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It’s oh, I don’t know, 3 o’clock in the freaking morning, and I’m lying in bed, staring at the ceiling and wanting to cry with frustration. I'm trying to stay hopeful about my ability to catch a few hours of shuteye before work the next morning, but I’ve been up until 6 a.m. (not by choice) enough times in my life to know the beast of insomnia can’t always be tamed.

I'm certainly not alone. Insomnia is incredibly common in the U.S., with 30 to 40 percent of American adults experiencing some symptoms of insomnia each year. [Etiology of adult insomnia]. Dollander M. L'Encephale, 2003, Mar.;28(6 Pt 1):0013-7006. So for all those seasoned insomniacs out there—and for anyone who occasionally can’t fall or stay asleep—we’ve rounded up some short- and long- term strategies for getting a good night’s rest. And if you’re reading this at 3 a.m. because your mind won’t stop running, don’t worry; we have tips for what you can do right now to improve the chances of getting (at least some) sleep.

Sleep Gap—The Need-to-Know

Insomnia is defined as the inability to fall asleep, remain asleep, or get the amount of sleep an individual needs to wake up feeling rested. Its symptoms include difficulty falling asleep, frequent wake-ups during the night, waking up too early in the morning, daytime sleepiness, difficulty concentrating, and irritability. Insomnia can be acute (lasting one to several nights) or chronic (lasting from a month to years). It’s also the most common sleep complaint among Americans (especially women).

Trouble sleeping is often a symptom of another disease or condition, such as depression, chronic pain, medications, or stress, which might explain why it’s so common. Longitudinal course and impact of insomnia symptoms in adolescents with and without chronic pain. Palermo TM, Law E, Churchill SS. The journal of pain : official journal of the American Pain Society, 2012, Sep.;13(11):1528-8447.
Assessment of excessive sleepiness and insomnia as they relate to circadian rhythm sleep disorders. Doghramji K. The Journal of clinical psychiatry, 2005, Jan.;65 Suppl 16():0160-6689.
Treatment issues related to sleep and depression. Thase ME. The Journal of clinical psychiatry, 2000, Aug.;61 Suppl 11():0160-6689. Most often, insomnia stems from a combination of factors, including medical and psychological issues, scheduling issues, relationships conflicts, and behavioral factors (poor bedtime routines, physical hyperactivity, watching TV right before bed, etc.).

Beyond Counting Sheep—Your Action Plan 1. Keep track.

Record how much and when you sleep, fatigue levels throughout the day, and any other symptoms. This serves two purposes: It can identify activities that help or hurt the chances of a good night’s rest, and it’s a useful tool for a doctor or therapist, should you decide to see one. Digital programs like Zeo, YawnLog, and a variety of apps can all make snooze-tracking easier.

2. Try therapy.

Cognitive Behavioral Therapy for Insomnia is a pretty common technique. Also called CBT-I, the therapy typically involves self-monitoring, mental strategies (like developing positive thoughts about sleep), and creating an environment that promotes sleep—and it’s been shown to improve sleep quality. Self-help treatment for insomnia symptoms associated with chronic conditions in older adults: a randomized controlled trial. Morgan K, Gregory P, Tomeny M. Journal of the American Geriatrics Society, 2012, Oct.;60(10):1532-5415. Learn these strategies with the help of a therapist or with online guidance or books—both are equally effective ways of implementing CBT-I. Efficacy+of+a+behavioral+self-help+treatment+with+or+without+therapist+guidance+for+co-morbid+and+primary+insomnia—a+randomized+controlled+trial.+Jernelov,+S.,+Lekander,+M.,+Blom,+K.,+et+al.+Department+of+Clinical+Neuroscience,+Karolinska+Institutet,+Sweden.+BMC+Psychiatry,+2012+Jan+22;12:5 Not into seeing a therapist? Check out Sleepio, a digital program that helps users learn about and implement CBT practices from the comfort of their own homes.

3. Establish a regular bedtime routine.

Find activities that help you wind down before bed, and stick to the same sleep-wake schedule, even on weekends.

4. Use the bed appropriately.

Beds should be reserved for sleep and sex—and nothing else. Bringing work into the bedroom is a sure-fire way to discourage sleep quality.

5. Choose the right mattress.

Uncomfortable bedding has been linked to poorer sleep quality, while a comfortable mattress can up the chances of a satisfying snooze—we swear by our Casper mattress. Effect of prescribed sleep surfaces on back pain and sleep quality in patients diagnosed with low back and shoulder pain. Jacobson BH, Boolani A, Dunklee G. Applied ergonomics, 2010, Jun.;42(1):1872-9126.
Sleep disturbance in patients with chronic low back pain. Marin R, Cyhan T, Miklos W. American journal of physical medicine & rehabilitation, 2006, May.;85(5):0894-9115.

