Whether it’s multiple awakenings, problems falling asleep, long waking hours during the night and/or early rising in the morning, we now live in a full-fledged sleep-deprived society. According to the American Sleep Association (ASA), 50-70 million U.S. adults experience some sort of sleep disorder.
As a former insomniac, I can attest to how destructive and scary non-sleep can be. I recall restless antagonizing nights where I’d finally fall asleep at 7 am, only to wake up an hour and a half later to head to work. I watched myself unravel and got so desperate that I raised my hands to the gods and offered to sleep with Morpheus if only he would let me back into his kingdom.
Unfortunately, the most commonly used medical approach to treat sleep disorders are prescription drugs that only mask the issue and come with side effects such as severe grogginess, addiction and withdrawal. As I jumped down the rabbit hole of health, I discovered that understanding my own chemistry and deficiencies and choosing natural treatments could indeed help me hack my sleep cycle and get the quality rest I needed.
The journey wasn’t easy, but today we have a better understanding of the human body and the importance of homeostasis. Meanwhile, identifying pitfalls can also give you a leg up—or rather an ear down—on your condition.
For those who have trouble sleeping, keep in mind that new research reveals that Sunday is by far the cruelest night. Three times as many of us sleep badly Sunday as on any other single night, according to a Yougov poll of 4,279 Americans and Britons, commissioned by Calm, an app to help you sleep.
“Sunday may be the day of rest but it seems the night of restlessness,” says Michael Acton Smith, co-founder of Calm. “Thursday, in contrast, seems the true night of rest.”
The biggest reason so many people sleep badly on Sundays is that the weekend is when they throw off their normal sleep routine, says Dr Steve Orma, a clinical psychologist and insomnia specialist. Letting go of the weekend and the cozy comfort of home and returning to the less cushy environment of work is usually the trigger for Sunday night poor sleep.
In 2017 there are a lot of newfangled natural treatments to help you get to zzzz. Here are three.
While technology gets a bad name when it comes to sleep, there are ironically several apps out there that help, which you can easily download to your smartphone. I have chosen just a few that I’ve personally discovered.
Calm, a California-based meditation app, recently launched its own new natural sleep aid, in the form of bedtime stories for grown-ups called Sleep Stories. Calm’s 30+ sleep-inducing tales mix soothing words, music and sound effects to help adult listeners wind down and drift off to dreamland. They have now been listened to over 10 million times since their launch at the end of 2016.
They’ve since released Baa Baa Land, the dullest movie ever made. This eight-hour slow-motion film with no plot, dialogue or actors—a contemplative epic, entirely starring … sheep. Or you could just try watching Bill Murray’s Groundhog Day.
Studies illustrate that mind-calming practices that focus on breathing and awareness of the present moment can help improve sleep.
Muse is a nifty brain-sensing headband that offers you real-time EEG feedback while you meditate. The feedback guides you to a deeper focus and a more rewarding and enjoyable meditation practice. By listening to what is actually happening in your brain, you can experience all the health benefits meditation has to offer. And when your mind wanders away from your breath, Muse will sense it and cue you back.
Meditation will not only help with sleep but also help you achieve an improved mental state. As a bonus, you can save your findings and if you let the headband peer into your head and succeed in remaining calm for a sustained amount of time, you’ll earn accolades such as a Birds of Eden Award.
Thync Relax Pro
Let digital drugs annihilate sleep and anxiety medications. This app also comes with a triangular apparatus you place at the base of the neck.
“Thync Relax Pro puts you in a relaxed, calm state so you can fall asleep easily and stay asleep,” says CEO Isy Goldwasser, who started Thync with a vision of creating the first personal technology to interact directly with the brain. “Neurostimulation offers a drug-free way to activate mental, emotional, and physical abilities we possess. Our most consistent and powerful effect is to lower stress and anxiety by reducing sympathetic tone (fight or flight stress response).”
The device works by modulating cranial and spinal nerve pathways using a combination of targeted electrode placement and proprietary transdermal electrical neuromodulation waveforms. These nerve pathways modulate stress levels, mood and sleep cycles.
If you’re devoted to sleep, consider combining these methods. I personally start my morning with Muse and meditation. In the evening, I bust out my blue blockers to protect my eyes from blue light, and take some CBD, topping off the night with Thync Relax Pro.