5 Novel Ways To Improve Sleep (Like Taping Your Mouth Shut)

If you want to improve your sleep and have tried ‘everything’, you may want to explore these unconventional methods!

By now everyone knows how important it is to get a good night’s sleep. Slumber improves memory recall, regulates metabolism and reduces mental fatigue. When one sleeps, the brain resets itself and removes toxic waste byproducts, which may have accumulated throughout the day. In fact, new scientific evidence demonstrates that sleeping can clear “cobwebs” in the brain and help maintain normal functioning.

With that said, sleep deprivation is detrimental to health and overall quality of life, and it is becoming an increasingly common state. Consider that Americans today are sleeping less than seven hours a night and sleep two full hours less than we did just a century ago.

A recently published study conducted by Iowa State University really drove home the profound effect a lack of sleep can have on our lives. Researchers found a link between sleep deprivation and anger. Study participants who had their sleep restricted by two to four hours reported substantially higher amounts of anger. 

So we can all agree: Less sleep is a problem. But what can be done beyond basic sleep hygiene?

Before we take a deep dive into novel hacks, here are some recommended behavioral and environmental practices intended to promote better quality sleep.

“Make sure the bedroom is dark. Try to block out as much light as possible. Avoid going to sleep with the TV or radio on. Consider a fan or a soothing sounds CD or app,” says Rick John Schuen, MD, an expert in Pediatric Sleep Medicine and Division Chief for Pulmonology at Spectrum Health Helen DeVos Children’s Hospital.

He adds to avoid video games or screen time on electronics one hour prior to bedtime. Wind down. Keep a regular bedtime.

There’s no shortage of advice and research on ways to improve sleep quality. We know not to scroll on Instagram right before bedtime and to stop drinking caffeine well before the mid-day mark. But when those “traditional” pieces of advice don’t work for you, where do you turn?

Even in a marketplace saturated with sleep advice, new and effective tactics to improve sleep quality are constantly emerging as experts discover lesser-known strategies that work.

For anyone who may not have had much luck with traditional methods of improving their sleep, or for someone who is interested in exploring alternative methods, here are 5 unique ways to improve sleep quality:

1. Sleep Restriction

Sleep restriction to combat insomnia might sound counterintuitive but experts say the unorthodox technique may be just what some people need.

“This is the worst name for an insomnia treatment, but it’s shockingly effective,” Michael Grandner, Director of the Sleep and Health Research Program at the University of Arizona College of Medicine—Tucson told Time.

Sleep restriction therapy, a cognitive behavioral treatment for insomnia, does not involve limiting actual sleep time. Rather, patients are instructed to initially restrict the time they spend in bed.

As for how it works, Bruce Rybarczyk, Ph.D., a clinical psychologist and leading sleep medicine expert at Virginia Commonwealth University, explained the process to VCU News:

“It’s true that they [insomniacs] have lots of nights when they starve themselves of sleep already, but what happens with insomnia is that people get recovery sleep every third or fourth night and they also get snippets of sleep because they stay in bed for long periods of time,” he said. “So they do not experience a super high and consistent sleep drive that we want to create for a short stretch of time in order to reset their sleep system.”

2. Blue Light Blocking Glasses

With the rise of the digital age, artificial light — (blue) light that comes from electronics — is becoming more and more of an issue. Blue light is the opposite of natural light and too much exposure to it leads to poor sleep or difficulty falling asleep. But that’s not all blue light exposure is responsible for; dangerously high levels of exposure have also been connected to obesity, diabetes, cancer and general irritability.

Why exactly is blue light so bad? The artificial light from laptops, computers, smartphones, television and other electronics with a screen impedes the production of melatonin, the hormone our body makes to instigate sleep. This negative exposure sets our bodies off-kilter, putting us out of sync with the natural circadian rhythms and throwing off our internal body clock. In short, our body no longer knows when it’s time to go to sleep. So we don’t.

Luckily, there is a way to combat the nasty effects of blue light exposure. Blue light blocking glasses, also known as amber-tinted glasses, reverse the effects of blue light by providing the opposite kind of light exposure: amber. These glasses block the blue light wavelength, which then helps mitigate assault to the pineal gland where melatonin is produced. This has been shown to help increase deep sleep.

“We expect that blue light exposure before bedtime might contribute to sleep difficulties or exacerbate sleep problems in individuals who already experience difficulties,” Columbia University Medical Center professor Ari Shechter told HealthDay News. He led a study investigating the effects of amber-tinted glasses on sleep quality.

Sarah Hornsby, a registered dental hygienist and expert in the field of myofunctional therapy, is also an advocate for using red or orange-tinted glasses to help with sleep.

“The theory is that the spectrum of light that tells our bodies that it’s night time is red, and the spectrum of light that tells our bodies that it’s daytime is blue,” she says. “So when we are looking at blue lights—which are most of our LED lights, electronics, most of our modern lights—we’re basically telling our bodies all day, ‘It’s noon. It’s noon, It’s noon.’”