6. Don’t smoke.

Need another reason to quit? Smokers commonly exhibit symptoms of insomnia—possibly because their bodies go into nicotine withdrawal during the night. How smoking affects sleep: a polysomnographical analysis. Jaehne A, Unbehaun T, Feige B. Sleep medicine, 2012, Sep.;13(10):1878-5506.

7. See a doctor.

If you’ve tried everything and nothing’s worked, it might be time to consult a professional. A doctor can help rule out any sleep disorders and identify lifestyle factors or medications that might be getting in the way of a good night’s rest.

8. Exercise early in the day.

Studies find moderate aerobic activity can improve insomniacs’ sleep quality. For best results, exercise at least three hours before bedtime so the body has sufficient time to wind down before hitting the sack.

9. Schedule “worry time” during the day.

Spend 15 minutes addressing problems (journaling is a good way to start) so they don’t sneak up when your head hits the pillow. If a particular event or stressor is keeping you up at night—and it has a clear end date—the problem may resolve itself naturally.

10. Limit caffeine.

It’s tempting to reach for coffee when we’re tired after a poor night’s sleep, but drinking caffeine can make it harder for us to fall asleep at night, creating a vicious cycle. Effects of caffeine on sleep and cognition. Snel J, Lorist MM. Progress in brain research, 2011, Aug.;190():1875-7855. Can’t quit cold turkey? Try limiting caffeine intake to earlier in the day so it’s out of your system by bedtime.

11. Nap the right way.

Just 10 to 20 minutes of napping during the day can help us feel rested (and improve our creativity and memory, to boot!). The restorative effect of naps on perceptual deterioration. Mednick SC, Nakayama K, Cantero JL. Nature neuroscience, 2002, Jul.;5(7):1097-6256.
Benefits of napping in healthy adults: impact of nap length, time of day, age, and experience with napping. Milner CE, Cote KA. Journal of sleep research, 2009, Oct.;18(2):1365-2869.
An ultra short episode of sleep is sufficient to promote declarative memory performance. Lahl O, Wispel C, Willigens B. Journal of sleep research, 2008, Apr.;17(1):1365-2869. But try to avoid napping after 3:00 or 4:00pm, as this can make it harder to fall asleep at bedtime. Effects of afternoon "siesta" naps on sleep, alertness, performance, and circadian rhythms in the elderly. Monk TH, Buysse DJ, Carrier J. Sleep, 2002, Feb.;24(6):0161-8105.

12. Get outside.

Increasing natural light exposure during the day promotes healthy melatonin balance, which can help us get to sleep later in the day.

13. Eat for sleep.

Eat foods high in magnesium, like halibut, almonds, cashews, and spinach, and foods high in vitamin B complex, like leafy green vegetables, nuts, and legumes. Some experts also recommend taking supplements of taurine, vitamin B6, and magnesium.

14. Try relaxation techniques.

In one study, people who practiced meditation saw improvements in total sleep time and sleep quality. Other relaxation strategies—like yoga, deep breathing, and progressive relaxation—are also effective tools for promoting good sleep.

15. Avoid large meals late in the evening.

Jumbo meals pre-bedtime have been linked to trouble falling asleep.

16. Dim the lights two hours before bed.

According to one study, exposure to electrical lights between dusk and bedtime might negatively affect our chances at quality sleep. Assuming you don’t want to sit in the dark for hours, find the happy medium by dimming the lights as bedtime draws near. Also consider changing all light bulbs to “soft/warm” varieties with a color temperature less than 3,000 kelvins, all of which can reduce lights’ effects on our nervous systems.

17. Turn off the screens.

The artificial (or “blue”) light emitted by screens can disrupt our bodies’ preparations for sleep by stimulating daytime hormones. Dubious bargain: trading sleep for Leno and Letterman. Basner M, Dinges DF. Sleep, 2009, Jul.;32(6):0161-8105. Reduce exposure by turning off TVs, phones, and computers at least one hour before bedtime. Can’t give up the Daily Show? At least dim a screen’s brightness, either manually or with the help of automated programs.

18. Don’t drink alcohol right before bed.

Booze might seem like an obvious choice for calming down pre-bedtime, but it can actually disrupt sleep cycles later in the night. You don’t have to give up the good stuff completely; just drink it with dinner (around 6 o’clock) and skip the nightcap.

