1Take a simple test to find out if you're sleep deprived
Tired all the time and wondering why? A spoon and a metal tray will tell you if you're not getting enough sleep.
Lie down in a quiet, darkened room in the early afternoon, clutching the spoon over the edge of the bed with the tray below. When you nod off, the spoon will drop from your hands onto the metal tray. When you wake, check the time to see how much time has elapsed. If you fell asleep within five minutes of closing your eyes, you're severely sleep deprived. Within ten minutes indicates then you're having trouble getting a good night's rest, and anything over 15 minutes is just about okay.
2Attend a sleep concert
If you want to attend Robert Rich's Sleep Concerts, come prepared with a pillow, pjs, a sleeping bag and an air mattress.
Rich's annual concerts run for about eight hours, and the point is to sleep through them. The composer describes his music as electronic ambient music, and extremely slow, featuring shifting layers of processed environmental sound.
Rich gave his first Sleep Concert in 1982 while he was a freshman at Stanford, but quit by 1985, before picking it up again in 1996. Ironically, for him, the process is "just exhausting."
3Sleep in your own bed
You're in a comfy bed in a luxury hotel, so why can't you get to sleep? Science may hold the answer, and the phenomenon even has a name — "the first night effect."
Researchers have studied sleeping brains for half a century and have finally come to the conclusion that when we stay somewhere new, our brains seem to spend the first night in surveillance mode. While one hemisphere goes to sleep, the other half of the brain remains on night watch. In other words, the first night effect appears to be the human equivalent of birds sleeping with one eye open — and one-half of the brain awake — to ensure night time predators do not eat them.
4Sleep like your ancestors did
If you're like me, you wake up in the middle of the night, are awake for about an hour or so then drift back off to sleep. Is it insomnia? Not so fast.
Before the 1800s, sleep looked a lot different. Roger Ekirch, professor of History at Virginia Tech, found that we didn't always sleep in one eight hour chunk. Instead, we slept in two shorter periods, over a longer range of night. This range was about 12 hours long, and began with a sleep of three to four hours, wakefulness of two to three hours, then sleep again until morning.
References to biphasic sleeping are scattered throughout ephemera of the past. During waking hours (in the middle of the night), some read or prayed, while others talked or had sex with their partners. Still, other people were more active and would visit with neighbors who were also roaming around at 3 am. Researchers even suggest that biphasic sleeping could have played an important part in the human capacity to regulate stress naturally.
However, the practice died out, which Ekirch attributes to the advent of street lighting and eventually indoor electric light. Today, if you're awake and can't get back to sleep in the middle of the night, don't stress — think of your pre-industrial ancestors and crack open a book.
5Wear a vibrating headband
Rythm, a 50-person French startup, has created Dreem, a $349 headset that uses vibrations that the company says can help people get the most out of their resting hours.
Dreem uses skull vibrations to optimize sleep quality. Rythm CEO Hugo Mercier says research shows that external stimuli affect how quickly and for how long people enter deep sleep, which helps people consolidate and retain memories. Dreem monitors brain activity, and in turn, produces sounds that affect the sleep cycle at the right times.
The French Armed Forces Biomedical Research Institute and a research team at Paris Descartes University are currently using Dreem in clinical trials to evaluate its effect on people with “unconventional sleep routines."
6Watch boring videos
If you just can't unplug, but still need to sleep, check out Napflix. Yes, it sounds like what it is — Netflix for people that really need sleep. The site curates and serves up truly boring videos from YouTube in a range of categories that are bound to put you in a restful slumber. If "3 Hours of Relaxing Aquarium Fish," "Coral Reef Fish Tank & Relax Music" and a documentary on the art of Bonsai don't put you out like a light, nothing will.
7Listen to a meandering podcast
Drew Ackerman is a dull storyteller who tells convoluted tales that just go on and on and on... No, we're not being mean, that's exactly what's supposed to happen.
Ackerman is the writer, producer, and narrator of the wildly popular "Sleep With Me Podcast" which promises "lulling, droning, boring" bedtime stories to "distract your racing mind."
8Sleep in a Cube
While traveling, sleep can be tenuous at best. Some airports feature Snooze Cubes — rooms that are larger than nap pods, but much smaller than a hotel room.
These tiny rooms include just the basics, namely a twin bed and spot for your luggage. Wallpaper depicting relaxing scenes surrounds you, and if you need to do something other than sleep — the spaces often include a touch-screen computer for entertainment or access to the Internet.
Cubes are about $20 an hour (depending on where you are) and require a two-hour stay minimum.
9Talk to a sleep coach
Older people often have problems sleeping. Chatting on the phone with a sleep coach and keeping a nightly sleep diary significantly improves sleep quality and reduces insomnia in older adults.
One study on sleep coaching involved more than 100 menopausal women (between 40-65 years old) with moderate insomnia who experienced at least two hot flashes a day. The researchers said that delivering this therapy by phone — a dissemination model similar to phone-based smoking cessation programs that have proven to work — allows it to be an efficient, cost-effective way to reach large populations of women (and we hope men) seeking treatment for midlife sleep problems.
10Text with a bot
If you can't beat 'em, join 'em.
Casper Mattress launched Insomnobot 3000 in September 2016. If you absolutely can't get to sleep, text the number above. A friendly, hungry, and Seinfeld-obsessed bot will answer. You can only chat with it between 11 pm and 5 am, however. (Even bots need a little downtime.)
“Some nights, it's just impossible to fall asleep, so I think Casper wanted to create something that's a friend that keeps you up at night,” said company VP Lindsay Kaplan.