If insomnia is keeping you awake at night, the sooner you do something, the better. Sleep is essential to your overall health, and missing out on much-needed shut-eye can leave you tired, irritable, and prone to accidents.
What Is Insomnia?
Insomnia is a sleep disorder that is either acute (it only happens for a few nights before resolving itself) or chronic (lasting longer than a few days, perhaps you can’t remember the last time you didn’t have insomnia). Some of the signs of insomnia include:
- Trouble falling asleep
- Waking up in the night
- Not being able to get to sleep after waking up in the night
As a result of not getting a good night’s rest, you may experience sleepiness throughout the day. You may have trouble feeling like you ever get a good night’s sleep. The lack of sleep can cause problems on the job, increasing your risk of accidents if you work with any heavy machinery. It can cause accidents when you’re behind the wheel.
What’s causing your insomnia depends on a couple of things. If you have Primary Insomnia, it happens with no outside influence or health condition. Secondary insomnia is caused by health problems, medications, and other external forces (including anxiety, stress, significant life changes, and environmental noise).
A Few Ways to Beat Insomnia
Be sure to keep in mind that your insomnia may be caused by different issues than someone else’s insomnia. What works for someone else may not work for you. Try one of these tips for a few days, if it doesn’t seem to help, move on to the next one.
If your insomnia is affecting your waking life a great deal, be sure to talk to your doctor. Some medications may help, but your doctor might also be able to work on treating any underlying conditions (or refer you to someone who can).
If you no longer want to lie awake at night counting sheep, we’ve got some things that can help you relax. It’s about proper sleep hygiene and making sure you set yourself up for a positive sleep experience.
Develop a Sleep Ritual
Come up with a nightly routine that you can stick with. Something that relaxes you and gets you in the mood for rest. If reading puts you to sleep, curl up with a good book (but not too good) twenty minutes before you want to be asleep.
Some people find a warm bath before bed relaxing. You can include essential oils that promote sleep and relaxation as well, like lavender. Paradoxically, you can also use a cold shower or bath to fall asleep. At the moment, the cold water will make you feel more alert, but the rapid shift in your body temperature will make you very sleepy.
Get on a Schedule
The most important thing you can do to get yourself on a regular sleep schedule is to wake up at the same time every morning. A close second is going to bed at the same time every night. The human body does well with routine.
If you’re getting up at different times each day, it can affect your ability to fall asleep each night, leaving you tossing and turning for hours while your body tries to adjust to a continually changing sleep schedule. If you need help establishing that new schedule and moving your bedtime to an earlier hour.
Your schedule should also include giving your body some time to wind down before bed. Don’t exercise too close to bedtime, as that boost of endorphins may keep you up. Try not to eat full meals or any heavy snacks too close to bedtime and avoid stimulants, like caffeine. You also want to avoid drinking a bunch of water right before bed.
Set the Mood for Sleep
Make sure that your bedroom is an atmosphere that promotes sleep and relaxation. Do that by making sure it’s the right temperature. It’s easier for your brain to take a restful night’s vacation when it’s chilly in the room rather than hot or warm.
Block out any light that may slip in from streetlights, the neighbor’s motion-sensor porch light, or the sun (if you’re going to bed during daylight or waking up after the sun rises). If retrofitting your room with light blocking blinds and drapery is outside of your budget (or not landlord approved), you can always use a high-quality sleep mask.
Block Out Outside Noises
Traffic noises and even the sounds of crickets can keep some people awake at night. If you’re a light sleeper, you may be easily awoken by even the slightest sound, which could keep you up the rest of the night.
To block out noises, use a white noise machine. For a cheaper version, put a box fan in your bedroom and run it while you sleep. It may take a night or two to get used to the sound, but once you do it will help you sleep as it blocks out other sounds that were keeping you up.
Use Relaxation Techniques
There are a bunch of things you can do to help you relax at night. Try deep breathing to calm yourself and get your brain in a mindset for sleep. When your brain is cooler, it’s more likely to rest and yawning is one of the body’s ways to cool your brain.
If stress and ruminating about the day’s events or your to-do list for tomorrow are keeping you up, start a sleep journal. Keep a notebook and pen by your bed and write down all of the stuff on your mind. By getting it out on paper, you no longer need to keep repeating it in your mind.
Stop Making Your Brain Think It’s Still Daytime
There are settings on tablets, computers, and phone screens to make your devices not emit bright light or blue light. Bright lights trick the brain into thinking it’s still daytime and you should be up accomplishing things (unless you’re a third-shifter). Leave technology, including the TV, out of the bedroom.
If you read in bed, make sure the light you’re reading by isn’t too bright as well. You want enough light, so you’re not straining your eyes, but you want that dim light ambiance that promotes sleep.
Try a Natural Remedy
Melatonin is a common supplement people take to help them get to sleep at night. It’s a hormone your pineal gland makes on its own, but sometimes you need a little boost. It regulates your inner clock and combats the effects of things like phone screens. It reminds your brain it’s supposed to get tired when it starts to get dark out.
Melatonin won’t help everyone, and it’s not a permanent answer to sleepless nights. You still need to figure out what the underlying cause of your insomnia is if you want to get better sleep without all of the tricks.
If you’ve worked your way through our tips and you’re still having trouble sleeping, it’s definitely time to talk to your doctor. There are certain things (like hormonal imbalances and sleep apnea) that you can’t treat with lavender on your pillow or cold showers.