19. Don’t use your brain before bed.

Don’t work, watch stimulating TV shows, read complex material, or think too hard—about anything—before bedtime; working out the brain keeps the body awake.

20. Have sex or masturbate before bed.

Hey, anything for a good night’s rest. Getting our “O” face on pre-bedtime can help us fall asleep.

21. Keep it (dark and) cool.

A dark, cool bedroom environment helps promote restful sleep. Program the thermostat so the bedroom’s temperature is between 60 and 75 degrees Fahrenheit (experiment to find what works best for you), and use heavy curtains, blackout shades, or an eye mask to block lights. Also be sure to charge phones and laptops outside the bedroom—even this tiny bit of light can disrupt sleep. If you live in a studio or can’t get away from blue lights for any reason, consider making a (very small) investment in blue light blocking glasses.

22. Consider natural supplements.

Valerian and melatonin are two of the most highly recommended supplements (though their efficacy is still under review). Melatonin treatment effects on adolescent students' sleep timing and sleepiness in a placebo-controlled crossover study. Eckerberg B, Lowden A, Nagai R. Chronobiology international, 2012, Sep.;29(9):1525-6073.
[Use of valerian in anxiety and sleep disorders: what is the best evidence?]. Nunes A, Sousa M. Acta medica portuguesa, 2011, Dec.;24 Suppl 4():1646-0758. Some other sleep aids can be effective, too.

23. Don’t try to sleep unless you’re sleepy.

Yes, it sucks when it’s 2 a.m. and you still don’t feel tired, despite knowing you need rest. But climbing into bed when you don’t feel ready for sleep is setting yourself up for failure. Instead, engage in relaxing activities (like gentle yoga and meditation or listening to soothing music) until you get the strong urge to snooze. If sleep hasn’t come within 20 minutes, get back out of bed and try relaxing activities again until you’re sleepy enough to give it another go.

24. Minimize disturbing noises.

If external noises are beyond your control (a busy street outside the window, a neighbor’s barking dog), cover them up with the sound of a bedside fan, a white noise machine, or other sounds that help us sleep.

25. Vent stresses.

If designated worry time earlier in the day didn’t fully do the trick, spend some extra time writing down anxieties. Loose-leaf paper works, but if you scrawl your sorrows in a journal or notebook, you can literally close the book on your worries (at least until morning).

26. Brew some chamomile tea.

Studies find the humble herb can reduce anxieties, getting us into a better head space for sleep.

27. Try a hot bath or shower.

Stepping from warm water into that pre-cooled bedroom will cause body temperatures to drop slightly, which can trigger sleepy feelings by slowing down metabolic activity.

28. Sip some hot milk.

Science doesn’t necessarily back the idea that milk facilitates snoozing, but conventional wisdom might be strong enough that our minds still believe moo milk lulls us to sleep.

29. Do some leg exercises.

We know; we told you not to exercise before bed. But apparently some easy leg lifts, squats, or your leg exercise of choice can help divert blood flow to the legs and away from the brain. This can help quiet the mind, making it easier to slip into dreamland.

30. Seriously: Count some sheep.

It might not work for everybody, but focusing on one thing can help the brain settle down, making sleep more possible. Not a fan of our wooly friends? Focusing on your breath (in, out, in, out) is also an effective way to chill out. Or bust out some of those relaxation techniques you practiced earlier in the evening—they're just as good of a resource in the wee hours.

31. Visualize yourself asleep.

Imagine yourself drifting in a blissful slumber while practicing deep breathing and progressive muscle relaxation. Treating insomnia with a self-administered muscle relaxation training program: a follow-up. Gustafson R. Psychological reports, 1992, May.;70(1):0033-2941. Starting at one end of the body and working up or down, clench and then release each section of muscles for instant all-over relaxation.

32. Accept insomnia for what it is.

Judgments (“I should be asleep”), comparisons (“my BF/GF/roommate is sleeping; why can’t I?”), and catastrophic thinking (“If I don’t get eight hours’ sleep tonight, I’ll mess up that presentation tomorrow, lose my job, and die tired and alone”) don’t do us any good. Make the night easier by accepting it for what it is, letting go of judgments, and being gentle with yourself. The silver lining? You just might get to see a glorious sunrise.

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Sleep is objectively good. So why are more than one-third of Americans not getting enough of it? Residual anxiety and stress from the day (or the dread of more to come tomorrow) can keep us awake and ruminating into the wee hours of the night. And the next morning (when we’ve become the Walking Dead), we’re less productive, more irritable, and more stressed out. It can quickly become a vicious cycle, taking a toll on our physical and mental health.

So how do you get some good shut-eye when your mind just won’t shut off?

