The internet is full of tips and tricks that are supposed to help you fall asleep. Eat a spoonful of honey. Breathe only through your left nostril. Rock yourself like a baby. They're a bit like hiccup remedies: strange, plentiful, unproven. So we set out to find some fall-asleep strategies that have actually been shown to work. Here are four weird tricks that may actually help you doze off — and the science behind them.
Sticking your foot out from under the covers.
As previously documented on Apartment Therapy, sticking one foot outside of the covers can help you fall asleep. A drop in body temperature has been shown to make people feel sleepy, and exposing a foot is one good way to cool down quickly, since there are so many blood vessels in your feet and hands.
The smell of lavender.
Lavender doesn't just smell nice — there's a growing body of evidence that it can help you fall asleep faster, and sleep better once you do. In one study, people who smelled lavender before bedtime experienced higher quality sleep; in another, sprinkling lavender oil on sheets helped insomniacs fall asleep faster.
Listening to Ed Sheeran.
Apparently the jury is still out on whether listening to music before you fall asleep (or as you're trying to fall asleep) is really helpful. A 2008 study found that listening to classical music before bedtime led to improved sleep quality, but experts caution that if you're not used to listening to music before bed this might prove to be disruptive instead of helpful.
Researchers also say that the ideal fall-asleep song would have a slow tempo, of about 60 beats per minute. While listening, your heart rate will gradually slow to match the beat of the music, helping you to relax. With this and other considerations in mind, sound therapists picked this song as the most relaxing song in the world. But when Spotify dug into the the top songs users put on their 'sleep' playlist, the clear winner was Ed Sheeran — he's responsible for an impressive seven songs out of the top twenty.
Imagining you're at the beach.
The conventional wisdom is that counting sheep will help you fall asleep because it's just so damn boring. But a British study conceived with the goal of testing out this old bit of folk wisdom found that it didn't really work, precisely because it was too boring; the researchers concluded that people gave up on counting the sheep far before they fell asleep. What did work? Imagining a realxing scene like a quiet beach or a walk in the woods, which can help soothe you and distract from worries (like the worry about not being able to fall asleep) but isn't totally dull.