Weird Sleeping Hacks to Help You Beat Insomnia

Here we are in August 2020. How are you sleeping these days?

Don’t answer — I can guess. Whether it’s the sweltering last gasp of summer keeping you awake, or this shady business with the U.S. Postal Service, or personal worries brought on by any of 2020’s myriad woes, there’s every good reason for you to be tossing and turning all night long.

I feel your pain. My first kid was born a year ago, and after a few months of multiple nighttime feedings, my body seems to have forgotten how to power down. After spending my entire life being able to crash out anywhere, anytime — from behind the wheel of my Jeep to a sand dune to a short and lumpy futon mattress — this state of chronic sleeplessness feels frankly insulting, not to mention exhausting. Even when I’m too tired to stand up, the sheer frustration of not being able to fall asleep keeps me awake for hours at a time.

If you’re like me, you’ve probably read every sleep hygiene article you can get your hands on … and found, to your chagrin, that they are all pretty much the same. You’re not drinking caffeine before bed, you’re turning off your electronic devices, you’re getting in some exercise in the mid-afternoon, you’re settling into bed an hour before you hope to crash out, maybe even journaling your thoughts and feelings to calm your racing mind. Yet, night after night, you wind up staring up at the dark ceiling, listening to your partner snore.

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I promise you, there’s hope. Over the past six months, I’ve delved into some deep sleep hacks, some of them truly out there. And no joke, I have at last recovered my ability to rest. In fact, I feel so good with this rebirth of rest that it was almost worth not being able to sleep for so long.

… Just kidding. It was pure hell. But I’m glad to be out of it now, and very glad to share my findings with you.

Note: It goes without saying that if you’re suffering from insomnia, you should definitely check in with your doctor, since trouble sleeping can sometimes be related to other health problems.

Regulate Yourself

We all know the torture of trying to sleep in an overheated bed. But if you’ve already changed out your percale sheets for more breathable fabrics like Tencel or linen, it’s time to take a look at what you’re wearing to bed. Fortunately, Swiss brand Dagsmejan is making pajamas expressly designed to keep your body at the ideal temperature for sleeping. Made from eucalyptus fibers that offer super-low thermal resistance and eight times the breathability of cotton, these silky-soft pajamas instantly release your body’s heat, wick away sweat, and somehow attract the cool night air to keep you in that perfect temperature zone — no more need to search for the “cool spot” in your bed. Personally, I prefer them even to sleeping naked.

Bespoke CBD

If you’re like me, you’ve probably tried all sorts of CBD remedies to help with your insomnia. And if you’re like me, you’ve been repeatedly frustrated by their failure. The CBD market is flooded with pretenders, but even the good brands can let you down if you don’t know the dosage that’s right for you. That’s why I fell in love with Equilibria, a wonderful CBD brand out of Chicago that pairs customers with a trained dosage consultant. After listening to your health woes, the consultant will walk you through exactly how, when, and how much of their product to take, then follow up with you after a few weeks to fine-tune your protocol. Their tailored advice, plus the quality of their stringently farmed cannabis, makes for a can’t-miss CBD experience.

Trigger Your Calm

Could breathing through a two-inch stainless steel pipe help you sleep better? Well, it worked for the 17th-century Japanese monks. Inspired by the bamboo shakuhachi flute that these monks used to achieve the calm state required for enlightenment, the Komuso Shift works by restraining your exhalation so that it gets longer, slower, and more complete. This signals your body to take deeper, slower inhalations, which in turn calms the cortisol response in your brain that causes anxiety, mental chatter, and inability to relax. As your breathing slows down and deepens, your muscles loosen up, your blood pressure decreases, your mind unwinds … are you sleeping yet? Sure, it looks an awful lot like the safety whistles they used to hand out in college. But the science is unequivocal that deep breathing is key to reducing stress and its associated effects such as insomnia, and with a slew of psychotherapist endorsements, and even testimonials from essential workers on the COVID-19 front lines, the Komuso Shift is definitely worth a try.

Brainwave Sync

I’ll confess that I’m secretly a biohacker at heart. The only reason I haven’t gone full Peter Thiel is because of the cost barrier. (Well, that and the vampire adjacency, but I digress.) However, as luck would have it, I was offered a chance to test this brand-new device at the height of my insomnia, and you bet I took it. The NeoRhythm is a wearable device that creates a gentle electromagnetic pulse against your head. Much like a baby being rocked in a cradle or the even rumble of pavement under car tires, this consistent pulse induces the same frequency in your brain, which makes it a lot easier to let go of anxiety and tension and — you guessed it — fall into a deep, imperturbable sleep. You can even choose different wavelength rhythms to encourage different brain states for other activities, such as beta waves for focus, gamma waves for pain relief, or theta waves for meditation.

Better Breathing

You remember Wim Hof? The charismatic Dutchman dubbed the “Iceman” thanks to his penchant for running ultra-marathons barefoot over snow. Personally, I ignored his slew of scientific studies and world records, writing him off as just another version of CrossFit extremism. But when a family member recommended his breathing technique for helping with my sleep issues, I decided to give it a try. And I’ll be damned if it didn’t work. The technique consists of moderate hyperventilation for about 40 breaths, followed by emptying your lungs and holding right up until you think you’re going to pass out, then inhaling and holding for another 15 seconds. It sounds strenuous, but after just one round you’ll feel a delicious relaxation effect, thanks to having kicked your parasympathetic nervous system into gear. I do three rounds before bed and pass out like a light. Cheers to you, Iceman.

Bedtime Beverage

Another odd health hack that I only tried out of sheer desperation, that shocked me with how effective it was. The science says that tart cherry juice kicks your body into producing melatonin. Highly skeptical, I added about 1/4 cup of tart cherry concentrate to a glass of water and chugged it down at about 9.30 pm. To my great surprise, I was yawning hard in about ten minutes, was out cold by 10, and woke up at 6 a.m. feeling better than I had in months. These days, I take my tart cherry juice in capsule form (to avoid last-minute bathroom calls). However, I keep a bottle of the concentrate on hand for the odd 3 a.m. wakeup. If I can’t go back to sleep, I mix up a glass, throw it back, and usually pass out within a matter of minutes.

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