Recognized as difficulty falling asleep and/or staying asleep, insomnia can be short-term or chronic. Women are 40 percent more likely than men to suffer from it, and our symptoms tend to multiply as we get older. Many folks turn to prescription or over-the-counter sleep aids for relief, but they come with downsides like daytime drowsiness and memory lapses — and the costs can be prohibitive. Americans spend $52 billion on sleep aids and remedies annually! Luckily, you can get better sleep tonight with these free tricks.
Tossing and turning? Picture something soft.
You’ve finally stretched out in bed, but now your mind is whirling in a million different directions. There’s a fix for that: Australian researchers say visualizing a soft, fluffy baby animal (like a kitten or bunny) can help you fall asleep faster and snooze more soundly, improving overall sleep quality by as much as 61 percent! How? Visualizing something tactile — especially if it’s soft and fluffy — shifts the brain into a meditative, sleep-inducing state.
Wired and tired? Stick to a routine.
It may seem obvious, but try going to bed at the same time every night (the actual time doesn’t matter, it just needs to be consistent). The surprise? Cornell researchers say that once your bedtime becomes regular and predictable, your brain will double its production of sleep-inducing melatonin enough to cut your risk of insomnia by 67 percent in 10 days.
Can’t fall asleep? Listen to this.
Listen to Tibetan or Himalayan singing bowls for 20 minutes before lights-out, and you’ll fall asleep with ease. How it works: Researchers say the gentle sounds these bowls emit prompt theta wave release, cutting insomnia-triggering tension by 89 percent. Two no-cost apps that offer them: Zen Bowl (for iPhone) and Singing Bowls (for Android).
Can’t stay asleep? Try a tub soak.
Researchers recently found that taking a 10-minute soak one hour before bed helped folks fall asleep 36 percent faster — results that are as good as Ambien without next-day grogginess. The reason? Warming up skin triggers your internal thermostat to dial down to the cooler levels that mimic deep sleep. “And cooling off after a hot bath also releases melatonin,” adds sleep medicine psychologist Shelby Harris, Psy.D. A steady stream of the hormone helps you stay asleep.
Restless? Eat a banana.
Bananas contain a trio of nutrients that work like medicine to improve sleep: Potassium calms stress, magnesium relaxes tense muscles, and vitamin B-6 boosts sleep-inducing hormones. Pair the fruit with 6 ounces of milk, which boosts levels of calming serotonin, and a Japanese study suggests you’ll cut your risk of restless sleep by 53 percent!
This article originally appeared in our print magazine, Save on Healthcare (Buy on Amazon, $12.99).