What is Insomnia?
Insomnia by definition is the inability to fall asleep or stay asleep, however it can wreak such havoc on our waking hours that insomnia can cause a whole lot of health problems as a result.
In the age of the cave man, we slept when it was dark and hunted when it was light, our bodies sleep pattern dictated by the sun and the moon. However in modern day society this is not the case and with so many other factors contributing as light sources and stimulants we sometimes aren’t able to sleep during the hours of darkness like our ancestors could.
When Insomnia strikes it is easy to panic and start overthinking the situation, “I have to be up in five hours.” “Will I fall back asleep tonight?” “I can’t be tired for tomorrow’s big meeting” “I really hope I sleep through the night tomorrow.” These anxious thoughts only aid the insomnia and keep you awake longer. So what do we need to do to try and avoid this sleeping problem? And when it strikes how can we get back to sleep?
How to try and avoid Insomnia.
1: Try to stick to the same bed time where possible.
We all have an internal clock. Have you ever noticed that sometimes you wake just as your alarm is about to go off? Well our internal clock gets used to rhythm and routine and can help your body function naturally, however it is hard for it to get into a set routine if your bedtime varies drastically from night to night and could be a reason for the insomnia. Try sticking to the same bed time as closely as you can, during the week and at weekends.
2: Try to avoid stimulants too close to your bedtime.
The stimulants in your cup of coffee, tea or energy drink have huge effects on your nervous system which in turn keep you awake and focused on tasks at hand. This is good for first thing in the morning but not good for trying to get to sleep and stay asleep. Try having your last caffeinated drink in the early afternoon and switching to soothing herbal or fruit teas for the rest of the day such as peppermint or chamomile.
3: Avoid bright screens.
We live in a fantastic age where technology is at our finger tips and information is always readily available however the bright screens and the constant flow of information can really cause havoc when you try to sleep. Research has shown that bright screens from backlit e-readers, mobile devices, computers and televisions can put the mind into a more active state.
Spend the last couple hours of your day picking up that paperback book you’ve been wanting to read for a long time, or winding down with a nice hot bath and some relaxing music.
4: Exercise during the day but not too close to bedtime.
Exercise, whether light, moderate or intense is fantastic for our minds and bodies. The benefits of daily movement are ten fold but exercise will raise your body temperature. One of the ways the body prepares itself for sleep is lowering the temperature so it will need to work harder and longer to do this after exercise, which is why you may have trouble drifting off.
If you have to work out in the evening, try to do this in the earlier part so you give your body time to reduce its temperature and prepare your body for sleep.
5: Choose your evening snacks wisely.
Do you sometimes reach for a bar of chocolate in the evening for the taste of something sweet? Well that bar of chocolate is full of sugar and caffeine which are both stimulants that will keep you awake.
If you find you get hungry after dinner try having a banana, these fruits contain potassium and magnesium which are natural muscle relaxants as well as counting carbohydrates which will make you sleepy.
6: Use self hypnosis.
Hypnotherapy has been clinically shown to help people with insomnia drift to sleep more quickly and sleep more soundly at night without side effects. Listening to a hypnosis recording before you go to bed can help you relax and unwind and calm subconscious thoughts that can often keep you awake during the night. Download Mark Bowden’s sleep hypnosis audio.
7: Avoid alcohol.
When we drink alcohol it forces our bodies into a very deep sleep initially. However it really interferes with our sleep pattern which can greatly affect us the following day. When drifting off to sleep we enter Rapid Eye Movement, also known as REM sleep. This is the sleep pattern that leave us feeling refreshed and energised and takes place between 6 and 7 times during one nights kip. However even just a couple of glasses of alcohol can cause us to miss our REM sleep completely putting us straight into a deep sleep which means on waking we can feel exhausted. Alcohol is also a diarrhetic and can cause us to want to use the toilet in the middle of the night, thus disrupting our sleep pattern and consequently causing difficulties to fall back to sleep again.
8: Create a Sleep-Friendly Environment.
To promote restful sleep, make sure your room is as dark as possible. Purchase blackout curtains if light comes in through the windows or try wearing a sleep mask. A white noise machine can help to drown out sounds that keep you awake at night. Temperature also matters in the bedroom. Studies have found that keeping the room slightly cool helps improve sleep.
9: Stop smoking.
There are many benefits to quitting smoking, and getting a restful nights sleep is one of them.
Nicotine is another stimulant that can keep you from falling asleep and whilst you are asleep you’ll be experiencing withdrawal symptoms. Studies show that smokers are more likely to suffer from insomnia than non smokers.
10: Eat cherries.
Cherries are one of the few natural sources for melatonin, which helps aid restful sleep. Tart cherries in particular are best. Melatonin is responsible for the regulation of your inner body clock and therefore might help you fall asleep and stay asleep.
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