For Strala Yoga founder Tara Stiles, moving through a few slow, simple poses helps her detach from the day’s chaos and focus on the body and breath. “We’re busy all day with computers and screens, right up to the last minute, so it’s a great way to come back to your breath and your body.”

Her bedtime yoga sequence, created in partnership with Lipton Wellness, includes four easy poses you can do from your bed (we’re not kidding!), designed to help drop tension in the lower back and hips. And while your weekly studio classes probably encourage you to focus on form, Stiles’s flow is all about getting your body to a place that feels most comfortable to you.

Get comfy: The more you enjoy your flow, the more likely you are to stick with it. Swap out leggings for your favorite PJ pants (we won’t judge) and throw an extra thick blanket on the bed to really ramp up the fuzz-factor. Do these poses in order, holding the pose on each side for 30 seconds, or however long feels right for your body.

1. Seated Meditation Sukhasana
Sit with your back straight and your legs out in front of you. Bend your knees inward, placing each foot underneath the opposite knee. Sit tall to create length in your torso, placing your hands on your knees with palms facing down. Close your eyes and breathe into your belly.
2. Seated Side Stretch Parsva Sukhasana
Extend both legs in front of you, wide. Fold your right leg at the knee, and bring your foot toward your groin. Bring your left arm to touch the bed, so that it’s parallel to your left leg, with your palm facing up. Reach up with your right arm to open up the right side of your body. Repeat on the left side.
3. Pigeon Kapotasana
Start in tabletop position, placing your hands and knees flat on the bed, hips-width apart. Bring your right knee between your hands, and inch your right foot closer to your left hand. Extend your left leg fully behind you so that your left knee and foot are touching the bed. Try to square your hips, and lift up through your torso to lengthen and stretch.
4. Lying Down Twist Natrajasana
Lie on your back with your arms extended outward. Bend your knees and bring your feet to your hips. Slowly twist your legs and hips to the right side, so that your right knee is touching the bed. Place your right hand gently on your left knee to stretch and open up your left side. Repeat on the opposite side.
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There are two kinds of people: those who can wake up in the morning without snoozing or oversleeping, and those who, well, can't. If waking up is consistently the hardest part of your day, one of these nine alarm clocks from Keep.com, a platform for discovering the latest trending products, might help.

If you're not a morning person, there's absolutely nothing fun or funny about waking up. This alarm clock tries to change that. It will shake and spew seven different wacky phrases that are supposed to laugh you right out of bed. We can't imagine laughing first thing in the morning, but we guess that shock to the system is kind of the point.

($21.50; amazon.com)

You'll get your workout in nice and early just trying to shut this running and jumping alarm clock up. It jumps up to three feet in the air and off your bedside table, then beeps while running around the floor. Sounds like a total nightmare... but the exact kind of nightmare that will get you out of bed.

($65.58; amazon.com)

If the reason you can't wake up for that early morning workout is because you're not sleeping well through the night, this alarm clock could be your solution. It doubles as a diffuser to help you relax. An alarm clock with a built-in spa? Yes, please!

($59.99; bedbathandbeyond.com)

This alarm clock is classic and gets the job done without any fuss. If loud and straightforward is your style, this baby will get you out of bed in no time.

($30; westelm.com)

This device is way more than an alarm clock—it's an iHome that charges your phone and hooks up to Bluetooth. It's bound to be easier to wake up in the morning if you can pick the tunes, right? A little Bieber in the a.m. never hurt anyone. Cue "Despacito."

($59.99; target.com)

Who wants to start their workout before they even step foot out of bed?! All of us, duh. This alarm clock will definitely wake you up—it doesn't stop going off until you pick it up and do 30 reps. Clearly it's not messing around.

($17.99; amazon.com)

If you're a level-10 non-morning person, this alarm clock is for you. Just look at the name—Sonic Bomb Bed Shaker?! It violently shakes, has an extra-loud alarm, and has flashing lights you truly can't ignore. If this is the kind of extreme measure it will take to get you out of bed (you know who you are), buy this stat.

($29.82; amazon.com)

This pick is perfect for anyone who hates the idea giving up precious bedside-table real estate to a clock. It hangs on the wall, tells you the weather, and will definitely get you out of bed more effectively than your iPhone alarm. Plus, now that you know the weather, you can start planning your outfit in your head before your feet hit the ground.

($49.90; opensky.com)

If the noise of an alarm clock doesn't quite rouse you out of bed, give this starry sky projector a shot. It's the perfect (and prettiest!) solution when your blackout curtains are doing their job a little too well. Every non-morning person has been there.

