Reading: Absolutely Every Trick We Know to Get More Sleep

Sleep

Absolutely Every Trick We Know to Get More Sleep

From the tried-and-true to the downright strange, here’s what you told us works

By Catherine LeFebvre

At this point in our lives, we’ve learned a thing or two. But with all that learning comes worrying. And stress. And maybe even some indigestion, or a sweet-but-sometimes-infuriating partner snoring away next to you. 

In short, no matter how many skills we master, falling asleep and staying that way can feel like the impossible dream. That’s why It’s 3 a.m. Why Are You Awake? is our most popular article ever, why we’ve interviewed sleep experts both at home and abroad, and why our CoveyConnect app sees a traffic spike between 2 and 4 a.m. most weeks. 

We know all about sleep hygiene, circadian rhythms and supplements, but sometimes all that knowledge isn’t as soothing and sleep-inducing as we’d like. It’s nice to have a new hack to try, or a strange tip you’ve never thought of. So we surveyed the experts — ourselves —to track down every last app, breathing routine and funny mind game . We got hundreds of responses (on the Covey FB page and on founder Lesley Jane Seymour’s LinkedIn page) and boiled it down to this easily digestible list of sleepy solutions.

 Grab a pillow, curl up and keep reading to learn new ways for coping with your middle-of-the-night wakings.

Strategy #1: Just Get Up!
Recommendation Rate: 13%

Key Comments: 
If I wake up and can’t go back to sleep, I get up and dive in to whatever it is that’s keeping me up. Why? Because fighting it is pointless. I’m awake longer and I don’t remember my ideas as well the next day – only the stress. By getting up and working for a short time, I get a lot done plus I might get some sleep.
Rachel Gaddis

If your mind’s racing … I suggest working through “the busy.”  It’s a good time to get those chores done. 
Billy Lowe  

Strategy #2: Meditation or Breathing Exercises
Recommendation Rate: 11%
Key Comments:
I have a glass of water and try the 478 breathing exercise. If that doesn’t work I’ll get up and do some work with the hopes often earlier bedtime the following night.
Christene Carr  

I meditate. After a decade of practice, my conditioned response – deep relaxation- seems to do the trick.
Annette Ramos Community Connector, Arts Educator & Advocate

Breathe out for the count of 5, breathe in for the count of 3, hold your breath for the count of 3 and repeat 3 times. It is important to breathe out first because that grabs your brain’s attention. Then count slowly backward from 1,000.
Paula Bowie  

I know it sounds silly, but I think of filling my head up with a cloud and not letting any thoughts in. And I’m asleep within seconds.
Shirine Coburn 

I like to listen to Yoga Nidra Guided Sleep Meditation by Jennifer Piercy.
Tara M. Batemon

Strategy #3: Apps, Podcasts or Audiobooks
Recommendation Rate: 10%
Key Comments:

 I’m a fan of the Calm App’s sleep stories. If something is on my mind, I write it down, then turn on a Sleep story. I’m a lifelong insomniac and they work for me!
Ruth Morganto Senior

A podcast called Sleep With Me.
Stacey Staaterman 

Podcasts. One earbud. No light, one ear on the pillow. Interesting enough to keep you there if you cannot sleep, droning enough to put you back under….I suspect the popularity of podcasts is at least partially due to lack of sleep, but respecting a partner’s need for silence and darkness….
Dick Porter 

I listen to a Tara Brach Podcast with my Sleepheadphones. #bestinvestmentever!
Robyn Hatcher

Natural Hypnosis has many offerings that work well, as does the Insight Timer app. 
Jane Ubell-Meyer 

Strategy #4: Write It Down 
Recommendation Rate: 8%
Key Comments:

Sometimes good ideas are too good to pass up and have to be digested and written down in the moment … even at 3 am. Same for troubling thoughts, which upon reflection often become opportunities for positive change. Once I have captured the essence of what is going on in my mind, I can usually let it go and settle back to sleep knowing that I will not forget what was going on.
Alex Blanton 

Strategy #5: Read or Watch TV 
Recommendation Rate: 8%
Key Comments:

If before 5 AM: Start the reading I was planning to do in the early morning. Re-set my alarm for a little later than usual, fall asleep reading, get up late.
Rebekah Rombom  

Get up, keep the lights low and do approximately 10 minutes coloring in an adult coloring book. It interrupts the brain activity keeping you awake and reduces the Adrenalin that is underpinning the activity.
Paula Bowie

I get up and go to the sofa, turn the tv to a news station with a crawl at the bottom and leave the sound off. I focus on reading the crawl and fall asleep by the time it cycles through once or twice. I keep a comfy pillow and blanket nearby. This helps me get out of my head and calms the “thought storm” that keeps me awake. I imagine this would work with any tv program using closed captioning and no sound.
Judy Jeremias 

