We live in a nation of tired people. You may even be one yourself. As technologically advanced as we’ve become, and as convenient as we keep trying to make modern life, millions of us are lumbering through our days in a state of utter exhaustion.
Maybe you’ve tried one of the many common hacks for getting a better night’s sleep, or maybe you’ve experimented with ways to turn off your mind when it’s going a zillion miles an hour, but if you’re still one of the 70% of Americans who suffer from insomnia on a regular basis, the following technique is the absolute most effective way to fall asleep without medication.
The Drug-Free Answer to Curing Insomnia
So what’s the groundbreaking missing link? A meditation secret? A yoga routine? A big cartoon wooden-mallet to bonk you on the head with?
No, it’s none of those.
“Say what? You mean like how daily exercise relieves stress and balances hormones and therefore helps you relax at bedtime?”
I mean when you’re lying there in bed, staring at the ceiling, thinking of every tedious detail about your life or stressing over some upcoming event and your brain just keeps going like a game show theme-song stuck in your head.
“But, if I get up and exercise, I’ll NEVER get to sleep! How in the world is raising my heart rate and flooding my bloodstream with adrenalin going to help me sleep!?”
The answer is rooted in biology and hard-wired into every human being, and knowing how to influence your body’s hormones with exercise is going to save your sleepless life.
You’re not sleeping anyway, so you can lay there frustrated for the next four hours, or you can try it my way.
How the Stress Response Affects Your Sleep
Whether you realize it or not, it’s stress that’s keeping you awake – in the form of hormone disruption, chemical toxicity, unhealthy sleep cycles, mental anxiety or fear, or one of a hundred other causes.
You may not necessarily FEEL stressed, but underneath your cool, calm exterior, something keeps pulling your fire alarm over and over.
The body doesn’t differentiate between physical, mental, emotional, or social stress, so it responds the same way to a stack of unpaid bills on the kitchen table, an upcoming presentation you’re nervous about, or a child who’s exhibiting symptoms of illness, as it does when your life is in danger.
During stress (regardless of the form), heart rate and blood pressure soar, senses burst open, concentration wanes, adrenalin is pumped into the bloodstream – basically your body gets ready to fight or flee, and sleep will be nowhere in your immediate future unless that stress response is reset and turned off.
Unfortunately, relaxation techniques have only been mildly successful in doing this.
Resetting the Stress Response
The stress response is designed to be temporary, meaning it gets triggered, does it’s job in preparing you to survive, and then shuts down when the stressor is gone.
Except stress in modern life doesn’t end. We have work, bills, debt, ex-spouses, kids, societal pressures, the economy, etc., so that stress response just remains active, our hormone levels remain upside-down, stress hormones remain in the bloodstream, and this state becomes a normal way of life.
Thankfully, we can use this biological response to our advantage when we can’t sleep. The trick is to activate the stress response and then let it shut down. We do this through a short burst of intense exercise followed by rest.
*Always consult a trusted health professional before beginning or intensifying an exercise program.
Pick 4 bodyweight exercises and do them each for a preset length of time *without stopping* for 10 minutes.
- Jumping jacks x 30 seconds
- Push-ups x 30 seconds
- Jump squats x 30 seconds
- Sprint in place x 30 seconds
- Repeat for 10 total minutes
Or, do several exercises until failure for 10 minutes.
- Burpees until failure
- Push-ups until failure
- Jump squats until failure
- Repeat for 10 total minutes
Another option would be to pop in an Insanity or Combat DVD for 10 minutes and follow along. High Intensity Interval Training is perfect for this situation.
The goal is to go all-out, like you’re trying to exhaust yourself, because you are. You are initiating your stress response and then letting it reset exactly how it was intended.
Afterward stop, catch your breath, wipe off the sweat, get in bed, close your eyes, and breath calmly. Within minutes, you’ll feel completely different, relaxed, your mind and your body will be at ease, and you SHOULD fall asleep shortly.
If not, get up and go again!
Note: This will not work if you’re wired up on caffeine, sugar, or other stimulants.
I realize this seems counter-intuitive. We associate exercise with being alert and awake! But just like nutrition and exercise, working with our biology and understanding our genetic programming always leads to a more natural (and oftentimes more effective) solution.