Sometimes we do all the right things but we just need a bit of a boost to fall asleep. Here are 10 unusual ways to help you fall asleep.

We’ve all heard of the most common ways to help you sleep. And as I have hopefully made clear by this point, you need to treat the underlying anxiety surrounding sleep. However, there are some unusual ways to help you fall asleep that can be part of your routine.

There are many methods to get your worries out during the day, and I wanted to highlight five unconventional ways to do so. The solutions below are borrowed from customs all over the world and might seem strange. Keep in mind though that they have helped others alleviate anxiety associated with chronic insomnia so I encourage you to look into anything that piques your interest. You never know what might make you feel better!

Massage

white plastic pump bottle beside pink tulips and gray towel

We’ll start off easy with unusual ways to fall asleep. If you are feeling stressed, anxious, and tense, massage therapy is great. Deep tissue massage (or a Swedish massage if you want a more relaxing massage rather than ‘work the knots out’ massage) will relax your body. Just as a tense mind can cause a tense body, a relaxed body can signal your mind to relax too1.

Hypnotherapy – an unusual way to fall asleep that may work for you

Hypnosis, or hypnotherapy, is when someone guides you into a trance-like state of mind2. When hypnotised, you generally feel more relaxed and have a deeper state of focus. It is used in a variety of situations, including pain management, easing side effects of cancer treatment. It also allegedly helps behaviours like overeating, smoking, and insomnia. 

It’s important to note that hypnotherapists are NOT psychologists and are not required to be certified (in Canada). However, if you do try one I recommend someone who is registered with the National Board for Certified Clinical Hypnotherapists. One study showed positive but inconclusive results for treating insomnia with hypnosis because of the small sample size3. Another study found that hypnotherapy can be a good tool alongside other therapies because of its success with “… relaxation, increased suggestibility, posthypnotic suggestion, imagery rehearsal, access to preconscious cognitions and emotions, and cognitive restructuring”4.

If you do not want to pay for hypnotherapy, you can try listening to the many free hypnotherapy videos on Youtube. 

Reiki

reiki is an unusual way to help you fall sleep

Reiki is a healing technique that was developed in Japan about 100 years ago. It’s based on the principle that the reiki master can “…channel energy to activate the natural healing processes of the patient’s body and restore physical and emotional well-being”5. The reiki master transfers “universal energy” through their palms to the patient in order to encourage physical, emotional, and mental healing. The reiki master does not typically touch you to “move energy”.

I have tried reiki therapy three times. It helped me feel more relaxed after each session and it did help me sleep that night. I would recommend trying this unusual way to fall asleep if it’s something you’re interested in.

Ayurveda

Ayurveda is one of the world’s oldest holistic healing practices that was developed thousands of years ago in India. It is based on the belief that health and wellness depend on a balance between the mind, body, and spirit6

Anidra is the term for insomnia in Ayurveda. According to the Ayurvedic perspective, the doshas (energies) that are responsible for insomnia are Tarpak Kapha, Sadhak Pitta or Prana Vata7

  • Tarpak Kapha is a sub-dosha of Kapha (Water). It nourishes the brain cells and facilitates a good night’s sleep. Imbalance of this dosha causes poor nourishment of brain cells, leading to insomnia.
  • Sadhak Pitta is a sub-dosha of Pitta (Fire) and is located in the heart. It controls emotions, desires, decisiveness, and spirituality. Its imbalance makes a person demanding and a workaholic, thereby leading to situations that may cause lack of sleep.
  • Prana Vata is a sub-dosha of Vata (Air). It is linked to insomnia, worry, anxiety, and problems like depression. Prana Vata makes the nervous system sensitive; this sensitive nervous system coupled with an aggravated Prana Vata lead to insomnia.

-From everydayayurveda.org

Ayurveda states that insomnia is due to malnutrition, emotional imbalance, or anxiety. Makes sense! While the western world treats insomnia with prescription drugs, Ayurveda suggests the following home remedies to help you sleep:

  • Rub oil on your scalp and the soles of the feet before going to bed. Use sesame oil, jasmine oil, or coconut oil and massage gently for a few minutes.
  • Drink 1 cup of warm almond milk before going to bed
  • Sprinkle 1 teaspoon of cumin on a sliced banana. Eat at night regularly.

Reflexology – a relaxing unusual way to fall asleep

reflexology is an relaxing and unusual way to help you fall asleep

Reflexology goes back to ancient Egypt, where inscriptions describing the practice were found in a physician’s tomb8. It is the application of pressure to specific areas on the feet, hands, or ears. The pressure points correspond to different organs and body systems. Pressing them has been said to be beneficial to organ functioning and improving overall health.

