It’s the wee hours of morning and you feel like you’re an actor in Corinne Bailey Rae’s hit, “Trouble Sleeping”. You’ve changed positions, pillows, bed sheets, prayed, meditated, but lo and behold you’re still awake. It’s already 3 o’clock in the morning and at this point you’re wondering if it’s still practical to go to sleep, or just start preparing for work that starts at six in the morning. Decisions, decisions.
Surprisingly, insomnia is a common sleeping problem and is experienced by 30 to 40 percent of Americans. No wonder a lot of posts on social media are posted between three to five in the morning. Below are some tips for those who can’t get some shut-eye:
What You Need to Know About Sleep Gap:
If you can’t sleep, are having sleeping problems, or can’t get a decent amount of sleep, you have insomnia. The symptoms of insomnia often include waking up in the middle of the night, trouble sleeping, irritability, problems with concentration, waking up at dawn, and sleepiness during the day. Insomnia can last from a one to a couple of nights (acute) or one month to a few years (chronic). This sleeping condition is also very common among women.
These sleeping problems are usually symptoms of other physical or psychological conditions such as chronic pain, stress, medications, or depression. More often than not, insomnia is linked to relationship problems, psychological and medical issues, problems in scheduling, and other behavioral issues such as watching TV before bedtime, problematic bedtime routines, and too much physical activity before bedtime.
Simple Solutions to Sleeping Problems:
1. Therapy for Insomnia.
One of the techniques used to treat Insomnia is the Cognitive Behavioral Therapy or CBT-I. This therapy helps improve the quality of sleep by setting up an environment that’s conducive for sleeping and by including self-monitoring and mental strategies such as creating positive thoughts to promote sleep. These strategies will be given to you by your therapist. There are also online articles that can teach you the basics. If you don’t have time to visit a therapist, you can download Sleepio, it’s an application that helps you practice CBT-I.
Keep track of the amount of sleep that you get and the time that you usually fall asleep, levels of fatigue as the day progresses, and other symptoms of insomnia. This record will help you monitor your activities that affect your chances of getting decent sleep. It will also help your therapist or your doctor provide medical solutions for your sleeping problem. There are digital programs such as YawnLog and Zeo that can help you monitor your sleep.
3. The bed has a purpose.
And that’s for sleeping and sex. No more, no less. When you work in your bedroom, it becomes a place for work and not a place for rest. It becomes very difficult to sleep because even though you’re already in bed and are ready to sleep, your brain is busy thinking of work that needs to be done.
4. The perfect mattress.
You don’t get quality sleep when you have an uncomfortable mattress. The perfect mattress will help you sleep peacefully for long hours.
5. Follow a strict bedtime schedule.
Think of activities that can help you wind down before going to bed. Set a time for sleeping and a time for waking up and do your best to stick to that schedule. Weekends should not be an excuse to stay up late.
6. Consult a health professional.
If you feel that you’ve done all the techniques to help you get a good night’s rest but nothing seems to work, then it’s time to consult your doctor. Doctors can help you figure out what’s causing the sleeplessness and provide solutions or medications that can help treat your sleeping problem.
7. Solve problems during the day.
As much as possible, avoid solving problems when you’re already in bed and waiting to doze off. Allot fifteen to thirty minutes during the day to think of solutions for various problems. It’s best if you can write these solutions in a journal so they won’t resurface when you’re getting ready to sleep.
8. Avoid smoking.
Smokers will hate reading this but smoking actually triggers insomnia and that’s because the body experiences nicotine withdrawals at night.
9. Exercise regularly.
Research shows that an increase in daily physical activity can help treat insomnia. If you can’t exercise in the morning, do it at least three hours before going to bed. This will give the body ample time to wind down and relax before snoozing.
10. Proper diet.
Include foods that are rich in magnesium and vitamin B complex such as cashews, almonds, spinach, halibut, leafy greens, legumes, and nuts. It also helps if you take vitamin supplements.
11. Reduce your caffeine consumption.
Some people drink coffee when they can’t sleep at night but the thing is, that only makes it even more impossible to fall asleep. If you can’t stop drinking coffee, then tweak the schedule and drink it during the day so it’s flushed out of your system before you go to bed.
12. Expose yourself to natural light.
As tempting as it is to stay indoors the whole day, getting enough sun exposure can actually balance the melatonin levels in your body, which will make it easier for you to sleep at night.
