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11 Unconventional Tips for Better Sleep

I have always had trouble getting to sleep at night—and even more trouble staying asleep. My sleep problems are not caused by a medical condition or a sleep disorder. I just have an overactive brain that kicks into high gear when it’s time to settle down and sleep.

Poor sleep can cause myriad health problems, so finding ways
to get better sleep is important.

Through many trials and errors, I’ve figured out several tactics that help me get to sleep and stay asleep. I think of these sleep tips as unconventional, because I haven’t really seen them in other sources. In fact, I often see people recommend doing the opposite.

In my opinion, these 11 tips will help you get the sleep you need, so you can wake up well-rested:

Get comfortable.
For many, discomfort and pain can be the main reason they have trouble getting a good night’s sleep. This may seem an insurmountable problem, but sometimes a few small changes can make a difference.

For example, a different mattress or pillow may adjust your sleep posture enough to ease pain, or a new sleep position may help. Try wedge-shaped pillows to cushion your hip, or a pillow between your knees.

See: Self Care and Exercise to Treat Spine Osteoarthritis and 11 Ways to Relieve Pain Naturally
Take a nap every day.
Many sources advise you to avoid napping, but I think daily naps are a good idea. To make napping work as a sleep tool, follow these 3 rules:

Follow a schedule. If you nap at the same time every day, your body will adjust and allow you to fall asleep more quickly at that time.
Keep it brief. Make your naps 10 to 20 minutes long. This will make sure it doesn’t interfere with your regular night of sleep.
Nap in the early afternoon. Aim for the post-lunch period when your body is naturally inclined to feel sleepy, yet it’s early enough in the day to not affect your nighttime sleeping.
Exercise hard.
Work out intensely, until you feel physical exhaustion. But keep in mind that the exercise should be intense according to your capability. Anything that raises your heart rate can help. Physical tiredness is essential to getting a good night’s sleep.

See: Ways to Get Exercise When You Have Arthritis
Designate a “worry time.”
Many of us have a hard time sleeping because our worries about life bubble to the surface as soon as our head hits the pillow—or worse, when we wake up at 3 a.m. You can help keep worries at bay by choosing a 15-minute period sometime during the day when you consider every possible worry you can. When the time is up, share them with a trusted confidant or write them down. Then move on mentally.

Keep a pen and notebook handy.
It’s not uncommon to think of a new idea or remember something important when you lay down to go to sleep, or when you wake up in the middle of the night.

Instead of struggling to remember it (and triggering anxiety in the process), I write it down in a notebook I keep near the bed. Once it exists on paper, you can relax and let your thoughts go. If you prefer to use digital, you can also make the note through an app on your tablet or smartphone.

A fan can help you sleep better both by providing white noise
and by cooling down your bedroom.

Cool down your bedroom.
Your body temperature naturally drops during the early stages of sleep, so you can help speed the process of falling asleep by making your bedroom cool. A cool bedroom has the added benefit of allowing you to snuggle up with a warm comforter without overheating.

Steer clear of hot baths.
Many sleep advice sources suggest relaxing in the evening with a hot bath. But as we just discussed, your body lowers its temperature when you begin to fall asleep, so a hot bath may keep you up. If you want to relax with a warm bath, finish it at least 2 hours before you go to bed. This will give your body time to cool down.

However, you can still use a heating pad or hot pack to ease joint or muscle pain and relax achy joints before bed; hot packs aren’t likely to warm your whole body the way a bath does.

See: Ankle Osteoarthritis Lifestyle Changes
Make some noise.
White noise, that is. The constant low-level noise from a noise machine or fan can block out unexpected noises at night that may jolt you awake. An added benefit of using a fan is that it can also help you cool down.

Develop your own evening ritual.
Even though rituals like drinking a mug of herbal tea are commonly recommended to help prepare for sleep, I have never found this to be helpful. For me, the act of turning off all the lights in the house, organizing the clutter, and thinking about tomorrow’s schedule helps me relax and prepare for bed. Feeling organized helps me feel less anxious.

My advice is to find the routine that works for you, then stick to it every night. Find what helps you relax at the end of the day and make that your dedicated nightly ritual.

Yoga may help you center your thoughts and decompress at the end of the day.

Combat stress with empowerment.
Many of us face a great deal of stress—whether from chronic pain, family or work situations, or financial stressors. People think they need to relax to reduce this stress, but I think the opposite of stress is not relaxation. It’s empowerment.

Find what makes you feel empowered to deal with your stressors. Daily meditation works for me by forcing my mind to focus and dismiss all the clutter.

Others may feel empowerment through one of the following:

Tai chi
Guided imagery, either with the help of a professional or with CDs or online resources
A run or bike ride to get endorphins flowing
Self-education to manage stress with knowledge
For more options, see 5 Alternative Treatments for Osteoarthritis
Try one that sounds compatible with your personality. If that doesn’t work, move on to a different one.

Go outside early in the morning.
Don’t linger in your bed after you wake up. Instead, get up and go to the window—or better yet, go outside. Daylight tells your body’s biological clock that it’s time to wake up. If it’s still dark when you get up, turn on a bright light for a few minutes.

Used in combination, these tips have worked the best to help me fall asleep and stay asleep—better than the sleep medications and other sleep aids I’ve tried.

The main goal is to condition yourself to associate the process of going to bed with sleep, whether you use these methods or others.