Everyone deals with it: The difficulty or inability to fall asleep after a tiresome day at work. Most people suffer from sleep disorders, some experience it on a short-term basis and usually it goes back to normal after a week or two. However, for the millions of Americans who suffer from its chronic form, it can often take months and even years to make it go away.
And worse yet, solutions don’t always work!
Anyone who searches for “tips to fall asleep” on Google knows about the bottomless supply of sleep hygiene advice, and tips such as you need to take a shower before going to bed, don’t eat after 6 p.m and the list goes on. Some are helpful, but for those people who really can’t fall asleep, they need more than just small changes and unsolicited advice.
According to Michael Gardner, director of health and sleep research program at the University of Arizona College of Medicine-Tucson, sleep hygiene like being told to wash your hands can prevent an infection, but it can’t treat one. If you cross the line to a sleep disorder, you need some help. Perhaps, you need something unconventional to get back that ‘sound sleep’ that you’ve been longing for so long.
If you’re up for some unorthodox approach to cure your sleep deprivation, you can try these strange-sounding and pill-free therapies which a doctor may prescribe for people who can’t sleep.
Autonomous Sensory Meridian Response (ASMR)
According to Ilse Blansert, a self-professed sleep whisperer and AMSR practitioner from Toronto, ASMR is a technique that uses a variety of visual stimuli and sounds that ease the brain and create a tingling and pleasurable sensation in the head or body called “the tingles.”
Blansert adds that ASMR effect has to do with the combination of voices and sounds. It should come from calming and relaxing voice because if it’s too quick, the patient will not have a chance to experience those tingles.
If you’re looking for some solid scientific proofs that back up ASMR technique, you’re out of luck. There’s no current research yet that explore how effective ASMR is for stopping sleep disorders like insomnia. So, for now, you’ll have to rely on the testimonies of her satisfied Youtube subscribers.
But not so fast. There’s one scientist who agrees that her technique could help people who suffer from sleep deprivation to achieve a better quality of sleep. Dr. Amer Khan, a sleep specialist, states that while ASMR is a safe method, what it’s doing is to take you away from the real issues that cause your sleeping disorder.
People tend to do things in bed that have nothing to do with sleep such as watching TV and reading books. Grandner says to try adopting a “bed equals sleep” mantra. If you’re in bed, you’re asleep. If you’re in bed and not asleep, you get out of bed.
The goal of this technique is to strengthen your body’s association with the bed as the only place where you sleep. In some cases, people may experience a little sleep deprivation in the first few weeks in applying stimulus control because they need to get out of bed for a couple of times.
But it’s an integral part of cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT), which targets the person’s behaviors and thought for better sleep. Grandner says that the therapy is simple yet powerful.
Sleep restriction sounds ironic. It could be the worst name for a sleep disorder treatment, but it’s surprisingly effective. In this technique, a person limits the amount of time he or she spends in bed when awake.
Imagine yourself trying to sleep eight hours per day, but only succeeds to get five hours while spending three hours lying in bed wide awake. A doctor may tell you only to spend five hours in bed, and then you need to get up. Reducing the time that you will spend in bed may cause some sleep deprivation, but it can help a person feel more tired the next night which may lead to a sound sleep.
As the quality of your sleep improves, it means more bed time too. Don’t do it without your doctor’s guidance as it may cause potential issues.
The idea behind the technique is that humans by nature don’t sleep in one big chunk. People took naps, and even at night, sleep often breaks into 2-3 larger chunks. Some people sleep early, wake up, do something, then go back to sleep which Grandner says is normal and beneficial.
Polyphasic sleep is popular among those who think they can hack their sleep for better productivity through taking short naps for the entire day. This idea is not good and is likely dangerous. Fortunately, it’s tough to upkeep and most people who try it can’t sustain.
Thought challenging could be one of the strangest technique that you can hear. For some people who suffer from sleep disorders, they convince themselves that if they don’t fall asleep soon, something horrible will happen like a layoff or accident.
One way to challenge those thoughts is to ask people if those thoughts happened and for how many times. Gardner says that this method is efficient against irrational thoughts.
In biofeedback method, a sleep specialist monitors a person’s biological signals such as brain waves, breathing patterns and heart rate through a particular device. Then people can train themselves to reduce the measurements out of their biological signals to slow down and use those skills during bedtime.
Paradoxical intention is just a fancy phrase for tricking yourself to stay awake. This technique is ideal for people who are under heavy anxiety about not sleeping. If you’re obsessed with something, it shouldn’t be about trying to fall asleep, obsess about trying to stay awake instead. Ditching out frustration may help people relax and drift off to sleep.
All of us suffer from sleep disorders, at least once in our lives. While there are numerous cures and alternatives online, there’s no one-size-fits-all that everyone can apply for themselves to get a quality sleep. So, enter unconventional methods, which may sound strange but if you give yourself to try them out, who knows? One of them could be the answer to your prayer which is to get a good sleep at night. One reminder though: always consult your doctor first.
About the Author
Leslie Wyman is a freelance writer and contributor for various websites such as Beds Online and magazines who specializes in health and lifestyle. She is also an active triathlon enthusiast and joins races on a regular basis. On her downtime, she likes to stay at home and cook for her family.
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