In case you haven't heard, good sleep is essential for good brain function .

When you obtain high-quality sleep on a regular basis, your brain is more capable of thinking creatively, solving problems effectively, remembering things, making sound decisions, concentrating on tasks, and generally ensuring that you perform at your best.

And when you don't obtain high-quality sleep on a regular basis, pretty much the opposite happens: It's harder to innovate, problem-solve, make appropriate decisions, remember things, focus on your work, and sustain productivity.

So if you want to maintain a healthy brain and the productivity that goes along with it, you simply must improve your sleep.

If you've already tried the usual tips (don't look at screens before bed, keep your bedroom dark and quiet) and nothing seems to be working, then it may be time to try some weirder strategies. Here are five unusual ways to improve your sleep so your brain works better.

Repaint your bedroom.

Some research has found that certain colors promote relaxation and calm, while others can be agitating or excitatory. For instance, orange, red, and yellow are thought to be more stimulating, while blue, green, and grey can calm your nervous system.

If your bedroom is currently painted in an excitatory color, consider repainting it in a soothing hue to help promote relaxation and sleep.

Sleep with the door open.

A small study found that sleeping with your bedroom's windows and doors closed was associated with waking up more during the night.

This might be because poor ventilation can result in concentrations of carbon dioxide. Even at low levels, excess CO2 can make it harder to relax -- which might explain why it's harder to sleep when CO2 levels rise. Ventilation can also help keep your bedroom cool, which is a core element of good sleep hygiene.

Even if it's too chilly to sleep with your windows open, consider leaving the bedroom door open while you sleep for extra ventilation.

Get outside in the AM.

Spending time outside in the morning might seem totally unrelated to what happens when you try to sleep at night. But in fact, the two activities are inextricably linked.

Exposing yourself to natural light in the morning helps maintain your circadian rhythms, which are responsible for cueing your body when it's time to go to sleep in the evening. Thus, morning exposure to sunlight can increase the odds that you'll fall asleep at a reasonable time and stay asleep until the next morning.

For best results, plan to spend 10 to 20 minutes outside shortly after waking each morning. Maybe you could drink your coffee on your patio or take a short neighborhood stroll.

If it's simply not an option to get outside shortly after starting your day, consider investing in a light that's meant to mimic natural sunlight, and sit near it while you're eating your breakfast or working in the morning.

Stop using that sleep tracker.

I know this might sound weird. If the purpose of sleep trackers is to help you manage your sleep, why would getting rid of a sleep tracker help you sleep better?

The answer lies in the fact that obsessing over sleep tracker data can cause your brain to associate sleep with stress, which can interfere with your ability to catch quality Zzzs. It can also contribute to overall anxiety, which is another proven sleep zapper.

Sleep tracker obsessions are a growing issue, but the good news is they're relatively easy to address. Simply ditch the tracker and focus on maintaining healthy habits (including stress reduction techniques) instead.

Stop trying to sleep.

Yes, this might seem counterintuitive. But there's evidence that trying too hard to sleep can actually decrease the chances that you will. That's because (as with obsessing over sleep tracker data) fretting about getting enough sleep can provoke anxiety, which can make it harder to fall asleep.

You're better off setting yourself up for good sleep (by practicing good sleep hygiene, learning and adapting to your body's natural energy patterns, and so on) and then getting out of your body's way. Trust your body to get the sleep it needs and give it the opportunity to do so, and you're much more likely to get it.

Published on: Nov 13, 2019
The opinions expressed here by Inc.com columnists are their own, not those of Inc.com.