Name one thing worse than being dog-tired but not being able to sleep no matter how hard you try. (Okay, burpees, juice cleanses, running out of coffee... we get it, there are worse things.) But tossing and turning while you watch precious minutes of sleep slip away is up there with the tough stuff. (And, pssst, you need to read this before popping a melatonin.)
Insomnia can drive people to do some odd things—like really, really odd things—in the name of getting some shut-eye. Case in point: these too-insane-to-believe insomnia cures that Calm (a meditation and sleep story app) dug up from the black-hole-esque crevice between the wall and the bed. They dipped into modern-day insomnia literature, combed the secret corners of the Internet, and checked back in history to find the weirdest of the weird. Then, they polled 4,279 Americans and Britons in a YouGov survey to dub these 10 (okay, 12, including ties) insomnia remedies the strangest of them all. The results:
1. Rubbing dog's earwax on your teeth
2. Eating sea slug entrails before bed
3. Drinking a potion containing the bile of a castrated boar
4. Rubbing dormouse/field mouse fat on the soles of your feet
5. Lathering your hair in yellow soap
6= Eating fried lettuce before bed
6= Drinking a brew of lettuce opium
8. Eating a raw onion before bed
9. Pointing your bed north
10. Watching a video of a crossword puzzle tournament
11= Curling and uncurling your toes
11= Drinking cinnamon and banana and tea
If just the thought of doing any of those things makes you nauseous, want to shower, or fearful for the human race, don't worry. None of them are actually a good idea for relieving insomnia, according to Richard Shane, Ph.D., behavioral sleep therapist and founder of Sleep Easily.
"In my clinical practice, I haven't found most of the odd cures to be successful," says Shane. "Some of those examples seem downright unhealthy or dangerous." Um, you can say that again.
Shane says there are three different general causes of insomnia: 1) anxiety, stress, or other mental/emotional discomfort, 2) physical discomfort, and 3) environmental discomfort, like noise or temperature. (Here: other weird reasons you can't fall sleep.) The best way to beat any and all of these is by practicing proper sleep hygiene—and we don't mean brushing your teeth before bed.
Sleep Hygiene Tips to Help Insomnia
Sleep hygiene might seem like something that only has to do with what you do in bed (which, BTW, should only be sleep and sex), but it starts hours before that. Shane recommends getting at least 15 minutes of sunlight each day, exercising (just not too close to bedtime), and avoiding caffeine within six hours of sleep, to make sure you're ready to crash when bedtime rolls around. (Here's a comprehensive guide to scheduling your entire day for the best rest.)
In the evening, keep a two-hour buffer between your last meal and sleep (and foods that might cause indigestion), dim the lights in your house or bedroom for an hour or so before you hit the hay, and stick to calming activities immediately pre-snooze (like these yoga stretches or meditation). And puh-lease stop scrolling through IG in bed—the blue-white light emitted by device screens (your laptop, TV, phone) can mess with your brain's production of melatonin, the sleep hormone, says Shane. (The only exception might be Napflix, the video program actually designed to put you to sleep.)
Think you can catch up on the weekend? Not so fast. Sleeping in until 2 p.m. on weekends isn't a great idea—no matter how badly you want to—because it throws your body clock out of whack. (One study even found that irregular sleep schedules are linked to serious health issues.) Shane recommends following a regular sleeping schedule because it makes falling asleep easier.
Feel like you're checking all the boxes but still can't snooze? Try this trick: When you're stressed, you're likely to press your tongue against the roof of your mouth, as a way to "brace" against stress, says Shane. Instead, allow your tongue to relax and soften. Let it chill anywhere in your mouth, even lightly touching the roof of your mouth or your teeth—just not pressing.
"Your tongue is a 'switch' in your nervous system," says Shane. "Allowing your tongue to be calmer can help relax your mind, emotions, and body, easing toward sleep."
Whatever you do, just please don't mess with slug entrails or castrated boar potions.