($46.99; opensky.com)

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Sleep is a funny thing. Staying up past your bedtime as a kid was a treat. Sleep didn’t seem so elusive back then. But now with longer workdays, a serious caffeine habit, and an endless stream of binge-worthy shows, it’s a miracle if you get six hours of shut-eye per night.

But you can rest easy (or at least more easily) if you’ve got the right app. We know, we know—it’s ironic to suggest the solution for better sleep can be found on your smartphone. After all, phones emit blue light that messes with your circadian rhythm and keeps you up. Plus, you’re only a few taps away from the addictive scroll of every social app, which is one of the easiest ways to lose track of time. 

Luckily, you can avoid the blue light issue—and stop tricking your brain into thinking it’s still light out—by enabling Night Shift (iOS) or downloading Twilight (Android). Then go ahead and check out these eight apps:

Tune out all of the background noise—from your clunky pipes to your loud next-door neighbor—with this app. Don’t let the name deceive you. You can opt for traditional white noise or choose from a full catalog of ambient sounds, including “extreme rain pouring” and “cat purring.” 

(Free; iOS and Android)

This app lets you be your own sleep DJ. Choose from more than 70 pre-recorded ambient sounds or mix them up on your own. You’ll never get bored, considering there are more than 300,000 possible combinations. The app also includes a sleep timer and alarm clock. 

(Free with optional in-app purchases; iOS and Android)

Do you wake up feeling groggy even after getting a solid eight hours of sleep? That’s probably because your alarm jolted you awake in the middle of deep sleep. This app is designed to wake you up at the lightest point in your sleep cycle—hence the name. That means the app may wake you up 15 or 20 minutes before your typical alarm, but you’ll feel refreshed. Sleep Cycle comes with a bunch of other cool bells and whistles, including sleep analysis and snore detection. 

(Free with optional in-app purchases: iOS and Android)

Studies have found that meditation and exercise can help with sleep issues, and that’s exactly what Centered does. Mindfulness meditation and improvement in sleep quality and daytime impairment among older adults with sleep disturbances: a randomized clinical trial. Black DS, O'Reilly GA, Olmstead R. JAMA internal medicine, 2015, Jun.;175(4):2168-6114. The app encourages users to meditate and increase their level of activity, measured in the number of steps they take every day. You can choose from seven mindfulness practices, including self-guided meditation, a mindful walk, and body-awareness meditation. 

(Free; iOS)

For years meditation has been sold to us as some mystical type of practice. But Headspace is here to prove anyone can do it. The app starts off with a 10-day intro to meditation and then lets users choose their own adventure. The guided meditations help slow down the racing thoughts in your head—a necessary skill when you try to fall asleep but can’t stop thinking about all the things on your to-do list. 

(Free with optional in-app purchases; iOS and Android)

If you think you’re too busy to meditate, we’ve got news for you: All you need is three minutes. Aura specializes in guided micro-meditations. Start by telling the app how you’re feeling (anxious? stressed? great?), and get a meditation tailored to your needs. The app also features a gratitude journal, which studies have shown can help people fall asleep faster.

(Free with optional in-app purchases; iOS and Android)

Fall asleep using the same ambient noises NASA sends to astronauts to help them get shut-eye in space. The scientifically composed audio is designed to relax your breathing, lower your heart rate, and prepare your brain for sleep. It’s basically like the app version of getting rocked to sleep as a baby. 

($4.99; iOS and Android)

How many times did you fall asleep in the middle of a lecture when your teacher was droning on and on? This app does the same thing, thanks to Andrew Johnson’s gentle, melodic voice. You can’t help but feel relaxed while listening to his guided meditations—we barely make it to the 10-minute mark before drifting off to sleep. 

($2.99; iOS and Android)

 

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A portrait of the author, Lisa Marie Basile

People say "I’ve got insomnia" the same way they say "I’m depressed." They don’t mean the literal, actual, clinical condition. They mean, "I’m not sleeping as well as I usually do," or "I’ve been kind of down lately." But as I’ve recently discovered, true insomnia is like true depression. This year, I got to the point where my days were starting at 2 p.m. and ending at 6 a.m.; my body felt feverish and disconnected; swirling lights took over my periphery... and I knew it was getting serious. I wasn’t just sluggish or tired; I was disinterested and constantly fatigued. Any semblance of circadian rhythm was gone.

Have you ever had one of those incredibly turbulent years, where every month seems to bring about disaster after disaster? I know that basically everyone hated 2016 with a passion, but aside from all the major world issues and deaths, the year felt simultaneously unstable and monotonous—plagued with repetitive vulnerabilities and new problems. On a personal level, my job's department shut down. Suddenly, I was unemployed and grasping for stability—change and I are not friends—and I developed my first bout of true insomnia. 

