If you haven't been feeling well rested, it may be time to pull out a few hacks to sleep better, so that you can start getting the recommended amount of sleep each night. "The average person needs seven to eight hours of sleep," Chris Brantner, certified sleep science coach and founder of SleepZoo, tells Bustle. "Sleep cycles are generally 90 minutes long, and for a full night's sleep you want to get through about five cycles, which comes out to be about seven and a half hours, hence the recommended range."
If you aren't getting the correct amount of sleep each night, you'll likely be able to tell the next day. "If you're waking up still feeling tired in the morning, or you feel excessively exhausted during the day, odds are you aren't getting the right quantity or quality of sleep, so you'll want to take a hard look at your sleeping habits and consider making some changes," Brantner says. If you aren't feeling your best, it may be time to switch up your sleep routine.
And, since drastic times call for drastic measures, that may mean you need to adopt a few interesting habits at night, in order to sleep. While you certainly can and should try improving your sleep hygiene first — by keeping your bedroom dark and peaceful, going to bed at the same time each night, and making sure you turn off your phone, etc. — it never hurts to throw in a few quirky tricks, too. Here, a few surprising sleep tips from the experts, that may help you get better sleep.
1. Breathing In Through Your Left Nostril
If you can't fall asleep, or find yourself waking up often throughout the night, try breathing in through your left nostril by plugging your right one and taking a breath. It may sound strange, but there's some science behind why this trick works.
"If you're dealing with racing thoughts, breathing in your left nostril is purported to activate your parasympathetic response, which can help dull your flight-or-flight response system," Brantner says. "The idea comes from yogic science, which teaches that the left nostril gives access to Ida energy, which can calm and soothe."
Sure, you may look weird sitting in bed with your right nostril plugged as you breathe in through the other, but who cares? After doing this for a minute or two, you might be relaxed enough to fall asleep.
2. Drinking A Glass Of Warm Milk
Even though the idea of drinking warm milk may not seem appealing, it may be worth it if it means better sleep. "I'm not a fan of milk, and the thought of warm milk makes me want to gag. However, this old-fashioned remedy can actually help you sleep," Brantner says. "Some people believe this is the case because it contains tryptophan, which can help induce sleep. However, others argue that the levels are too low to really do any good. On the other hand, it's also possible that having warm milk before bed is more of a calming exercise as it can remind you of being a kid, and having a warm drink can prove relaxing. And since stress is one of the main things that keeps us from going to sleep, this routine could help."
3. Standing In Cold Water
If you're having trouble falling asleep, it can help to fill your tub with some cold water, and soak your feet for a while. (Or run your feet under cool water in the sink.)
"And make sure the water is as cold as you can get it," author and lifestyle expert Jaya Jaya Myra, tells Bustle. "Do this for about one minute on each foot. This helps excess heat in the body to be released, making you more comfortable and able to go to sleep quickly and easily."
And here's why it works: "Being too hot or too cold will make it difficult to sleep," she says. "Surprisingly, this does not make your body too cold. In fact, you'll feel super relaxed afterwards." Adding in some soothing essential oils, like lavender, can help too.
4. Rolling Your Eyes
Rolling your eyes may sound surprising, but why not give it a try? "The idea is that rolling your eyes simulates the movement your eyes make when sleeping," Brantner says. "So by rolling your eyes, it might help produce melatonin and get you to sleep." Simply swirl them around in your head (gently) and see how you feel.
5. Having Sex
Ever feel exhausted after a go in the sheets? This may be because of sex's powerful sleep-inducing benefits. "Sexual activity releases endorphins, which help calm us for sleep," Brantner says. "In particular, stimulation leading to climax causes endorphin and dopamine release, which can really help you wind down and get to sleep."
In fact, Brantner says a recent study at Central Queensland University found that 64 percent of people said they slept better after having sex with a partner, and orgasming. "The researchers hypothesize that it's not just the endorphin release, but also the fact that sexual activity with another person keeps you away from your devices — less Facebook, less TV before bed, which ties into all the recent research about how smart devices and social media are really hurting our sleep," Brantner says.
You can also masturbate, too. "Self-stimulation may help you sleep as well, but if it involves staring at a screen, you might be canceling out sleep-inducing benefits," he says. So instead of watching videos online, try to use your imagination, and you'll be asleep in no time.
6. Curling Your Toes
Eyeballs, feet — both unexpected, but both gateways into better sleep. "[...] you can curl and uncurl [your feet] as a way to help calm yourself to sleep," Brantner says. "Seems strange, I know, but it seems that the monotony of the exercise can help relax you and get you to sleep."
7. Wearing A Mouth Guard
If you suffer from teeth grinding or bruxism at night, it'll definitely keep you up. But that's where a mouth guard can help. "A mouthpiece can be effective for someone who clenches or grinds their teeth at night," Brantner says. "The interesting thing here is that a lot of people don't even realize they clench and grind, but it can cause sleep disruption, jaw pain, and headaches. Your dentist should be able to determine if there's a chance you could benefit from a nighttime mouthpiece." It may not be the most appealing thing to wear to bed, but it can certainly help if teeth grinding is affecting your sleep.
8. Popping In Ear Plugs
If you have loud roommates or live on a busy street, consider squashing some ear plugs into head and getting to sleep. "Ear plugs can also help you sleep, as they help you to drown out noise," Brantner says. "During the initial light phases of sleep, stages one and two, it's easy to be awoken. The slightest noise could wake you up, so earplugs could help make sure you get through light sleep into the more important slow-wave restorative phases."
9. Slicking On Some VapoRub
Ever heard of Vick's VapoRub? It smells strong and is pretty greasy, but people have sworn by its medicinal effects for years. "Vick's can help you sleep by helping ease your breathing," Brantner says. "If you can steady your breathing, your body will relax, and have an easier time getting to sleep." It also works wonder if you have a cold and can't fall asleep due to a stuffy nose, as the fumes waft up your airway, and help clear your sinuses.
10. Wearing An Eye Mask
Nothing beats an eye mask when it comes to blocking out light and helping you get better sleep. "These block light from windows or your ... electronic device so they are really helpful for some people," Dr. Lynelle Schneeberg, PsyD, a licensed clinical psychologist and fellow at American Academy of Sleep Medicine, tells Bustle. Simply keep one handy by your bed, and pop it on whenever necessary.
11. Sleeping On The Couch
It's not a good idea to make a habit of sleeping on your couch, since you should be able to create a comfy bedroom environment for all your sleeping needs. There is something to be said, however, for switching things up if you've been having trouble staying asleep.
"If you've been having trouble sleeping and have been struggling with insomnia for weeks/months, it is helpful to 'change your bed' in some way — perhaps new sheets or moving it to a different spot in the room — to make your bed feel new, which sometimes helps people sleep better again," Schneeberg says. "It's the same reason some folks sleep better on the sofa or in a guest room. These spots have not been 'conditioned' to be places where people lie awake."
By sleeping somewhere new, or changing up your bedroom in some way, you may be able to get yourself "unstuck" from unhealthy sleep habits, and make falling asleep — and staying asleep — so much easier. And, by adding in a few of the tips above, you'll increase your chances of getting better sleep that much more.