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4 Sleep Hacks for Getting More Zzzzzzs

By Losika Sivaganeshan, MD March 28, 2023 Posted in: Wellness

You have so much to gain from getting good sleep – from your mental sharpness and emotional wellness to heart health and overall energy. It can even help you maintain a healthy weight. 

An estimated 40% of Americans say they struggle to fall asleep a few times a month, according to Psychology Today, and the Sleep Foundation reports that more than a third of Americans sleep less than an average of seven hours a night. 

If you’re tossing and turning when you’d rather be sleeping, try one of the following sleep hacks to help ease you into dreamland.

10-3-2-1-0 Rule for Sleep

This approach helps you manage the things that are most likely to keep you awake. 

  • 10 hours before bedtime – Stop drinking caffeine.
  • 3 hours before bedtime – Stop eating and drinking, including alcohol.
  • 2 hours before bedtime – Stop working, including reading emails.
  • 1 hour before bedtime – Stop looking at all screens, including TVs, computers and phones.
  • 0 – number of times you’ll hit snooze in the morning. 

4-7-8 Breathing Method

This method focuses on a rhythm of breathing that can help you drift off to sleep.

  1. With your mouth slightly open, make a whooshing sound when you exhale.
  2. Close your mouth and inhale silently through your nose for a count of 4.
  3. Hold that breath for 7 seconds.
  4. Exhale that breath for 8 seconds.
  5. Repeat 3 times for a total of 4 breaths.

Military Method for Sleep

This approach is designed by Army chiefs to help soldiers fall asleep as quickly as possible, even in intense environments. It originally came from Relax and Win: Championship Performance by Lloyd Bud Winter.

  • Focus on slow and steady breathing throughout the process.
  • Relax your face, starting with your forehead and moving down from your eyes, cheeks and tongue to your chin. 
  • Drop your shoulders and release tension all the way down to your fingers while keeping your arms loose at your sides. Do one arm at a time, going section by section.
  • Relax your chest with a deep breath, and then your stomach.
  • Relax each leg, one at a time, by imagining a warm sensation working its way down section by section. Allow yourself to sink into your chair or bed. 
  • Take your mind off any stressors by imagining a peaceful scenario, such as lying in a canoe on a calm lake or lying on a hammock in a dark room.
  • Repeat the words “don’t think” in your head for 10 seconds to avoid getting distracted.

It can take some practice so stick with the routine for more than a week to see if you get results.

Journaling Exercise

According to Psychology Today, The most common reason people are awake when they’d rather be asleep is worry. If that’s you: 

  • Write in a journal for five minutes before bed.
  • Focus on your to-do list for tomorrow, not the tasks you already completed.
  • Writing a to-do list helped participants fall asleep 9 minutes faster than those who listed their completed tasks. 

Why does it work? According to researchers, unfinished tasks live brain-wise in a heightened level of cognitive activation. That makes them harder to set aside mentally, until you write about them. 

If you’re still having difficulty with sleep, don’t hesitate to bring it up to your primary care provider. We can help identify what’s keeping you awake and make simple recommendations about your sleep hygiene – from limiting caffeine and alcohol to using separate blankets when sharing a bed. We can also determine if you need to see a sleep specialist for evaluation and care. 


Losika Sivaganeshan, MD
Losika Sivaganeshan, MD

Losika Sivaganeshan, MD is a primary care provider with CHI Health.

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