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So I saw a doctor, who noted that the reasons for my insomnia were glaringly obvious. They were pretty textbook: I had no real daily schedule, I was battling anxiety over major life changes, I wasn’t very active, and the days were getting shorter as fall approached. 

When I think back about my habits at the time, I see myself moping all day, working, and staying up all night. I even became a little addicted to the idea of staying awake through the night: Maybe I’d get more done? Maybe I’d wake up early tomorrow anyway? When I thought this way, sleep never occurred to me, despite knowing how I was wreaking havoc on my body. So it was me against myself—fighting sleep while simultaneously fighting for a desperately needed change.  

There is no perfect cure for insomnia, since everyone experiences it differently. We all have our own triggers, and we all respond to potential solutions differently. Let’s just say that I’m picky, which means I really had to get creative about fixing the issue. Among the ideas my doctor and I discussed were yoga and sleeping pills. Now yoga makes me want to gouge my eyes out (I’m not knocking yoga—this is a me problem), and I personally tend to veer from the pharmaceutical route. So I considered my alternatives: working out, melatonin, and meditation.

Melatonin 

Melatonin seems to be a great choice for plenty of people—and some science really seems to back that up. A friend of mine swears by its ability to knock her out immediately. Not so for me. After a month of use, I noticed even a half dose made me groggy the next day and caused the kind of dreams I can’t write about here. 

Meditation 

I downloaded the Headspace app, which promises that its 10-minutes-a-day meditations could "help people stress less, exercise more, and even sleep better." Yes, please. I’d force myself into bed around 9 or 10 p.m. to meditate, which due to my off-kilter schedule, felt more like afternoon tea time than any normal person’s bedtime. I was able to decompress enough to focus on the meditation, to breathe slowly, showing my body that the bed wasn’t an enemy. My body fell into a soft place, and even when my mind raced, I pushed through. I kept coming back to the core thought: my breath. It was simple, conceptually. Just be mindful. Just keep being mindful. 

So I meditated one or two more times per day. I focused on releasing all that stress, anxiety, and self-doubt that had built up in the months of self-neglect. I confess I’m no expert, but I sensed a change, a release, like a grid was shifting beneath me. It don’t know if the meditation had changed my brain chemistry, per se, as science suggests it might, but I was definitely giving myself the chance to heal. 

Working Out 

I also started working out at night, not too close to "bedtime," but late enough to tire me out. I hadn’t really stuck to a workout routine in a while, but I gave it my all: I went for an hour a few times per week at night, and really pushed myself. I wanted my body to feel tired, like it had done something. I wanted it to feel alive, to remind myself that I was an engine of blood and muscle—not a listless bag of bones. I actually cried because it felt so good to treat myself with kindness.  

These simple acts began to change things. Complacency had kept me in a spiral of sleeplessness, and laziness had made it all the worse. But by trying—and failing—and trying again, I found the right solution for me. I took actual care of my body, said no to the problem, and gave myself the time I needed to move through it.

Last month, my body slowly started to reverse itself, and due to utter exhaustion and my efforts, I’d begun falling asleep at a regular grown-up hour: 11 p.m. Getting my sleep back was, frankly, a magical experience. Looking back, my fling with insomnia feels like a manic nightmare—a physical representation of my fears and stresses.

"It was me against myself—fighting sleep while fighting for a desperately needed change." 

I’m still dealing with many of the same issues I had before, but I have a few new tools to combat them now. I still struggle with waking up early, and I still am tempted to stay up well past a reasonable bedtime, but I was never going to magically become a morning person overnight, although that’s certainly next on my list of things to try.

If I can go from making to-do lists at 3 a.m. to getting to bed before midnight, I can be the person who wakes up at 7 a.m. to—hey, let’s be audacious here—work out or clean house or, should miracles exist, write.

Lisa Marie Basile is the founding editor-in-chief of Luna Luna Magazine and moderator of its digital community. Her work has appeared in The Establishment, Bustle, Bust, Hello Giggles, Marie Claire, Good Housekeeping, and The Huffington Post, among other sites. She is also the author of three poetry collections and holds an MFA from The New School. Follow her on Twitter and Instagram.
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After interviewing more than 200 of the world's most fascinating people for The Tim Ferriss Show, I believe more strongly than ever that 10x results don't always require 10x effort. Big changes can come in small packages. To dramatically change your life, you don't need to run a 100-mile race, get a PhD, or completely reinvent yourself. It's the small things, done consistently, that are the big things.

