woman with insomnia
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Tried the Usual Remedies

You may already know the standard advice for getting better sleep, practices known as “good sleep hygiene.” They can include keeping your bedroom cool and dark, limiting caffeine and screen time, and going to bed at the same time each night. If you still have trouble drifting off, you may want to look at some new things that people are trying so they can fall asleep.

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Might you rest better with certain smells around you? Science says yes. A review of several studies found that breathing in some scents improved how well people slept. There’s evidence that lavender, peppermint, chamomile, and marjoram and orange oil all work, along with other smells.

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This form of traditional Chinese medicine involves pressing your fingers and thumbs at specific points on your body. It’s based on the same idea as acupuncture. Researchers have found that the practice can help you sleep, particularly nodding off faster and resting longer.

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woman combing hair
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Autonomous sensory meridian response is a sensation some people feel when they see or hear specific sights and sounds. It feels like a tingle along the scalp and back of the neck. The audio and visuals, which you can find online, are of people doing everyday, calming tasks, such as folding towels, brushing hair, or the sound of someone whispering. When some people watch or listen before bed, it helps them relax and fall asleep.

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pink noise
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Listen to the Colors

You may have heard of using a sound machine or app to improve your sleep environment. But you may not know that masking noise comes in different hues, including white, pink, and brown. The difference has to do with the level of sound frequency.  One study found that pink noise improved deep sleep for older people. You can find audio clips online or try a different app setting to see if switching sound shades works for you.

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man reading in bed
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Paradoxical Intention

Sometimes your worry about not getting to sleep becomes one of the very things that keeps you awake. This cognitive behavioral technique helps combat that anxiety. Here’s how it works: Stop trying to fall asleep. In fact, stay awake as long as you possibly can. In theory, this should ease the stress around sleep and let you nod off. It may sound like the opposite of what you should do, but research says it works.

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alarm clock
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Sleep Restriction

This is another type of behavioral therapy. You give yourself a specific amount of time in bed each night, with a rigid bedtime and wake-up time and no napping allowed. Stick to the plan for at least 2 weeks. Although you may be tired at first, studies show this approach works to improve insomnia.

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couple hugging
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Practice Forgiveness

When you settle into bed at night, is that your first chance to review your day? Do you find yourself upset about all the things you wish you’d done differently? Emotions like guilt and regret may keep you awake, researchers have found. Scientists already know that forgiving others can help you sleep better. The idea is that extending compassion to yourself might ease insomnia, too.

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Weighted Blanket

There’s science behind this cocooning trend. These covers have pellets inside -- usually plastic or metal -- to give them a uniform heft. One study in Sweden found that people who used the coverings slept longer, were less restless, and reported that they felt more refreshed in the morning.

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This technique puts your imagination to work. Sometimes called guided imagery, it involves focusing on an idea that makes you feel peaceful. It works best when you use all of your senses. What do you hear? See? Smell? Taste? If your mind drifts to your daily worries, just direct your thoughts back to your relaxing scene.

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Sources | Medically Reviewed on 02/21/2020 Reviewed by Neha Pathak, MD on February 21, 2020


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American Academy of Sleep Medicine: “Insomnia -- Treatment.”

Mayo Clinic Diseases and Conditions: “Insomnia.”

PeerJ: ”Autonomous Sensory Meridian Response (ASMR): a flow-like mental state.”

National Sleep Foundation: “What is ASMR?”

Journal of Alternative and Complementary Medicine: “The Effects of Aromatherapy on Sleep Improvement: A Systematic Literature Review and Meta-Analysis.”

Oncology Nursing Forum: "The Effect of Aormatherapy on Insomnia and Other Common Symptoms Among Patients With Acute Leukemia."

Journal of Korean Academy of Nursing: “Effects of a Sleep Improvement Program Combined with Aroma-Necklace on Sleep, Depression, Anxiety and Blood Pressure in Elderly Women.”

ClinicalTrials.gov: “Acupressure for Insomnia.”

Sleep Medicine Reviews: “Acupressure effect on sleep quality: A systematic review and meta-analysis.”

American Tinnitus Association: “Tinnitus and Hyperacusis Glossary.”

Frontiers in Human Neuroscience: “Acoustic Enhancement of Sleep Slow Oscillations and Concomitant Memory Improvement in Older Adults.”

Society of Clinical Psychology: “Paradoxical Intention for Insomnia.”

Kaiser Permanente: “Sleep Restriction Therapy.”

Frontiers in Psychology: “Cognitive and Affective Control in Insomnia.”

Journal of Sleep Medicine and Disorders: “Positive Effects of a Weighted Blanket on Insomnia.”

National Sleep Foundation: “How Guided Imagery Can Help You Nod Off.”

Reviewed by Neha Pathak, MD on February 21, 2020

This tool does not provide medical advice. See additional information.

THIS TOOL DOES NOT PROVIDE MEDICAL ADVICE. It is intended for general informational purposes only and does not address individual circumstances. It is not a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis or treatment and should not be relied on to make decisions about your health. Never ignore professional medical advice in seeking treatment because of something you have read on the WebMD Site. If you think you may have a medical emergency, immediately call your doctor or dial 911.

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