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3 Less Obvious Ways To Improve Sleep

You've tried lots of different way to grab some sleep but none are working? Here are 3 less obvious ways to get some better quality longer lasting sleep. Coming from a health and fitness perspective sleep or recovery is one of the three most important aspects in your training next to training and nutrition. Sleep helps manage stress which also has impacts on weight, strength, mood and mental health. Sleep also directly aids fitness improvements by being the time where most rebuilding of muscle tissue occurs. The more sleep you get the more repairs can be made. You'll often feel hungrier with a lack of shuteye and less disciplined leading to more snacking and consumption of calories, thus effecting weight management. It's not just your muscles that repair during sleep but your organs and systems too. Another +1 for the advantages of sleep aiding with health and resilience to diseases. Plus, being well rested just puts you in a better mood to tackle the day's task and people, making it more likely that you'll make your achievements that day.

The more common methods to improve sleep are things like:

  • No blue light before bed

  • No caffeine after 'x' pm

  • Have a routine bed time

  • Get out of bed if you can't sleep

  • Sleeping pills

  • Journal before bed

  • Write out a To-Do list

  • Read (debatable improvements)

  • Alcohol (doesn't actually improve sleep just gets you off faster)

If you've not heard of any of the above methods to get a great nights sleep, you're welcome! Though let's move onto some simple yet surprisingly effective and cheap ways to boost your health and fitness with the power of natures reset mode.

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Sleep easy, double the weight of your duvet

Weighted blankets are normally advised for people with anxiety disorders. So how could it help you without any diagnosed anxiety issues? We all experience anxiety on some scale, that worry can keep us up at night or simply not allow your brain to switch off. Being concerned about tomorrow's To-Do list, the events at work that day or the cost of living next month. All perfectly normal things to worry about that everyone experiences but disturbs sleep all the same.

Apparently the weight of the blanket calms the autonomic nervous system to slow your heart rate and breathing, which bridges the gap to the low heart rate and slow breathing during restful sleep. This "pressure therapy" induces relaxing feelings similar to being hugged or stroked. You'll feel a better sense of calm especially when you get the correct weight being around 10% of an adult's body weight.

You could go out and purchase a specialised weighted blanket....or....use your second duvet! Most of us have a summer tog and a winter tog. Especially in the colder months, put both duvets in your bed cover to get the additional weight (and warmth) that has a soothing effect of safety. Other options would be to place any blankets or dressing gowns on top of your duvet to add some pressure.

Using an additional duvet in your bed can improve quality of sleep via pressure therapy
Put an extra duvet in your bed sheets to improve sleep quality

Eat a banana as a natural sleep aid

Bananas, among other foods, contain chemicals that help regulate sleep. Rich in magnesium, potassium, tryptophan, vitamin B6, carbs, and fibre, all of which may improve sleep quality via different mechanisms. Ever had a large meal and felt quite sleepy a little time later? That's blood rushing to the digestive tract depriving other areas of oxygen bringing about a lethargic reaction. We wouldn't advise a huge meal prior to a long period of inactivity but the mechanics are working in a similar fashion to help your brain get past the initial stages of relaxing enough to begin sleep.

Food you should eat before bed to aid sleep turkey, salmon, cherries, avocado, banana, almonds
Other foods can help you sleep -

If you find you wake with heartburn or any other bowel discomfort, try reducing the portion size, increase time between eating and sleeping and/or try to sleep on your left hand side. However, you have to remember to account for the calories. As with anything, there is a balance of eating too much before bed which can cause more harm than good. If you find your diet is disrupted or you have any form of inflammatory disease you may want to proceed with caution.

Breathe like a dog, sleep like a dog

Watch a dog sleep, especially deep sleep. You'll notice how they can drop off pretty quick nearly anywhere! We learned this calming technique from observing our dog and out of curiosity gave it a go. You've likely heard or even used some breathing techniques to help get to sleep faster. Something like breathing in for a count of 4 and out for a count of 4. These methods usually work by getting you to concentrate on a menial task, like the old adage counting sheep, preventing your mind from focusing on engaging thoughts. The sleep breathing tasks also start to slow your breathing and heart rate getting you closer to the state you'll be in at REM rest.

We aren't saying this 2 step technique will work any better than another however, it works for us (and the dog) so maybe it will for you too. To sleep like a dog do this:

  1. Take a deep slow inhale through the nose.

  2. Let go!

Deeply and slowly fill your chest and abdomen with air through your nose. Expanding your chest and stretching the muscles, tendons and ligaments around your rib cage. Then release. Allow the weight of your body and elasticity in your muscles to push the air back out through your nose or mouth. Repeat for as many breaths as desired. The act of releasing the tension will pass into your limbs making them feel a little heavier and the natural exhalation is a slow release. As you feel heavier, reduce the depth of breath to something more maintainable. Sweet dreams!

Imitating the breathing pattern of a dog at rest can aid you getting to sleep faster.
Envious of how your dog or partner get off to sleep so fast?

There's nothing stopping you doing all 3 ways to improve your sleep. Do some doggy breathing under a heavier duvet having nibbled on some natural sleep aids. The best bit is they are all natural and have no artificial side effects found with sleeping pills or an alcoholic tipple. The breathing technique is free, the extra duvet/blanket you likely already have and the foods you should eat before bed are cheap in small portions.

If you have any other novel ways to get off to sleep or these less obvious methods worked for you then please drop a comment below and maybe even subscribe to the mailing list to stay up to date on more great health and fitness blog content.

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Christina Potter
Christina Potter
Dec 05, 2022

Bonus tip for the breathing - if you can, exhale slowly for twice the length of time that you inhale.

For example, I breathe in for a count of two and breathe out for a count of four.

Elliot Fisher
Elliot Fisher
Dec 08, 2022
Replying to

I've heard similar breathing techniques like breath in for 2, hold for 3, out for 4. Another is in for 4 and out for 4.


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