Want proof? For my new book, Tools of Titans, I sifted through hundreds of hours of interviews with billionaires, icons, and elite performers to discover some of their most successful (and sometimes surprising) tactics, routines, and daily habits (all of which I vetted and tested in my own life in some fashion).

More than anything, I longed for the chance to distill everything into a playbook. Here's a small sample, designed to help you address three everyday problems. Borrow liberally, combine uniquely, and create your own bespoke blueprint:

Photo: Tim Ferriss

The Problem: You Woke Up in a Bad Mood
The Tool: Meditation (or 5-Minute Journal)
The Titan: Tony Robbins

Oftentimes, people make meditation or mindfulness harder than it needs to be. Tony Robbins simplifies the process by suggesting that you focus on something simple near you or within sight. I use two types of journaling and alternate between them: Morning Pages and The 5-Minute Journal (5MJ). The former I use primarily for getting unstuck or problem-solving (what should I do?); the latter I use for prioritizing and gratitude (how should I focus and execute?).

The 5MJ is simplicity itself and kills a lot of birds with one stone (including forcing me to think about what I have, as opposed to what I'm pursuing): 5 minutes in the morning of answering a few prompts, and then 5 minutes in the evening doing the same. Each prompt has three lines for three answers.

I am grateful for...

  1. __________
  2. __________
  3. __________

What would make today great?

  1. __________
  2. __________
  3. __________

Daily affirmations. I am...

  1. __________
  2. __________
  3. __________

The gratitude points shouldn't all be "my career" and other abstract items. Temper those with something simple and concrete— a beautiful cloud outside the window, the coffee that you're drinking, the pen that you're using or whatever it might be.

The Problem: You Feel Anxious or Stressed
The Tool: Stargazing
The Titan: BJ Miller, palliative care physician at the University of California at San Francisco and an advisor to the Zen Hospice Project in San Francisco.

"When you are struggling with just about anything, look up. Just ponder the night sky for a minute and realize that we're all on the same planet at the same time. As far as we can tell, we're the only planet with life like ours on it anywhere nearby. Then you start looking at the stars, and you realize that the light hitting your eye is ancient; [some of the] stars that you're seeing, they no longer exist by the time that the light gets to you.

Just mulling the bare-naked facts of the cosmos is enough to thrill me, awe me, freak me out, and kind of put all my neurotic anxieties in their proper place. A lot of people— when you're standing at the edge of your horizon, at death's door, you can be much more in tune with the cosmos."

The Problem: You Can't Get to Sleep
The Tool: Tetris
The Titan: Jane McGonigal, a research affiliate at the Institute for the Future and the author of the New York Times best seller Reality Is Broken: Why Games Make Us Better and How They Can Change the World.

Having trouble nodding off? Try 10 minutes of Tetris. Recent research has demonstrated that Tetris—or Candy Crush Saga or Bejeweled—can help overwrite negative visualization, which has applications for addiction (such as overeating), preventing PTSD, and, in my case, onset insomnia. As Jane explains, due to the visually intensive, problem solving characteristics of these games:

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"You see visual flashbacks [e.g., the blocks falling or the pieces swapping]. They occupy the visual processing center of your brain so that you cannot imagine the thing that you're craving [or obsessing over, which are also highly visual]. This effect can last 3 or 4 hours. It also turns out that if you play Tetris after witnessing a traumatic event [ideally within 6 hours, but it's been demonstrated at 24 hours], it prevents flashbacks and lowers symptoms of post- traumatic stress disorder."

The Problem: You Don't Have Time for Breakfast
The Tool: Intermittent Fasting
The Titan: Dr. Peter Attia

Peter rarely eats breakfast and has experimented with many forms of intermittent fasting, ranging from one meal a day (i.e., 23 hours of fasting per day) to more typical 16/8 and 18/6 patterns of eating (i.e., 16 or 18 hours of fasting and only eating in an 8- or 6-hour window). Going 16 hours without eating generally provides the right balance of autophagy (cellular regeneration and healing) and anabolism (muscle building). Plus, an added benefit (if you adjust to hunger pangs) is increased mental clarity.

The Problem: You Have Difficulty Completing Tasks
The Tool: Write Your Plans
The Titan: Paul Levesque (a.k.a. Triple H)

"[Evander Holyfield] said that his coach at one point told him, something like his very first day, 'You could be the next Muhammad Ali. Do you wanna do that?' Evander said he had to ask his mom. He went home, he came back and said, 'I wanna do that.' The coach said, 'Okay. Is that a dream or a goal? Because there's a difference.'

