There are still many mysteries surrounding insomnia, and while a universal solution does not exist, there are a number of proven methods that can alleviate, if not cure, the disorder. If you’re serious about fighting your insomnia, you have to be willing to experiment. The suggestions below can be implemented piecemeal, but they are not mutually exclusive; putting them all into effect will likely yield the greatest results. If you’ve already attempted many of these and are desperate for creative ideas, take a look at this yoga course for insomnia, designed to help you ease the effects in four weeks.
Types of Insomnia
Insomnia is usually broken down into three variations:
- Transient Insomnia: Symptoms persist for a few days, sometimes weeks.
- Acute Insomnia: Known colloquially as “short-term insomnia,” symptoms of acute insomnia generally stick around for several weeks, if not months.
- Chronic Insomnia: The granddaddy of them all. Symptoms can endure for months, years, decades. There are really no boundaries when it comes to chronic insomnia.
I don’t want to waste too much time discussing symptoms and side effects, but if you habitually struggle with sleep, you should know that it can have serious (even fatal) side effects, including but not limited to: obesity, depression, memory loss, decreased functioning of your immune system, anxiety, irritability and, for lack of medical terminology, an overall sluggish brain, so it’s important not to ignore this problem. Females get the short end of the stick on this one, as they are more likely to suffer from insomnia than men. Even still, almost 40% of adults report having trouble sleeping on a regular basis; a quarter of these believe they have chronic insomnia.
There are some things that cause insomnia for which my suggestions will have little or no effect, which is why talking to your doctor is important. Some medication, for example, can cause insomnia; medications for high cholesterol, allergic reactions, arthritis, high blood pressure, depression, irregular heartbeat, diabetes and Alzheimer’s, to name but a few, might have an effect. If you’re on prescription medication, make sure insomnia isn’t a common side effect.
Other causes, some of which can counterbalanced with practice, include psychological issues such as bipolar disorder (we already mentioned depression, that’s a big one), medical conditions (from acid reflux to strokes), jet lag, stress, noise, T.V.s and computers in the bedroom…when I put like that, it seems like anything can cause insomnia! The truth is, most of these can be overcome. It’s just that the majority of people don’t realize what is causing insomnia in the first place.
There are a number of things you can do, but the big picture looks like this: create a healthier sleep environment, get on schedule, avoid a few bad habits, and exercise and eat better (if at all possible). For help with a full makeover, check out this introductory guide to improving performance in everything you do, from fitness to sleep.
Healthier Sleep Environment
First off, you need to make your bedroom a shrine to sleep. Don’t work in your room, don’t stress in your room, I wouldn’t even watch T.V. in your room if you can avoid it; the only things you should be doing in your bed is sleeping and having sex.
Speaking of bed, make sure you have a decent mattress. Yeah, mattresses are ridiculously expensive, but so is the heart surgery you’re going to have to have if you don’t do something about your insomnia.
Concerning technology: if you like to watch T.V. or read the news on your computer before bed, at least turn off all back-lit screens an hour before you intend to fall asleep. The brightness and type of light is unnatural and prevents your body from producing melatonin, the god-chemical when it comes to sleep.
Get On Schedule
It is vital that you start going to bed and waking up at the same time every night and morning. The mornings should be easy; set your alarm and force yourself out of bed when it goes off. The evenings can be more difficult, especially if you like to stay up late. Ultimately, you have to prioritize. Even one night will throw your circadian rhythm off for days. Ideally, you should be getting to bed within the same fifteen to thirty minute window every night. I admit, scheduling is easier said than done. Here are 12 tips to realistic scheduling.
You should also sleep in a dark, quiet room. Use a sleep mask if you’re getting too much light, and a white noise machine if you’re getting too much noise.
Avoid Bad Habits
Your habits make a huge difference in your ability to sleep well. Avoid is eating late, especially if the meals are large and/or heavy on fat. All that fat might make you sleepy, but your quality of sleep will ultimately be poor because your digestive system is going to be working over-time all night long. If you need a snack, eat something light, like fruit or cereal, or better yet, steep yourself some bedtime tea.
Try not to drink any caffeine after lunch. Believe it or not, caffeine stays active in your body for a full 10-12 hours after ingestion. On a similar note, try not to drink alcohol within three hours of bedtime. Alcohol also leads to a poor quality of sleep, and it tends to increase the number of bathroom breaks a person needs, and I know I don’t need to spell out the disadvantages of that.
Exercise more and eat better, it’s a simply, yet impossible, as that. Even if you start taking the stairs instead of the elevator, or walk to a park for lunch, or do anything relatively active for a grand total of a few hours a week, you will see results. The same is true of eating better. It doesn’t take a genius to know which foods are healthy, but if you need a little help, you can quickly learn the healthy cooking fundamentals.
For even more tips on getting enough sleep, check out this sleep success workshop. And remember, if the problem persists, talk to a doctor to make sure you don’t have a more serious problem that needs to be addressed.