Our bodies always let us know when it's time to rest, so it can be particularly frustrating when you take your cue, only to find that you can't actually sleep. But now one simple trick to help you fall asleep faster is making the rounds online — and if you find it hard to induce sleep by counting sheep at night-time, it could be the answer to your bedtime woes.
Sleep doctor and a Fellow of The American Academy of Sleep Medicine Dr. Michael Breus recently shared his top tips for heading off to the land of Nod, faster in video from Business Insider — and he has some pretty interesting suggestions. Breus notes that counting backwards from 300 in groups of three is the best way to find yourself asleep. Why? Because, he says, "the truth of the matter is that it's mathematically so complicated, you can't think of anything else — and it's so doggone boring, you're out like a light."
Breus calls it "the new way to count sheep" — and, indeed, it might be the more effective way to count sheep, as well. A study conducted by researchers at Oxford University found that a group of people with insomnia who were instructed to count sheep actually took longer to fall asleep than those who were given a different exercise: Imagining a relaxing beach. Counting backwards by three, however, changes the game slightly — and maybe just enough to make a difference.
Other tips from Breus include falling asleep in front of the TV, which is somewhat interesting. Although it's often recommended that people stay away from television at bedtime, Breus makes the argument that most people aren't really "watching" the screen anyway; it's just a distraction to relieve anxiety from the things that really keep them up at night. In this respect, having the TV on for background noise might not be such a bad idea.
Why is this tip interesting? Because it's in direct opposition to the huge body of research that advises reducing the amount of light near your eyes before bed. The National Sleep Foundation notes that exposure to any kind of bright light before bedtime is counterproductive to trying to fall asleep; as they put it, "exposure to light stimulates a nerve pathway from the eye to parts of the brain that control hormones, body temperature, and other functions that play a role in making us feel sleepy or wide-awake." As such, they continue, "Too much light right before bedtime may prevent you from getting a good night’s sleep." Indeed, to counteract bright lights before bed, some sleep experts suggest wearing sunglasses before bed. The idea is to trick your brain into thinking it's bedtime.
However, Breus's other advice is more commonly accepted: He notes that to switch off in the evening, one should try to cut down on worrying. This might be easier said than done, but Breus also offers a few suggestions. Keeping a "gratitude journal," for example — a place where you mark down all the things that make you happy right before you go to sleep — might help induce positive thoughts at bedtime; or, conversely, a "worry journal," where you write down what's bugging you a long time before you head to sleep, can help keep anxiety at bay by offloading your troubles earlier.
If you have trouble dropping off at night, try a variety of different sleep-inducing methods and techniques until you learn what works for your body. Everyone deserves a good night's sleep, after all.