The benefits of getting uninterrupted, high-quality sleep are pretty well known, yet a good night’s kip remains annoyingly elusive for many of us. We’ve collected seven of the best sleep hacks to help you fall asleep – and all with their roots in science.
In our increasingly connected world, it’s more difficult than ever to switch off and get the rest we need.
Even if you set good intentions and hop into bed for an early night, all too often you’ll end up tossing and turning into the early hours, thinking about an unsent email or an unpaid bill.
Recommended: How to sleep when worried about something – 12 tips for worry-free sleeping.
The best sleep hacks according to science
We’re certainly living more complex lifestyles than our ancestors, but thankfully, there are a handful of helpful tips and tricks experts swear by to combat modern sleep problems, both big and small.
Most recently, sleep researchers have discovered a handy hack around nightwear. According to an Australian study, wearing wool pyjamas to bed instead of cotton can have bedtime benefits.
Researchers found that switching to woolly PJs could help you rack up 15 minutes’ extra sleep per night. This is because sheep’s wool helps keep the body in the “thermal comfort zone” most conducive to restful sleep.
The study, reported in the journal Nature and Science of Sleep, revealed people nodded off four minutes faster on average when wearing pyjamas made from merino wool rather than cotton, taking 11 minutes instead of 15.
Aside from shelling out a bit extra on your comfies, there are plenty of other ways you can try to clean up your sleep habits. Here, we’ve found a few other science-based hacks that may help you to get a better night’s kip.
The 7 best sleep hacks to try
1. Stop looking at screens at night
There’s a good reason experts advise making your room a phone-free zone. Blue light, emitted from electrical devices like smartphones and laptops, disrupts the production of melatonin, a hormone that regulates the body’s sleep cycle.
This interference with the body’s 24-hour circadian rhythm can have a significant effect on your health, and can lead to a variety of health problems including heart disease, weight gain, depression and anxiety. Our advice? Pick up a book instead, but if you really have to work late, adjust the brightness of your screen to a warmer setting.
2. Set a bedtime routine
If you’re doing household chores, working or watching television right until bedtime, you’re not giving your body a chance to prepare itself for sleep. Studies have found that taking 30 to 60 minutes to decelerate at the end of a hectic day can help you feel sleepier when you eventually hit the hay.
A consistent bedtime routine, such as getting into bed at the same time each night, also signals to your brain that it’s time to power down.
3. Have a glass of tart cherry juice
Research has found that drinking a glass of tart cherry juice could significantly reduce the severity of your sleeplessness. This is because cherries are a natural source of melatonin, a hormone that helps regulate sleep.
A study published in the American Journal of Therapeutics found that drinking a night cap of the scarlet juice extended periods of sleep for an average of one hour and 24 minutes each night.
4. Have a hot bath before bed
There’s nothing more relaxing than having a hot soak, and several studies have shown that warming your body in a bath can help induce sleep when there’s enough time to cool off afterwards.
This is because a drop in body temperature after getting out of a hot bath causes the body to slow down our heart rate, breathing rate, and digestion – getting our bodies into the perfect rhythm for optimal sleep.
5. Listen to white noise
If you’re a light sleeper that’s disturbed by sudden sounds in the night, tuning into a white noise app can help you sleep more peacefully through street noise and traffic.
Studies have shown that playing ambient sound in the form of white or pink noise can aid sleep by drowning out noises that would normally keep you awake, like a blaring car alarm or noisy revellers. If you don’t fancy sleeping with headphones in, plugging in a cheap and cheerful electric desk fan should have the same effect.
6. Try the US military’s secret sleeping method!
Apparently the US military has a secret method for helping its pilots get to sleep in two minutes flat, and it doesn’t involve thousands of press ups or trudging through mud.
In a 1981 book titled Relax and Win: Championship Performance, author Lloyd Winter details a sleep-giving technique that was reportedly developed by army generals to help eliminate mistakes in their ranks.
Firstly, you need to close your eyes and relax your face – feel your jaw, tongue and forehead drop. Next you should drop your shoulders as low as they can go and then relax your upper and lower arm on one side, and then the other. Breathe out steadily and relax your chest, before relaxing your legs, from the thighs to the calves. Finally picture yourself either lying in a canoe on a calm lake, with nothing but blue sky above you, or snug in a black velvet hammock in a pitch-black room.
If visualisation doesn’t work, you can also try saying, ‘don’t think, don’t think, don’t think’, over and over again, for ten seconds. According to the book, the method is said to have a 96% success rate after six weeks of practice.
7. Try these exercises before bed
We’ve devised this short routine with the perfect combination of exercises to help you drift off to the land of nod in no time. Stretch out those often overloaded muscles and help prevent twinges from keeping you up at night, mobilise the joints that take a hammering from desk work, walking, high impact sports and even carrying kids, and enjoy a bit of time to stop and catch your breath.
These moves are slow in pace and easy to follow, and if you focus on your breath while you’re doing them, you have the perfect recipe for a good night’s sleep.