Sleep is something everybody needs but not everybody gets it! Sleeplessness affects 30-50% of the population and can lead to debilitating daytime drowsiness, poor concentration and difficulty with memory. The in ability to fall asleep, frequent awakening from sleep, inability to maintain sleep and early morning awakening are all considered types of insomnia.
Sleep hygiene can play a monumental role in your effectiveness to sleep.
Solution #1: The environment
A proper assessment for a bed and pillow that allow you to sleep ergonomically may help in ensuring you are sleeping comfortably. It is also important to assess the room for temperature and humidity. The hot and humid of tropical weather is not desirable in your room. Adjust if necessary.
Black out shades
Our sleep-wake cycle is regulated by our pineal gland. The pineal gland secretes melatonin in response to darkness. It is our body’s way of telling us “time for bed”. With the advent of lighting on demand, our circadian sleep-wake cycle can be disrupted. Avoiding light after sunset is not very practical or realistic. Ensuring you use black out shades and ensuring your room is as dark as possible during the night can improve sleep.
Many cringe at the thought of buying ear plugs. Please give them a chance. They come in various sizes and materials and thus the bad memory of “hear plugs” is most likely a biased one. Check online, you can purchase a variety pack of ear plugs for approximately $10. These will allow you to explore and decide what you like before investing in more expensive ones. This is certainly worth the investment if you are a light sleeper. Word of caution, make sure you can still hear the alarm clock and the fire/carbon monoxide alarm. Some noises are worth waking up for! This should however alleviate the snoring partner, the tap dancer upstairs and the soothing sound of the garbage truck outside.
Solution #2: The diet
Some individuals are more sensitive to certain substances than others. Substances such as nicotine, caffeine and alcohol can negatively affect sleep. Avoidance of caffeine and alcohol for at least a period of time is necessary to assess the degree to which it is contributing to your insomnia. Eliminate it for 1 w eek. The next time you consume these products make a sleep diary in order to analyze the impact it has on your sleep. If you consume nicotine products consult with your primary care giver to start a smoking cessation program. At the very least, avoidance of caffeine products after noon is a good idea. Some individuals are slower caffeine metabolizers than others thus noon may not be early enough. Also remember that chocolate is also a source of stimulation.
Solution #3: Exercise
Lack of exercise can contribute to insomnia. Ensure you are at the very least obtaining your minimal recommended 150 minutes a week, ideally 20 minutes a day. Avoid exercise in the late evening, as this can be very stimulating. Exercise can also decrease anxiety and improve mood and relaxation. These are all positive contributors to promoting sleep.
Solution #4: The habit
Having a nightly routine can help, especially one that involves relaxing activities. Working up until the very last minute before bed is certainly not the best way to decrease anxiety.
Write it down. If something isn’t done before you go to bed make a task list or write it in your time management calendar. Once written down, it is easier to forget about it for the next few sleepy-time hours.
Get up in the morning despite being tired and avoids naps.
Do not eat, work, read or watch TV in your room. Allow your room to be a serenity retreat associated with sleeping. As you conquer your insomnia it may be possible at a later time to reintroduce certain things such as reading before bed in your bedroom.
If you can’t fall asleep get up and do something relaxing in another room.
If anxiety is contributing to your insomnia explore various relaxation therapies that work for you. Perhaps a relaxing yoga posture, meditation, breathing exercises or writing exercises such as a gratitude journal.
Solution #5: The underlying medical condition
Medications, acute crisis, depression, anxiety, hormonal pregnancy and menopause are some of many underlying causes that may be contributing to your insomnia. If you have tried these tips and are still experiencing insomnia, go see your primary care provider as it could be an indicator of an underlying medical condition. For chronic insomniacs, there are also naturopathic solutions that can support you to retrain your circadian rhythm while you get back on track. Sleep is a restorative process and crucial to overall wellbeing.
Take a deep breath consider these tips and sleep on it!
Photo: Arvind Balaraman