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The Best Sleep Advice That Has Stood the Test of Time

We've all been rattled by insomnia at least once in our lives, and it can be such a pain! So we scoured our archives and found some of the best sleep advice from 1938 that has stood the test of time. Catching ample Z's should be no problem from here on out.

Front view of peaceful attractive middle aged active woman practising yoga on the bed holding eyes closed, sitting in Half Lotus exercise, Ardha Padmasana pose and wearing sportswear in the morning.Dusan Petkovic/Shutterstock

Deep breathing

“I found my recipe in The Lives of a Bengal Lancer. It is simply to draw 20 even breaths, then on the 21st, hold the breath as long as possible. By the time I have done this three times I am drowsy.” —Sophie Kerr, novelist. Check out these 11 weird sleep tricks that actually work. And yes, Sophie’s tactic is one of them!

Bachelor man daily routine single lifestyle morning concept dreamingViktoriia Hnatiuk/Shutterstock

Find your happy place

“I place my hands back of my head, relax, and contemplate something which represents great quiet and tranquility, such as a drowsy midsummer noon, while I lie on a grassy slope beneath a shade tree and see a blue pool in the distance.” —Harrison Cady, artist

small cute boy seats on the bed and listening music with earphones and have rest and relaxHumpback_Whale/Shutterstock

Think about song lyrics you don’t remember

“I sing old songs to myself. It’s difficult to remember the lyrics of songs you haven’t sung for a long time, and in trying to re­call the words, I drop off to sleep.” —Kitty Carlisle, musical comedy star

high angle view of muscular african american man doing abs in gymLightField Studios/Shutterstock

Work it out

“On my trip through Brazil with Colonel Theodore Roosevelt, I learned my best lesson: When I go to bed it’s solely for the purpose of sleeping. If I cannot sleep, I get up and exercise until I am tired.” —Major Anthony Fiala, explorer. Not the type to exercise at 2 a.m.? Check out these 13 must-read sleep tips for when you have insomnia.

Student girl sleeping on desk with books flat lay. Top view on young tired woman napping on her textbook. Tiredness, exhaustion, education, preparing for exams conceptGolubovy/Shutterstock

Do something you hate

“I read the History of MacHenry County, Ill., and if that fails, I turn out the light and try to pretend that it is 5 a.m. of a winter’s morning and I have to get up.” —Orson Welles, actor and producer

fresh orange on plant, orange treechanwangrong/Shutterstock

Count… oranges?

“I used to count sheep, but they made such a racket with their baa-ing that it kept me awake. Now I count oranges on an imaginary orange tree!” —Gracie Allen, radio comedienne. There are plenty more where that came from. Read up on 11 secrets to sleep better that sleep doctors want you to know about.

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Sing to yourself

“I sing my­self to sleep (mentally) with ‘The Young Man on the Flying Trapeze.’ It has a wave-like swing to it and a philosophy to which I have become resigned.”—Fanny Heaslip Lea, novelist

Golf ball on the tee - idyllic golf course of AdarePatryk Kosmider/Shutterstock

Imagine yourself on the greens

“I choose the tough­est golf course I ever played and for a companion the one per­son I’d rather beat than all others. Then I par and birdie and eagle hole after hole until it all becomes so easy that I fall asleep from sheer boredom.” —Frank Craven, actor

Woman with sleeping maskPH888/Shutterstock

Resort to the tried-and-true fixes

“Black eyeshades and wax earplugs have always done the trick for me!” —Lillian Gish, actress

Leonard Zhukovsky/Shutterstock

Build a story around your noisy surroundings

“New York’s noises supply my only sleep problem. I take the most excruciating sound––trolley, taxi, or train––and imagine myself a character going home in it. Perhaps I’m a jolly little breadwinner, pleasantly tired, carrying home a surprise pack­age for my wife. In this imagining, I throw off my own worries by becoming this simple, untroubled person—and drop off to sleep.” -Norman Rockwell, illustrator. Check out the 15 bizarre sleep habits from some of the most successful people.

wooden shelf full of old vinyl records and speakersuperelaks/Shutterstock

Turn on the classical tunes

“An automatic phonograph with bedside control plays my favorite symphonies which I find a good hypnotic.” —Cecil B. DeMille

That’s 21st-century speak for, “Plug in your headphones, put on Spotify, and drift away to the land of classical music.” Read about 8 little changes you can make to sleep better in just one day (hint: listening to music is one of them!).

Supermoon.Full moon. The great moon at sunset. View of a big moonParamonov Alexander/Shutterstock

Get some fresh air

“If I wake during the night I step out the door into the cold night air and take a two-minute air bath. Within five minutes I am sleeping like a baby. I got this from Ben Franklin.” -Albert Edward Wiggam, lecturer

Woman hiding under pillow in bed Kaspars Grinvalds/Shutterstock

Put a pillow on it (and if that fails, drink milk)

“Sometimes I lie on one ear and put a substantial pillow firmly over the other. This not only keeps out outside noises but suppresses the chatter of ideas on the loose within. My other practice I learned from a wise old Indian in Dutch Guiana: Put about a half-teaspoonful of pepper in a coffee cup and fill the cup with blistering hot milk. You drink the milk immediately and as fast as you possibly can.” —Katherine Mayo, novelist

Woman and her beagle dog meet morning in bedSoloviova Liudmyla/Shutterstock

Hang out with your pets

“When I can’t sleep, I get up and watch the goldfish. The first thing I know, one of them will gape at me. Then I yawn at him. We keep this up for a few minutes and usually, I’m so sleepy that I can’t find my way back to the bedroom.”—Hugh Herbert, movie star

Reader's Digest
Originally Published in Reader's Digest

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