3. The Oura Smart Ring

Oura, which hails from Finland, is the coolest functional ring. Even when Bluetooth is disabled, Oura tracks patterns like REM and deep sleep, activity levels and heart rate variability. The smart ring hailed for its pro-sleep properties is equipped with an optical sensor, 3D accelerometer, NTC body temperature sensor and infrared LEDs that measure blood volume pulse.

By measuring the myriad data your body gives off throughout the day and night, Oura is able to more accurately turn that data into useful insights about how each individual sleeps and recharges. After all, in order to make a positive change that affects your sleep, you need to first have the right information. “Hack it to track it,” as Dave Asprey says in his latest book Game Changers.

It’s certainly helped me understand and improve my sleep. By looking at my patterns with a combination of other tests, I was able to address my multiple wake ups and increase REM from five minutes —which is awful—to adequate levels. See charts below of over three months from Oura.

maryam oura

4. Mouth Taping

Hornsby promotes the use of mouth tape to patients looking for a better night’s sleep.

 Myofunctional therapy attempts to improve muscle strength in the tongue, mouth and upper throat with exercises that isolate the facial muscles. A comprehensive review of myofunctional therapy studies published in Sleep found that myofunctional therapy can reduce sleep apnea and improve sleep outcomes.

“Mouth tape is a thing,” Hornsby shares. “A lot of people, myself included, the first couple of times they try it, it doesn’t feel great. But if you can get used to it, you will sleep so much better just by putting a tiny piece of tape on your lips.”

Hornsby also recommends not using duct tape, scotch tape or any adhesive not meant to go on skin. Instead use strips designed specifically for the purpose of improving sleep quality, such as Somnifix.

“If you do it the right way it can be really effective for better sleep and that’s because it’s changing your nasal breathing at night,” she says.

 How exactly does myofunctional therapy and mouth taping help? By addressing the root causes of people who have sleep issues.

 “It seems like a funny thing to think about, but breathing through your nose is so important to good quality sleep,” Hornsby says. “And if you breathe through your mouth during the night, that’s kind of level one when it comes to bad sleep. Mouth breathing through the night, over years, advances to snoring and snoring is what advances to upper airway resistance syndrome or sleep apnea.”

5. Understanding Your Genetic SNPs

Many causes associated with difficulty sleeping or falling asleep are well-known like blue light, caffeine, smoking or eating a heavy meal before bed. Even sleeping beside your loved one can negatively impact zzzzzs. But sometimes, being a bad sleeper might be linked to your DNA.

If that’s the case, however, it doesn’t mean you’re doomed to poor sleep forever. Rather, your genetic makeup can tell you a lot about what you need. Much like the way the Oura offers information about how your individual body functions and cycles through sleep, data about your DNA can also provide some life-changing, sleep-inducing insight. Remember you are NOT a victim to your genes. Thanks to epigenetics, you can actually use your DNA to your advantage by finding ways to turn your genetic snips on or off.

 If you’ve used a place like 23andMe, you can take your raw data and run it on sites like Self-Decode or Prometheus.

Single nucleotide polymorphisms (SNPs) refer to a variation in a single pair in a DNA sequence. For instance, some of the genetic variations that affect sleep duration influence how the brain sends and receives messages about the body’s sleep-wake cycle. Other SNPs influence the production of the molecules that the body uses to regulate the sleep-wake cycle. By looking at your SNPs you can also learn if you are more inclined to be an early bird or a night owl.

For example, based on my genotypes from the above SNPs, I have a moderately above-average risk of obstructive sleep apnea. While every case of sleep apnea is different, certain factors such as age, obesity, weight gain or even pregnancy, can exacerbate a predisposition.

Thanks to this SNP, I starting to sleep on my side vs my back. And I also realized that I was a great candidate for taping my mouth shut so I tried it with improved success, according to my Oura data.

See below.

 

Stages of Sleep

While understanding your genetic SNPs isn’t a sure way to cure sleep apnea or other slumber issues, knowing the ins and outs of any predispositions you may have is a key to hacking it. Ultimately, knowing and understanding your specific individual biology can aid in changing your sleep for the better.

To dive much deeper into SNPs and sleep characteristics, read this excellent article Genetics of Insomnia – 21 Genes & SNPs to Pay Attention To on Self Hacked.

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66 comments

Richard E Cooley
Richard E Cooley2 months ago

Thank you.

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Peggy B
Peggy B2 months ago

TYFS

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Sonia Minwer Barakat Requ
Sonia M3 months ago

I won't try the mouth taping.Thanks for sharing

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Monica C
Monica Collier3 months ago

I don't think I will try the tape on my mouth. I have found that letting my cat sleep on top of my cell phone blocks out the people who know I'm a night owl. It really works without any side effects.

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Shae Lee
Shae Lee3 months ago

Thank you for sharing

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Janet B
Janet B3 months ago

Thanks

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Tabot T
Tabot T3 months ago

Thanks for sharing!

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Frances G
Carla G3 months ago

thanks for the article

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Mike R
Mike R3 months ago

Thanks

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Elisabeth T
Elisabeth T3 months ago

Interesting, thanks for sharing.

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