Today is World Sleep Day. Says who? Unclear. But as someone who has to try really, really hard to get to bed before the garbage trucks make their noisy 3:45 a.m. rounds, I'm constantly trying to figure out how to sleep better. I've tried that 4-7-8 breathing trick, attempted to ban screens from my bed (nope), and have a drawer full of Phillips gadgets from blue lights to noise machines.
If you're in the same boat, though, make room in your arsenal: These five unexpected tips for better sleep—based on the latest in sleep research and expert advice—are not only effective, they're also much more fun.
1. Get Naked
Sex may be the key to a good night’s sleep. An Australian study found that two thirds of participants who had sex right before bed—specifically good sex, during which both partners climaxed—got better shut-eye. But whether or not you plan to get frisky before bed, once you get naked, stay naked. Dr. Michael Breus, one of the foremost sleep experts, explains that sleeping in the nude has major benefits. “Remember, sleep follows your core body temperature rhythm, so if you are too warm in bed, due to flannel PJs or Polyester comforters, your body temp cannot drop, which means you cannot sleep.” Another perk of ditching your pajamas? It can help you burn belly fat, he says. Plus it’s linked with improved intimacy, which is linked with more sex, which, full circle, is linked with better sleep.
2. Book a Sleep Massage
If you’re a massage junkie like I am, you’ve probably fallen asleep on the table at least once. It is the most serene, trance-like kind of sleep, and the on-demand massage app Zeel has a treatment designed specifically to attain that. I gave the 60-minute, full-body treatment a try last year, when it launched. Rather than the vigorous kneading you’d experience during a deep-tissue or sports massage, my therapist told me, the sleep massage uses slow, long strokes along the length of the body to relax muscles and slow the nervous system, lulling you into a sleep-ready state. That was about as much of the explanation as I caught before I was out cold.
But the real genius of Zeel’s Sleep Massage is that it takes place in your home, late at night if you so desire (in NYC, the last appointment is at 10:30 p.m.). Unlike after a spa day, you don’t need to jolt yourself out of your Zen state with annoyances like getting dressed and public transportation. You roll off the massage table and into bed. (Which makes the momentary awkwardness of inviting a stranger into your hastily cleaned-up bedroom to platonically rub you up and down totally worth it.)
3. Stick Needles in Your Face
Insomniacs, take note: Practitioners of Chinese medicine have recommended acupuncture for insomnia relief for years, but studies have actually found the alternative treatment to be more effective than prescription sleeping pills. In a second study, which compared acupuncture to the sleep drug Zopiclone, acupuncture had a 92.9% success rate compared to the pill’s 67.9% success rate.
4. Get Baked
Well, kind of. Cannabidiol (CBD), a chemical compound extracted from the cannabis plant, has become increasingly popular among those who suffer from anxiety. Disappointingly, CBD, unlike its psychoactive relative THC, will not get you high. But it might help put you to sleep. And since it’s legal nationwide, CBD has cropped up in consumer products from oral supplements to body lotions. “In smaller doses, it’s actually used to increase alertness,” Breus, who points out that there’s still more research to be done on the substance, told the Huffington Post. “CBD stimulates alertness and reduces daytime sleepiness, which is important for daytime performance and for the strength and consistency of the sleep-wake cycle.” But it’s also linked to a reduction in anxiety and stress, which is a common cause for difficulty sleeping. “[It] can be helpful in reducing sleep difficulties and improving sleep quality. CBD may increase overall sleep amounts and improve insomnia.”
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5. Write a List
Sleep doctors often recommend jotting down tomorrow's to-do list before bed so all those stress-inducing action items don’t keep you awake—and recent research has proven how impressively effective that can be. In the study, 57 adults were asked to complete a 5-minute writing exercise before spending the night in a sleep lab. Half were told to write about about the tasks they needed to complete the next day, while the other half were told to write about tasks they had already completed. The ones whose lists were future-focused fell asleep on average 9 minutes faster—and if that doesn’t sound like a night-altering gain, consider that many sleeping pills promise the exact same improvement.