Have trouble dozing off at night? Put away your Sleepytime teaÃ¢â‚¬”a new technology might help you catch more ZZZs. A study published online in the journal Brain and Behavior suggests that a special therapy that matches musical tones to brain frequencies may reduce symptoms of insomnia.
Twenty people with signs of insomnia participated in the study. First, researchers established the participantsÃ¢â‚¬â„¢ Insomnia Severity Index (ISI)Ã¢â‚¬”a scale that measures sleep disruption. Then they separated the participants into two groupsÃ¢â‚¬”a control group, and a group that was given a therapy called high-resolution, relational, resonance-based, electroencephalic mirroring (HIRREM), or, as itÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s commercially known, Brainwave OptimizationÃ¢â€žÂ¢.
HIRREM involves using sensors to detect electrical frequency bands in the brain. Once scientists identify a specific frequency, they assign it a coordinating musical tone, which is then played back to participants via earbuds within 12 milliseconds of frequency detection. The musical tones reportedly help correct any frequency imbalances between the two hemispheres of the brain. (Those imbalances can be caused by trauma, or extended periods of stress, which create a fight or flight response in the brain, according to Charles Tegeler, M.D., professor of neurology at Wake Forest Baptist and principal investigator of the study.)
Participants who received the HIRREM therapy showed a significant drop in their ISI. The control group members, who originally reported no sleep improvement without the HIRREM, were also later administered the treatment and saw a significant drop in their ISI scores as well. (Disclaimer: The study was funded by a grant from Brain State Technologies, LLC, Scottsdale, Ariz., the company that owns the technology used in the study.)
While Tegeler says you probably canÃ¢â‚¬â„¢t replicate these results at home, there are other ways to get better sleep that don't involve an EEG. Try these tips the next time you need to get some serious shut-eye:
DonÃ¢â‚¬â„¢t Focus on Sleeping The more you think about the sleep you are missing, the more stressed you will be. And more stress means even less sleep. If you wake up and can't fall back asleep within 15-20 minutes, get out of bed. Do something relaxing outside of the bedroom, like listening to music or reading. If you lie there stressing out about falling back asleep, you'll only get more anxious. Understand that sometimes the quality of your slumber is out of your control.
Stick to a Schedule Regularity is sleepÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s best friend. Try and adhere to a strict bedtime and wake time every day, even on the weekends. When your body has a routine, it knows when to start winding down and preparing for sleep.
Check for Sleep Apnea Snoring is common, and although itÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s usually harmless, it could be a symptom of a sleep disorder called sleep apnea. If you have long pauses in your snoring (ask a friend/bedmate to listen), see your doctor. Sleep apnea, while sometimes life threatening, can be treated.
Turn to the Tub Your mom knew a thing or two about nighttime baths. The body starts to feel sleepy when itÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s temperature drops. You can exaggerate that effect by taking a warm bath or shower and then lying down and letting your body heat get low.
Block Out the Light Even just a little bit of light can disturb your sleep. So make sure to shut off all your night lights and hallway lamps, not to mention TVs, laptops, tablets, and phones, well before you head for bed.
Exercise Earlier Regular exercise can actually improve your sleep but you need to schedule it for the right time. Working out too close to bedtime may cause your body temperature to stay elevated, which makes it harder to doze off. Try to finish exercising at least three hours before bedtime--preferably in the afternoon.
Avoid Heavy Foods and Booze Consuming heavy foods or alcohol before bed can cause indigestion, not to mention frequent trips to the bathroom. And although drinking alcohol may make you tired and help you fall asleep faster, you will wake up more often and not get the quality of sleep you need to feel rested the next day.
Upgrade Your Pillow Choose a pillow that is supportive, comfortable, and suited to your sleeping position. A stomach sleeper and a side sleeper may need different pillows. Find the best pillow for your sleep habits.
Knock Boots Yep, sex before bed can help you fall asleep faster, too. Getting frisky releases feel-good endorphins which can relieve stress, making it easier to fall asleep. Sounds good to us.
Additional reporting from the editors of Women's Health.
More from WH:
The Cost of Not Sleeping Enough
Easy Ways to Get More Sleep
Yoga for Bedtime
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