Posted on Dec 21, 2023, 2 p.m.
From time to time most people will struggle to fall asleep, but insomnia can leave you feeling pretty desperate after a few restless nights. It may take trial and error but there are some practical strategies that could help you to fight insomnia and fall asleep, at least maybe for tonight.
Insomnia often has an underlying cause like anxiety, stress, a horrible bed/sleeping environment, or a medical condition. Finding a true cure may even require a deeper look at some of the possible issues which may need assistance from a professional.
Often a busy mind focused on intrusive thoughts can keep you awake; deep breathing exercises might help to calm and quiet your busy mind. Anxious thoughts about work, school, relationships, children, and even your pet are common causes of insomnia, as are ruminations over past events of negative thoughts.
Deep meditative breathing may help you push those thoughts from your mind. Begin by focusing on your breathing, then inhale deeply while counting to five, then exhale slowly while counting to five. Make sure that you focus on breathing and nothing else. This is just one technique; a quick search will show you many other options.
Guided meditation is another option. For this, you’ll need to use a meditation app or even a YouTube video so that you can follow an instructor as they guide you through a relaxation session. Speaking of meditation, studies suggest that gentle yoga practiced on a regular basis may help to improve sleep efficiency, sleep duration, and how quickly one falls to sleep.
A great deal of people swear by white noise, while others have more luck with the deeper resonance of pink noise, or with nature sounds like waves, wind, or rain. Even a fan can provide background noise without needing a sound machine. Home assistants like Google can even play sounds to help soothe your busy mind or drown out any other noises that might be bothering you.
Creating a calm and peaceful environment can help your body and brain to decompress at bedtime. If it is noises that are beyond your control that are keeping you awake, you may want to consider foam ear plugs, a sound machine, a relaxation app, playing soft music, or soft headphones that are designed for sleep to drown out those noises.
Some people are tempted to turn on the TV to help them sleep, but that could actually keep you awake. Additionally, blue light that is cast from electronic devices has the highest energy level of any light that is visible on the light spectrum. Blue light boosts alertness, brain function, and mood which is great for during the day but not when you want to sleep because it helps to regulate your circadian rhythm and melatonin levels, and is why nighttime exposure can be very disruptive to your sleep.
To achieve a blue light break you need to turn off all of your devices, including the TV, for several hours before you go to bed. It also helps to use a blue light filter or blue light glasses, especially during the hours leading up to bedtime.
Rather than reaching for a device try reading a book. This can help to calm your mind and transport you to the world the book is describing. Some studies suggest that those who read books in bed have better sleep quality than those who don’t. How and what you read before sleep is important, opt for fun books, boring history, or brief magazines that focus on easy-to-digest light topics. Avoid anything that is upsetting, aggravating, or mysteries you can’t put down. The light should be dim, but not so much that you need to squint, and e-readers should be set to a low setting.
It is best to avoid caffeinated beverages, including soda, during the night hours leading up to bedtime as they could keep you awake. Even wine is a no-no because alcoholic beverages disrupt sleeping patterns. Herbal teas might be a good substitution, some even enhance sleep quality such as chamomile tea or lavender tea.
Comfort is another thing to be taken seriously as it has a significant impact on your ability to fall asleep and stay that way. Pillows are important, look for one that was intended for your preferred sleeping position. Mattress conditions can also affect your comfort, sleep position and cause achy joints. If your mattress and/or pillows have seen better days, it might be time to invest in replacements. Don’t just buy the first one you see, experiment with materials, textures, and firmness to find the one that you like best.
Temperature can also affect your comfort level; most people find it helps them sleep when the temperature is a bit on the cooler side, and they use a blanket. Fans can help with this, as can cooling sheets and pillows as well as mattress covers that are made from breathable materials. Egyptian cotton sheets are lightweight and breathable, bamboo sheets are good for hot sleepers, eucalyptus sheets are as well, and so are loose linen weaves.
Melatonin is said to be a natural sleep aid, but it doesn’t work the same for every person. It is a naturally occurring hormone that helps to regulate your circadian rhythm to ready you for sleep, taking it as a supplement may provide a boost. Melatonin should be taken up to 2 hours before you want to sleep and start with a low dose to see how your body responds until you find the right dose for you not exceeding 10 milligrams per night.
Insomnia lasting more than 3 times a week for longer than 3 months is considered to be chronic insomnia. This is a risk factor for several health conditions like heart disease, diabetes, and certain cancers. If this is the situation that you find yourself in, it might be time to consult a professional. Your doctor may be able to recommend a sleep aid, or a therapist to help you identify any underlying health issues.
You are not alone in your struggle with insomnia, it is very common. But you can overcome it and return to restful sleep by increasing your comfort levels, avoiding noises, and doing breathing exercises. If none of the at-home techniques are working for you or you have chronic insomnia, a certified healthcare professional may prove helpful in your quest for sleep.
As with anything you read on the internet, this article should not be construed as medical advice; please talk to your doctor or primary care provider before changing your wellness routine. This article is not intended to provide a medical diagnosis, recommendation, treatment, or endorsement. These statements have not been evaluated by the Food and Drug Administration.
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