10 unusual (but easy) sleep tips to help you drop off

Have you tried all the regular sleep remedies, but without success? These unusual (but easy) sleep tips can be surprisingly good ways to get a good night’s rest.

Recent research has revealed 20.6 million people in the UK suffer from insomnia and sleep deprivation. If that includes you, the chances are you’ve tried all the usual ways to get to sleep.  

However, if chamomile tea and lavender drops aren’t quite doing the trick, don’t despair. One of our more surprising sleep tips may lull you into a slumber instead. 

Most of the tactics don’t require any special remedies or products and they’re simple to do. One expert told us about the benefits of eating cheese before bed (we’ve busted the nightmare myth) and another explained how humming like a bee to get a serotonin boost could help insomnia sufferers.  

A woman sleeping soundly in bedCredit: Shutterstock/Fizkes

1. Listen to bacon frying (or other soothing sounds)

We’re not suggesting you start cooking last thing at night – obviously – but listening to a recording of a couple of rashers sizzling in the pan may well lull you off to sleep. A YouTube video of bacon frying went viral for just that reason.  

The theory? This kind of comforting, repetitive sound triggers Autonomous Sensory Meridian Response (ASMR) – a combination of positive feelings, relaxation and tingling sensations, all of which encourage peaceful slumber. 

Dr Craig Richard, a university professor and researcher, has set up an online resource to study the subject further. “Several studies, including our own, have shown that people find ASMR content helpful for falling asleep,” he told Exceptional. “The gentle sounds may increase oxytocin release, which is known to increase relaxation.” 

Initial research shows ASMR could be helpful in inducing sleep, but more studies need to be done for it to be conclusive. 


2. Employ some reverse psychology

Can’t get to sleep? Try to stay awake instead. A study at the University of Glasgow found that sleep-onset insomniacs – people who have problems falling sleep and have sleep quality issues as a result – fell asleep much easier when they were instructed to try to do the opposite. 

This method is known as Paradoxical Intention (PI) and during the study it was found to help participants fall asleep quicker.  

Get into bed as you usually would, turn off the lights and get comfortable – but don’t close your eyes. Instead, concentrate on your breathing and slowly the anxiety associated with your inability to drop off to sleep will start to diminish, making it easier to fall asleep.  

3. Get up – yes, really!

If you’re not asleep after 15 minutes of trying, get out of bed and do something relaxing, such as reading, in another room instead. 

“If you lie in bed unable to sleep for long periods, you start to associate your bed with wakefulness and maybe agitation,” explains Brendan Street, clinical lead for cognitive behavioural therapy at Nuffield Health. “The only way to break the cycle is by realigning the bed-sleep association.” 

Keep the lights dim and try going back to bed again when you feel tired. It’s a simple but effective sleep tip.   

4. Count sheep – maybe

There are stories that shepherds would count their sheep in the evening, to check they were all there before going to bed. This prompted counting sheep as a sleep tip to help people fall asleep, because the shepherds were often said to be tired afterwards.  

However, after studying the theory, scientists at University of Oxford said it tended not to work because it’s too mundane to keep our anxieties away.  

Sleep medicine physician Dr Joshua Roland explains more. “The idea behind it helping with sleep is to have our minds focus on repetitive and calming imagery instead of focusing on daily worries that keep us awake.   

“It’s a good idea to have a routine around sleep, so if counting sheep is helping someone, then it is potentially worth continuing.” 

But he advises there may be better techniques out there, such as deep breathing exercises (see next tip).  These activate the parasympathetic system (the calming opposite of the “fight or flight system”) in addition to being repetitive and potentially mind-clearing for restful sleep.   

A cartoon sheep jumping over a fence, with three others watchingCredit: Shutterstock/Zhitkov Boris

5. Use your breath

Employing a simple sleep meditation that’s connected to your breathing can reduce stress, detach your mind from troubling thoughts and improve your sleep, according to yoga advocate Lucy Edge. 

“Close your eyes and begin to count your breaths, slowly and deeply,” she advises. “Breathe in for one count, out for two, in for three, out for four, and so on. When you reach 10, start again.  

“Observe any thoughts as clouds passing across the sky. Become aware of any space between the thoughts and drop into the deep calm.” 

One small study concluded that mindfulness meditation could be a viable treatment option for adults with insomnia, although more research is needed for it to be conclusive. 


6. Warm your feet

When you’re winding down for sleep, your body begins to cool to get ready. However, Swiss researchers found having warm feet can help promote sleep 

A hot water bottle by your feet – or wearing bed socks if you prefer – redirects the blood flow to your feet and reduces your core body temperature quicker.  

If you don’t like wearing socks in bed, The Sleep Foundation say you can still get the benefits by taking a warm foot bath, or by wearing slippers before bed.

7. Tense your toes

Here’s another sleep tip with your (hopefully warm) feet: try alternately tensing and relaxing your toes for a count of 10 each time. This draws tension away from the rest of the body, helping you to relax, according to sleep experts at the University of Maryland. 

Watch the video below for how to relax using a toe tensing technique.  

8. Hum like a bee for a serotonin boost

Warning: this approach may irritate your partner! “The ‘bumblebee breath’ is incredible for insomnia,” says sleep specialist Alison Francis, author of Breathe Better, Sleep Better.

“It calms the mind, gets rid of negative emotions and stimulates the feel-good brain chemical serotonin.”  

So how does it work? “Turn the lights out, lie down comfortably on your back and make a bumblebee sound for 10 minutes. Just inhale and hum on the exhale, and that’s it.” 

The breathing meditation helps the mind by concentrating on breathing and the vibrations of the hum, creating a sense of calm. Dr Chris Idzikowski also promotes this breathing technique in his book The Expert Guide to Sleeping Well.  

9. Nibble on some cheese

Good news for cheese-lovers: it doesn’t cause nightmares and could actually help you get to sleep. “Yes, the idea that cheese causes bad dreams is thought to be a myth,” says nutritionist Cassandra Barns.  

“In fact, cheese can contain high levels of the amino acid tryptophan, which aids sleep. But avoid high-fat cheeses late as night, as the fat can disrupt your rest. Cottage cheese – naturally low in fat – with oatcakes may make the perfect bedtime snack.” 

Magic book open with ocean and dolphins jumping on one page, a child in a green space with a hare and horse and birds and hot air balloons flying above.Credit: Shutterstock/Mimma Key

10. Listen to a bedtime story

It’s normally a no-no to take your smartphone into the bedroom – but you might choose to make an exception for the Sleep Stories section of popular meditation app Calm, which offers soothing words and sound effects to lull you off to sleep.  

“When you’re a child, you have much less on your mind and sleep comes easily,” says Calm co-founder Alex Tew on the launch of the feature. “Sleep Stories are meant to take you back to a simpler mental state and let your brain relax and prepare for a deep rest, just as it did when you were young.”

Choose from more than 65 bedtime stories, including classic tales and nature essays, read by the likes of Joanna Lumley, Stephen Fry and Radio 4 Shipping Forecast presenter Peter Jefferson. Alternatively, listening to the Shipping Forecast itself also works for some people. 

Alongside these sleep tips, there are plenty of sleep gadgets that can potentially help – whether you’re struggling to fall asleep, stay asleep, or wake up in the morning.


Written by Jane Murphy