A dream is something you fantasize about that will probably never happen. A goal is something you set a plan for, work toward, and achieve.

"I'd never heard it said that way, but it stuck with me. So much so that I've said it to my kid now: 'Is that a dream, or a goal? Because a dream is something you fantasize about that will probably never happen. A goal is something you set a plan for, work toward, and achieve. I always looked at my stuff that way. The people who were successful models to me were people who had structured goals and then put a plan in place to get to those things. I think that's what impressed me about Arnold [Schwarzenegger]. It's what impressed me about my father-in-law [Vince McMahon]." If you want to stop dreaming and start planning, write down what you hope to achieve and what you'll do to accomplish your goals.

The Problem: You Have Trouble Feeling Happy
The Tool: The 10-Second Test
The Titan: Cheng-Meng Tan

In many of my public talks, I guide a very simple 10-second exercise. I tell the audience members to each identify two human beings in the room and just think, "I wish for this person to be happy, and I wish for that person to be happy." That is it. I remind them to not do or say anything, just think—this is an entirely thinking exercise. The entire exercise is just 10 seconds' worth of thinking. Everybody emerges from this exercise smiling, happier than 10 seconds before.

This is the joy of loving-kindness. It turns out that being on the giving end of a kind thought is rewarding in and of itself. . . . All other things being equal, to increase your happiness, all you have to do is randomly wish for somebody else to be happy. That is all. It basically takes no time and no effort.

Tim Ferriss is the author of Tools of Titans, and has been listed as one of Fast Company's "Most Innovative Business People," one of Forbes's "Names You Need to Know," and one of Fortune's "40 under 40." He is an early-stage technology investor/advisor (Uber, Facebook, Shopify, Duolingo, Alibaba, and 50+ others) and the author of three No. 1 New York Times and Wall Street Journal best sellers: The 4-Hour Workweek, The 4-Hour Body, and The 4-Hour Chef. The Observer and other media have called Tim "the Oprah of audio" due to the influence of The Tim Ferriss Show podcast, which has exceeded 100 million downloads and was selected for "Best of iTunes" in 2015.

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Tim Ferriss has interviewed billionaires, icons, and performers about their habits and daily routines. Here are six of his favorite tips to have a better day.
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We know we eat more when we don't get enough sleep, and a new study finally pinned down how much extra food we chow down on during those days when we struggle to keep our eyes open. Participants who slept fewer than five-and-a-half hours ate an average of 385 more calories than people who got enough shut-eye. 

To make matters worse, if you’re exhausted, you’re more likely to skip protein and eat foods high in fat. Need a better idea of what much 385 calories looks like? Here are some examples:

Eating a couple extra slices of pizza or an order of fries once in a while isn't a problem. But if you're chronically sleep deprived, the extra calories add up and become a seriously unhealthy habit. 

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We thought the internet couldn't get any more ridiculous, but then we heard about Napflix. No, it's not misspelled. It's a Netflix-inspired streaming service that wants to bore you to sleep with a collection of dull videos, including someone playing with a miniature sandbox and rocks for 45 minutes. We'd argue some of the videos aren't boring (see: pups prancing around at a Finnish dog show). Regardless, watching mind-numbing TV isn't going to help you fall sleep. 

Photo: Napflix Exposure to light, specifically the blue light emitted from your computer screen and phone, messes with your sleep instead of helping you doze off. There are lots of things that can help you fall asleep (we've got a list of 27), but watching boring will videos will just be, well, boring. 

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It’s no real surprise that many Americans don’t get as much sleep as they need. But it's not like we're doing it on purpose. Sometimes we wake up in the middle of the night (especially when we're next to a snorer!) or we can't fall asleep after overdoing it on caffeine. Thankfully, this chart has easy-to-follow solutions for the most common sleep troubles. 

Photo: Tech Insider
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We used to think white noise referred to every kind whooshing and whirring sound that wasn't quite music. Turns out there's a whole rainbow of possibilities. (We won't bore you with the specifics of how colored noise is categorized, but if you're curious, this video provides a good explanation.) 

In general, background noise helps us sleep because the buzzing cancels out other sounds (like snoring). While white noise is well-known, you might find that pink or brown noise works better to help you fall asleep. There's only one way to find out. Check out each option below:

White Noise | 1 Hour of Pure White Noise - For Sleep or Study - YouTube
Pink Noise - Ten Hours - Ambient Sound - Blocker - Masker - Burn In - Relaxation -The Best - YouTube
Brown Noise 12 Hours - Study Relaxation Meditation Tinnitus Crap/Wet Pants Turtle Polish - YouTube
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