When it comes to chronic insomnia, you may be under a lot of stress from the insomnia itself or from whatever is causing your insomnia. Stress can then cause many of your organs to go into overdrive and other areas of your body to become tense. Reflexology works on the trigger point to help ease these points of tension and help you sleep. 

Whether or not you believe in the theory behind reflexology, I found it quite relaxing to have my hands and feet massaged and recommend you try it out.

Floating

sensory deprivation

In its simplest form, floating is when you float in salt water and the room is completely dark and silent. It is also called ‘flotation therapy’, ‘isolation tank therapy’, and less commonly ‘sensory deprivation’. 

Modern sensory deprivation tanks are shaped like a big egg and are generally large enough so you can stretch your arms out. The room and water temperature are the exact same as your body temperature. Because of this, you don’t feel a difference from the back half of your body that is submerged in water and the other half that’s exposed to air. And don’t worry about sinking – you can’t because the water is saturated with highly buoyant Epsom salts. 

This unusual way to fall asleep helps with insomnia for three reasons: 

1. Magnesium Absorption

The epsom salt used in float tanks is actually magnesium sulphate, which plays a role in helping you sleep. Magnesium can help with muscle relaxation, deactivate stress responses, and improve nerve and muscle function9.

2. Pain Relief

A stressed body can cause a stressed mind. The lack of external pressure and the experience of weightlessness with floating can alleviate body aches and pains so your muscles can easily relax. 

3. Just Being

As someone with chronic insomnia, I would bet that you get stuck in your head. It’s hard not to always think about sleep: if you’ll sleep, when you’ll sleep, how hard it can be, etc. Your life revolves around sleep and your brain never gets to take a rest. As you know, the harder you try to sleep, the more difficult it can be.

Floating helps you to just be, even if for only an hour. 

Supplements – a not that unusual way to fall asleep (but still worth noting)

Natural sleep aids, a.k.a., vitamins and minerals, aren’t a magic potion. They are legitimate stuff that your body needs and can very much affect your sleeping patterns. Here are a few you can try. 

Disclaimer: check with your doctor or pharmacist before you take anything. They can potentially interact with existing medications.

Zinc

Despite the fact that our bodies only require a very small amount of zinc, this trace mineral plays a very important role in our health. Some of the 300+ functions that zinc performs in your body includes building and strengthening your immune system, keeping your reproductive system healthy, and decreasing the risk for diabetes10. Zinc also plays a part in regulating the brain and body’s response to stress.

Studies have also shown that the more depressed someone is, the lower the zinc level11. So it may be something to look into if you are feeling depressed. You can take zinc in pill form, or find it in oysters, beef, pumpkin seeds, peanuts, and egg yolks.

Magnesium

Magnesium, like zinc, regulates over 300 functions in your body. One of these functions include muscle relaxation and deactivating your stress responses12. While magnesium will not solve your underlying cause for insomnia if it is related to mental health, it is necessary for your brain to be able to wind down for a good night’s sleep13.

Good sources of magnesium include green leafy vegetables, pumpkin seeds, avocados, bananas, and almonds.

ZMA Supplements

ZMA (or zinc, magnesium, and vitamin B6 combined) is a supplement to help athletes recover from strenuous training. Though research on ZMA as a natural sleep aid is limited, it showed that 43 adults who took ZMA with melatonin achieved better sleep quality14

Vitamin D

Vitamin D is a hormone naturally produced by our bodies when we expose our skin to sunlight. It helps keep bones strong and our immune system healthy. It seems reasonable to assume that the hormone that links us with the sun would affect our sleep, and there is a study that links vitamin D deficiency to sleep disorders15.

If you are in the northern hemisphere where sunlight is greatly limited for several months, here are some foods that contain vitamin D: sockeye salmon, egg yolks, and dairy products (milk, yogurt, margarine) that are fortified with it. It is also available in pill form.

Iron

Iron is an essential building block for red blood cells to transport oxygen around the body. And an iron deficiency has been shown to disrupt sleep, regardless if someone is anxious or depressed16. Iron can be taken via over the counter pills, and it’s found in many foods including  mussels, beef, and edamame beans.

Valerian root

Valerian is a common natural sleep aid that has been used to treat sleep disorders and anxiety since the time of ancient Greece. One meta-analysis of 16 studies concerning valerian root found it may improve sleep quality, though the data provided from these studies was not standardised and many people had issues with methodology17.

It comes in pill form, and smells absolutely awful. Think sweaty feet awful. But it has been used for centuries, and may be worth a try.