Maybe your sleep habits are occasionally irregular and you're looking for more normalcy, or maybe your version of normal IS no sleep and you're looking to drift off to la-la land on YOUR terms. Thankfully the internet exists to help you at least feel like you're not alone, if not give you a couple of shots in the dark (literally) to help you master this normally involuntary function. Learning more about how the body works is helpful, but remember just about everything in life is guesswork no matter how educated you are. Hopefully these 4 tips will help you catch those ever elusive Z's.


ChinaFotoPress via Getty Image
ChinaFotoPress via Getty Image

How Much Sleep Do We REALLY Need?

We've all heard that the ideal is to get 8 hours of sleep but in reality, just like everything else in life, you can train your body to do just about anything and it will adjust. We also face life limitations too and may not be able to give a full 8 hours to our beds. Also, just how exhausted you are from your day's activities can also play a huge role in how many sheep you have to count before drifting off. I find I sleep the soundest when I'm utterly famished, mind body and spirit, but I wouldn't recommend slamming yourself every day in order to crash hard. The best thing you can do for yourself is to fall asleep at the same time every night while setting the alarm to allow yourself at LEAST six hours if you can. Yup, no sleeping in and under no circumstances are you to hit that snooze button. There's really no such thing as catching up on sleep, if it's gone it's gone.

Napping: Quickies, The Long Haul Or Skip It?

I've talked about this one before, but the whole trick is to avoid REM sleep if you need a quick reboot (15-20 minutes) and if you have the time, 90 minutes is ideal to get you through one full cycle of sleep. Anything in between and your body is gonna give you a nice big helping of WTF. As you age, or if you're a parent who works an abnormal shift, an afternoon nap is absolutely essential. However if you don't take one, you're bound to crash harder when your head does finally hit the pillow.

Melatonin Is The Thing

Turns out that full moons really DO turn you into a werewolf. Somehow, whether it's the gravity or the increased light, melatonin (the hormone that controls your sleep) levels are lower making your sleep more restless. Also, remember your teenage years when you easily burned the midnight oil and beyond? That's because the melatonin release was delayed giving you that superhuman feeling that you can take on the night which disappears sometime in your 20's. Melatonin is also triggered by darkness which means the darker the conditions, the easier it is to fall asleep and the more restful your sleep will be. Some people actually require melatonin supplements in order to recalibrate the circadian rhythms of their internal clock. Transitioning from a schedule full of late night shows into early mornings (wait, what's the difference? lol) on radio was rough and took me about a month or two to program my body into something it found unnatural. So, as a result I write about sleep deprivation a LOT, haha!

Derail The Thought Train

The biggest culprit to staying up is a mind that's racing so whatever you can do to turn it off, do it regardless of how dumb it sounds or feels or what the experts. Personally, TV works great to knock me out if I know I need to crash but don't feel tired yet. Why does this work? Because it's distracting and it's also (largely) unstimulating and that's the key with any sleep remedy. Whatever relaxes you and is successful in turning your brain off like reading, listening to music, eating or drinking should be done and if you mix it up, that helps because no single solution tends to work forever.

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