Contrary to popular belief, ten to twenty minutes of short naps during daytime can help the body relax and boost memory and creativity. Keep yourself from taking short naps after 3 PM because that will only make it difficult for you to sleep come night time.
14. Switch off the lights two hours before bedtime.
When you’re exposed to bright, electrical lights between the wee hours of the morning and before going to bed at night, this reduces the chances of getting enough sleep. Since there are people who can’t stand the dark, it’s recommended that you dim the lights two hours before bedtime. It also helps when you use light bulbs that have color temperatures that are less than 3,000 kelvins or have warm/soft varieties. These will help lessen the effect that the light has on our nervous system.
15. Stop watching TV.
Watching too much television before sleeping can affect sleep quality. The television screen emits blue or artificial light that disturbs how our body prepares or sleep because it triggers daytime hormones. To improve sleep quality, turn off or dim the screen of phones, televisions, and computers.
16. Relaxation and breathing techniques.
It’s no secret that meditation can improve sleep amount and quality. Deep breathing, progressive relaxation, and yoga are some techniques that can help you get a good night’s rest.
17. Cut the booze before bedtime.
The common misconception about alcohol is that it can help the body relax and prepare for sleep but the truth is, it can disturb sleep. This doesn’t necessarily mean ditching the booze before bedtime. Instead, drink it a few hours before bedtime.
18. Eat small meals at night.
Avoid eating big meals before going to bed because this will make it difficult for you to fall asleep.
19. Keep your bedroom cold and dark.
A cold and dark bedroom can improve sleep quality. Set the air condition to around 60 to 75 degrees Fahrenheit (or the temperature that suits you), use an eye mask, and use shades or heavy curtains to keep light from entering the room. As much as possible, charge your laptops and cellphones at the living room because even the smallest amount of light can disturb sleep. If you find it impossible to block lights because you live in a studio or a pad, invest in blue blight blocking glasses.
20. Take natural supplements.
Two of the most recommended natural supplements that can help promote sleep are melatonin and valerian. You can also take sleep aids.
21. Avoid working before bedtime.
Keep from activities that promote brain activity such as reading, watching television, and thinking of solutions to problems, before going to bed. Too much brain work stops the body from relaxing.
22. Sexy time.
Pre-bedtime masturbation and sex helps promote quality sleep.
23. Control the noise.
Tune out external noises by covering them with the sound of a white noise machine, bedside fan, soothing background music, and other sounds that promote quality sleep.
24. If you’re not yet sleepy, don’t sleep.
It’s annoying when it’s already four o’clock in the morning and you’re still wide awake. According to studies, forcing yourself to fall asleep when you’re not sleepy won’t do you any good. Engaging in breathing techniques and relaxing activities will help you feel sleepy and eventually doze off. If you notice that it’s already been 20 minutes and you still aren’t sleepy, repeat the relaxing activities.
25. Sip chamomile tea.
Sipping chamomile tea can lessen your anxieties and help you relax.
26. Take a nice, warm bath.
Slow down your body’s metabolic activity by taking a bath using warm water. This will cause your body’s temperature to go down, which will make you feel sleepy once you step into the cold bedroom.
27. Release stress.
Get a notebook and write down the things that bother you. Once you’re done writing your worries, you can literally close the book and keep your worries at bay.
28. Do basic leg routines.
This is in contrast with the tip that you should avoid working out before bedtime but according to some studies, basic squats, lifts, or any leg exercise can improve the blood flow in your legs. This will relax your mind and slowly ease you into deep sleep.
29. Drink warm milk.
Although there are no studies that prove this, a lot of people drink warm milk to improve sleep quality.
30. Let go of the pressure.
Try not to be pressured by the fact that you have insomnia and that almost everyone in your household (including the pet) is already asleep. Accept the fact that you’re having trouble sleeping, let things flow, and before you know it, you’ve already fallen asleep.
31. One sheep, two sheep.
This sounds like a joke but really, counting sheep can help you fall asleep. Concentrating on something helps the brain relax, making it easier to fall asleep. If you feel like counting sheep is way too funny, concentrate on your breathing or try to do some of the above-mentioned relaxation techniques.
32. The power of visualization.
Visualize yourself in deep sleep. Relax your muscles by working one part of the body and slowly progressing downwards. Clench and release muscle sections to relax your body.
Once you lose sleep, you can never get it back. Hopefully these tips will make it easier for you to get that much needed rest at the end of a long day.