Face it, you probably need more sleep. But you know this already, because we all need more sleep.
We all try to fit in as much work and play into each day as possible—the result of which is a small amount of shut-eye followed by a big dose of caffeine in the morning. So how much do you need? It varies, depending on your age and activity level, but the National Sleep Foundation has a solid recommendation of seven to nine hours a night. When you go without it, you do some real damage to your body and mind. Thankfully, there are easy ways to get optimal rest and REM sleep with reasonably little effort. Here are six ways to hack your sleep.
Embrace the Power Down
"Set an established bedtime and use the hour before you go to bed to do relaxing tasks that help prepare your mind and body for sleep," says Dr. Michael Breus of the American Board of Sleep Medicine. "This is called the power down, and the nightly activities help your mind leave the day's stress behind and prepare for bedtime. If you repeat them on a regular basis, your body recognizes them as triggers that indicate it's time to go to sleep."
Set an established bedtime and use the hour before you go to bed to do relaxing tasks that help prepare your mind and body for sleep.
When you eat can be more important than what you eat when it comes to quality sleep. Chow down too late or indulge in a midnight snack session and your body will be using energy for digesting instead of getting into a restful state. Eating your dinner at an earlier hour (and keeping to a regular dinner time) will help regulate the hormones that get released after dinner, which could affect your sleep cycles.
Meditate (or Fake It)
Meditation has proven to be an effective way to prep your body and mind for restful sleep. But if sitting quietly just isn’t your thing, or you just want a quicker way to relax, you can merely hum while you're getting ready for bed. Simply repeating "hummmm" for five to ten minutes has the ability to relax your nervous system and release a natural dose of calming serotonin. Seriously, it works.
Nap Like a Boss
An afternoon nap is one of the best ways to get the rest you need and help you stay alert during that afternoon meeting. And surprisingly, what you need to do it right is a shot of caffeine. "Drink a lukewarm cup of coffee (or tea) quickly, then close your eyes and take a 20-minute nap," says Dr. Breus. "When you wake up, the caffeine should be kicking in and you'll have gotten some of your rest while waiting."
Flex Yourself Asleep
The US Marine Corps started using meditative techniques to help Marines fall asleep in less than peaceful situations. Here’s one method: Lying down in bed, curl your toes and flex your feet. Concentrating on the feeling in those muscles and joints, continue up your leg, rotating your feet at the ankles, stretching your calves, all the while focusing your attention only on those particular sensations. Wiggle your fingers and wrists, press your shoulders back and then stretch and rotate your neck. Keep the concentration on your body and you'll be out like a light in 10 to 15 minutes, tops.
Ice Baths Do the Job
Master lifehacker Tim Ferriss tested one method that we’d only recommend if you also need some muscle recovery after a long training session: an ice bath. Sure a warm bath is relaxing, but according to the research Ferriss did, cold is actually a more effective signaler for sleep onset. His recipe for the ideal ice bath is two to three bags of convenience store ice dropped into a half-full bath until the ice is about 80% melted. Immerse your lower body into the ice water for five minutes and then another five minutes with the upper torso submerged. “It’s like getting hit with an elephant tranquilizer,” said Ferriss. “Don’t expect it to be pleasant at first.”