Getting a good night’s sleep is just a dream for a lot of people—and it takes more than counting sheep to not only drift off, but to stay asleep. While there’s certainly no lack of tips and sleep hacks for a solid slumber—get plenty of exercise, keep the bedroom at a cool temperature, drink a warm glass of milk—they’re often as tired as the sleep-deprived people they’re meant to help.
Try these sleep hacks if you can’t fall asleep
A new generation of sleep hacks—some unconventional, others counterintuitive—could maybe, just maybe, solve your sleepy-time problems. So kick the jumping sheep to the curb (unless they’re working for you, then keep on counting!). Here are seven fresh tips you can try ASAP:
1. Don’t eat before you sleep.
Eating before you go to sleep is a no-no. Research has found that while eating or drinking up to 3 hours before bedtime may extend sleep duration. It also increases rates of “nocturnal awakenings,” negatively affecting your sleep quality.
2. Try staying put.
Conventional wisdom says if you can’t sleep, get out of bed. But first, try this sleep hack. Lay in the dark with your head on a pillow and do deep breathing or visualization exercises until you feel drowsy. Don’t spend more than 20 minutes trying this, however. “If you spend time in bed worrying, your brain will begin to associate the two and not be able to sleep,” according to an article by Everyday Health.
3. A surprising sleep hack? Have a cup of joe.
Need to work late? Caffeine is the enemy when it comes to sleep—or at least that’s what you’re used to hearing. Yet an Australian pilot study found that people who took a “coffee nap”—that is, drinking one to two cups of coffee before a 30-minute nap—“showed marked improvements in both performance and alertness.”
4. Smell the ZZZs.
Some scents, such as lavender, appear to help people sleep better. One pilot study published in Scientific Reports found that participants who inhaled lavender essential oils during sleep “showed increased delta activity in deep sleep and reduced alpha/beta activity during wake stages,” improving their sleep quality overall. This sleep hack involves mixing a few drops of essential oil and water in a spray bottle and spritzing your pillows before bed.
5. Color-correct your bedroom.
The color of bedroom walls can do more than impact a room’s aesthetics. It can transform your room into a sleep haven if you choose wisely. Some colors are energizing and increase alertness, while others promote drowsiness. Alongside colors like purple and red, “Other bright hues from the warmer end of the spectrum, for example, hot pink and bright orange are also not ideal for the bedroom,” says Suzy Chiazzari, founder of the Holistic Design Institute and the Iris International School of Colour Therapy, in a 2022 Forbes article. Better choices include earth tones like blues and greens.
6. Forget the warm milk. Cherry juice is the sleep hack.
Studies show that drinking tart cherry juice improves sleep. It’s an effect that may actually have nothing to do with variations in melatonin and cortisol levels, as a 2022 study published in the International Journal of Environmental Research and Public Health hypothesized. So stop by the grocery store on your way home and start pouring yourself tart cherry juice twice a day. Voila!
7. Play mind games.
Don’t underestimate the power of your mind—and imagination—to help you fall asleep. Try this: Imagine the night’s rest is over and it’s time to pop out of bed, jump in the shower, get dressed and leave the house… preferably on a cold, wet day. The contrast between that chilling prospect and a warm, comfy bed might just be enough to induce sleep.
The Huffington Post founder Arianna Huffington, who’s featured on the April 2015 cover of SUCCESS magazine, says sleep is her top secret to success. Find out how she’s leading the charge for well-being in the American workplace.
This article was published in March 2015 and has been updated. Photo by Ground Picture/Shutterstock