To function effectively, everyone—including CEOs—needs at least 7 hours of sleep per night. But what if insomnia and “night-waking” are preventing you from proper rest? Everyone knows it helps to minimize or eliminate electronic device usage before bedtime, but there are other, somewhat offbeat practices you can try.
1. Put it on paper. If it’s clear to you that you can’t fall asleep because you’re worried about a problem at work or in your personal life, “get your problems out of your head and on to a piece of paper,” Buzzfeed advised. But don’t just put the problem in writing; jot down a few possible solutions, too.
Buzzfeed reported that in one study published in the medical journal Behavioral Sleep Medicine, two groups of volunteers each wrote down three things that seemed to be interfering with their sleep. Volunteers in one group left it at that, while those in the other group also put solutions to paper. Across the board, those in the latter group relaxed and were able to fall asleep far faster than their counterparts.
2. Practice mindfulness meditation. Mindfulness meditation involves “focusing on your breathing and then bringing your mind’s attention to the present without drifting into concerns about the past or future,” according to a Harvard Health blog. “It helps you break the train of your everyday thoughts to evoke the relaxation response, using whatever technique feels right to you.”
Herbert Benson, MD, founder of the Mind/Body Medical Institute at Boston’s Massachusetts General Hospital, was quoted in the blog as recommending one session of mindfulness meditation daily.“The idea is to create a reflex to more easily bring forth a sense of relaxation,” he said. “That way, it’s easier to evoke the ‘relaxation response’ at night when you can’t sleep.”
To trigger the “relaxation response,” Harvard Health suggested, first select a calming focus, such as your breath, a sound (like “om”), or a phrase (like, “Breathing in calm, breathing out tension” or “I am relaxed”). If you pick a sound, repeat it aloud or silently while inhaling and exhaling. Then, let go and relax. Don’t think about how you’re doing, and if your mind wanders, take a deep breath and say to yourself, “thinking, thinking.” Then return your attention to your chosen focus.
A little skeptical? According to The New York Times, a recent study published in JAMA Internal Medicine revealed that subjects who were taught mindful meditation improved sleep better than did participants who only practiced good sleep habits, such as going to bed at the same time each night.
3. Put some glasses on. It’s common knowledge that the blue spectrum of light emitted by electronic devices used before bed can disrupt sleep. However, other blue spectrum light sources in the bedroom—for instance, clocks and even energy-efficient outdoor fixtures—also interfere with circadian rhythms and the production of sleep-inducing melatonin. Wearing specially tinted glasses that filter out the blue spectrum of light may help, according to the Huffington Post. A HuffPo editorial noted that a pair of Blueblockers’ orange-tinted glasses costs $15 and sparked a 5% improvement in the deepest (REM) stage of the author’s sleep, which fluctuates between 20% and 30%, when worn for a few hours before bedtime.
HuffPo also cited the results of a study of the effects of blue light-blockers on sleep and sleep quality. Conducted at Quebec’s Université Laval, the research focused on night-shift workers who wore blue light-blocking glasses at or near the end of their overnight shift. After four weeks, all subjects reported they were able to sleep more overall and that their “sleep efficiency” had increased, while wakefulness had decreased.
4. Watch your mouth—or at least, what goes into it. Contrary to what hotels want you to think when they leave candies on your pillow at night, consuming sugary foods before bedtime is a bad idea. If you must eat prior to turning in, opt for a bit of protein, such as a hardboiled egg, neuroscientist Tara Swart, MD, told CNN.com. Swart’s company, The Limited Mind, applies the principles of neuroscience in creating leadership models.
Some of these tips may be just the ticket you need to sleep tight and wake up refreshed.