve bright light will work. You can drift back to bed when you’re tired.
5. A work out before bed can help you sleep better
You can do some light stretching before bed to relax. Or you can do the kind of “workout” you can actually do in bed. There are tons of health benefits to having sex, one of which is better sleep. A little weekday quickie takes a reasonably sustainable amount of time and effort, and the hormones released during orgasm helps you fall asleep faster.
6. Avoid taking a shower that’s too hot
Hot baths and warm showers are relaxing, we can’t deny. However, to fall asleep your body temperature actually needs to cool down. This means taking a hot bath right before bed might actually keep you up at night. If you must get hot and steamy in the shower, do it at least two hours before bedtime.
7. Resist the urge to nap too long during the day
Feeling drained in the day and battling to stay awake at work? Don’t take a nap that turns into a marathon sleep.
Catching a little daytime snooze is great – as long as you keep it to under 30 minutes or so. The best time for a nap is in the early afternoon after lunch, when your body is naturally inclined to feel sleepy; but it’s still early enough to not disrupt your night time sleep routine. You’ll wake up feeling more alert and productive.
8. Don’t read or work on your bed
Condition yourself to see your bed as a sanctuary. Don’t use it as an office for doing work, answering calls and responding to emails. Avoid watching late-night TV there, too. Keep the reading and TV to the couch, and work at your desk. Reserve the bed for sleep and sex only.
9. Put your phone away before bed
Stop using your phone or any other electronic devices 30 minutes, to an hour before bed.
Using your devices keeps your mind psychologically engaged, which is the last thing your brain needs when it’s time to go to sleep. Also, the blue light that beams out from the screens suppresses melatonin – the hormone that’s responsible for controlling your sleep-wake cycle. This can make you fall asleep later than you intend, affecting your quality of sleep and energy levels the next day.
10. Avoid caffeine six hours before bedtime
Stay away from chocolate and beverages containing caffeine at least five to six hours before bedtime.
Caffeine is a stimulant, so it increases activity in your brain and releases chemicals such as cortisol and adrenaline in the body. This significantly lowers your body’s ability to fall asleep and makes you feel refreshed instead.
11. Clear your mind by writing a to-do list
The last thing you want before you sleep, is to be plagued by thoughts of impending meetings and looming deadlines. Stress is a stimulus, so it keeps you awake, rather than puts you to sleep.
If your mental clutter is keeping you awake, get out of bed and make a to-do list. You’ll feel a lot better once it’s all out of your head, and you’ll feel much more relaxed and at ease when you rest.
12. Smell lavender for better sleep
Burn a lavender-scented candle in your bedroom, or apply lavender essential oil to your temples, wrists and the back of your ears.
Lavender has been long used for relaxation in aromatherapy. It’s also widely recognised as a natural sleep aid. Countless studies show that lavender scent helps you sleep and improves your overall quality of rest, because it decreases your heart rate and blood pressure.
13. Include magnesium in your diet to sleep better
Magnesium doesn’t just help you get to sleep, it also plays a key role in achieving restful sleep. Research has shown that this nutrient induces relaxation, reduces stress and helps you sleep longer. It’s also used to treat insomnia, sometimes in combination with melatonin.
Rather than taking a supplement, try including more magnesium-rich foods into your meals, such as nuts, seeds, dry beans, spinach and whole grains like brown rice and oats.
14. Try listening to ASMR
Autonomous Sensory Meridian Response, a.k.a ASMR, is a tingling sensation described as euphoric and calming. It begins on your scalp and moves down to the back of your neck, before travelling down to your spine and the rest of your body. As strange as it may sound, it actually helps people sleep.
You can find ASMR videos on Youtube, or download guided meditation apps. They all feature people with soothing voices to ease you into a peaceful slumber.
15. Attempt the 4-7-8 breathing technique
The 4-7-8 breathing exercise is known as “relaxing breath”. It’s believed to induce relaxation, help a person get to sleep and reduce anxiety. It simply requires you to breathe in for 4 seconds, hold your breath for 7 and exhale slowly for 8.
If this free and easy method doesn’t help you sleep right off the bat, it calms your mind and relaxes your body, putting you at ease and ready for bed. This breathing method is so effective at soothing nerves that it’s included in training for United States Navy SEALs.
16. Set your bedroom temperature to cool, to sleep
Many people struggle to sleep when it’s particularly hot because the human body relies on a drop in temperature to fall asleep.
As you begin to drift off into dreamland, your internal temperature drops by a degree or two, which coincides with the release of sleep hormones. This means if your room is at a comfortably cool temperature, it’s easier to initiate sleep and promote quality rest. Temperatures around 20 to 23-degrees Celsius are optimal for most people.
By Pinky Chng, October 2019 / Last updated by Jayme Chong, August 2021