Strategy #6: Change of Venue
Recommendation Rate: 7%
Key Comments:
I’ve found that if I get up and move to a different room in the house (guest bedroom, living room) I am able to fall back to sleep.
Ryanne Crull 

I flip my position in bed. Put head where feet were.
Stacey Staaterman 

I know it sounds odd, but I go in the kitchen and eat a banana while staring out the doors watching the night or the earliest part of morning. It’s peaceful. Like I’m onto something special. Then back to bed and sleeping.
Diane Allison-Stroud Game Board Artist


Strategy #7: Specific Books and Products 

Recommendation Rate: 7%
Key Comments:
 
The Delta Sleep System. Works perfectly! 
Jill Fletcher 

A bowl of Rice Krispies will put me back to sleep. ;-]
Lynn Trepicchio

I recommend reading the book Why We Sleep by Dr. Matthew Walker. Understanding the scientific mechanism of sleep helps a lot with trying to sleep 🙂
Dieu (Zeo) Nguyen 

There is a good podcast episode called Learning How to Learn from the Knowledge Project. It explains on a high level what happens in our brains when we sleep. Fascinating.
Eva Pan

I take a couple sprays of Bach Rescue Remedy.
Karim Fugel 

Intermezzo. It’s a low-dose sublingual form of zolpidem tartrate (Ambien). It’s designed to be taken 4 hours before you need to wake up, so great for middle-of-the-night awakenings. I’ve struggled with sleep all my life (as does my daughter). This is not over-the-counter, but entirely worth having it on hand for those have-to-fall-back-asleep-now moments.
Suzanne Frank

Strategy #8: Positive Thinking
Recommendation Rate: 6%
Key Comments:

I shift my mind. I force myself to hyper-focus on something that makes me happy.
Jane Ubell-Meyer 

I try to count things I’m thankful for. Sounds corny, but if I’m awake at 3, I’m usually worried about something.
Tammy Pennington

Strategy #9: Think of Someplace Soothing
Recommendation Rate: 3%
Key Comment:
In my mind I retrace the steps of my favorite walk near the coast of Maine where we rent the same oceanfront property in the summer. The walk includes soothing vistas, quiet, wooded dirt roads, and a narrow bridge where you can watch the tide come in. Maine is my happy place and taking the “walk” is calming and helps me drift back to sleep.
Ellen Morgenstern  

Strategy #10: Boring Games 
Recommendation Rate: 3%
Key Comments:

I try to bore myself back to sleep by playing the “initials game.” I’ll randomly pick 2 letters and try to think of someone with those initials in their name. Then I reverse the letters. Rinse and repeat. (for example… BM = Bette Midler, Marlon Brando, etc etc) 
Beth Balsam 

If I can’t get back to sleep quickly, I put together menus or outfits in my head.
Marion Asnes 

Strategy #11: Yoga
Recommendation Rate: 2%
Key Comment:

Yoga – I hold a few simple poses for a minute or two each. Works for me!
Sharon Cleary

Strategy #12: CBD Oil
Recommendation Rate: 2%
Key Comment:

CBD oil for sure! It’s not about relying on a sleep supplement. It’s about resetting the body and balancing out the systems that are causing you to wake… whether its mental, hormonal or even GI. It’s hard to pinpoint the cause and CBD has addressed that for me and so many. It’s been a blessing. Optimal sleep, optimal function.
Jeanine Casty Kannaway

Strategy #13: Preventative Measures 
Recommendation Rate: 2%
Key Comment:

I focus on doing whatever I can to ensure I do not wake up in the middle of the night. I have a routine I try to follow, consistently every weeknight to prepare me for, hopefully, a restful uninterrupted 8 hours of sleep. This includes turning on a white noise machine to drown out the city sounds and voice notating emails for any last minute tasks that pop in my brain.  
Ariel Weinshanker 

Strategy #14: When You’ve Tried Everything Else 
Recommendation Rate: 1%
Key Comment:

I have a surefire approach that sounds like it would not work but has proven to be 100% effective. I visualize and mentally perform a safety check, full disassembly, cleaning, reassembly and QA of a mechanical system. In most cases, I use a mil-spec 1911 firearm as my subject to improve the “muscle memory” necessary to meet the WWII requirement of doing this blindfolded. It is somehow a focused enough task that it allows me to return to sleep quickly and effectively every time.
Jim Potts

 

  1. Karen Brown

    Catherine – great article! Because I focus on technology to support older people and their various challenges as they age, I came across the following product that is proven to improve sleep.

    Dreampad Sleep – https://dreampadsleep.com. “The Dreampad’s patented vibrational sound system and proprietary music make this a completely different – and more effective – experience than listening to music through a sound machine or traditional speaker. Dreampad music travels internally, signaling your nervous system to relax so you can ease into a great night’s sleep.”

    It has been studied, tested and proven to be effective with various populations. We are now connected with the Dreampad Sleep company to explore its use in the older population – especially those with more challenging sleep issues and some connected to various forms of dementia.

    Check it out!

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