Updated: Jan 26
Do you have trouble falling asleep or staying asleep? If so, you may suffer from a condition known as insomnia. Insomnia can be an acute or chronic condition, depending on how long it lasts. Some of the biggest contributors causing insomnia include stress, anxiety, shift work, depression, and poor sleep habits. Oh, not to mention the COVID-19 pandemic we currently live in. Our minds can not be turned off with a press of a button or flip of a switch, like a television or lamp. It takes time for our mind to relax and drift away into the different phases of sleep. It is important to reach the deepest and dreamy sleep phase, known as REM (rapid eye movement) sleep.
If the stresses of life are keeping you up at night or you are having a hard time overcoming your poor sleep habits, there are a few simple ways to combat your insomnia. Whether your poor sleep health is acute or chronic, you are able to combat it! Now, are you ready to put your insomnia to bed?! If so, let's dive into what you can to promote better sleep hygiene.
It is important to unplug and disconnect from the popular stimulus known as technology. The bedroom should be used for sleep. It should not be used for watching television, scrolling social media, or even browsing the latest new's headlines. Technology is a big contributor of keeping our mind continuously busy. It is okay not to check your email until the morning or wait until tomorrow to beat your mobile gaming high score. As important as it is for you to stay connected during the day, it is as important for you to disconnect at night so your body and mind can rest and reboot.
2. Develop A Routine
Having a nightly routine will condition your body and mind to enter 'sleepy time' mode. Get ready for bed at the same time each day, followed by your nightly preferences of a warm shower and brushing your teeth for example. Be sure to keep your bedroom in 'sleepy time' mode by keeping it dark, comfortable, and stimulus free. The use of curtains may be beneficial if the sun becomes bothersome in the early hours of the evening or morning. Set your cell phone notifications to silent and make sure any other electronics (like an alarm clock) do not omit any bright or bothersome lights. Make sure the temperature in your bedroom is set at cool to provide the optimal sleeping environment.
3. Limit Nightly Beverage & Food Bingeing Beverages like coffee, soda, and even alcohol can keep you up at night or contribute to poor sleep quality. Limit consuming any beverage or food that contains caffeine. Also, the use of nicotine should also be avoided late at night. Try to avoid snacking or eating a large meal right before bed as well. Large meals may leave you bloated while snacking may keep you going back to the pantry for more. Consuming a balanced dinner a few hours before bed will give your body plenty of time for adequate digestion.
4. Avoid Daytime Napping Your mind and body should remain active during the day. Well, unless your are a night shift worker, then the opposite is true. With that being said, make sure your body and mind stay active during the time of day you normally are awake. Avoid daytime napping! Resting your eyes for 5-10 minutes during the day is okay but napping will surely put your sleep schedule into disarray. Napping should be eliminated from your daily (active) routine, which should help improve your nightly (inactive) routine.
5. Are Your Medications The Culprit? Some medications have the potential to keep you up at night when you should be sleeping. Be sure to take a look at the directions on your medication bottles as well as any warning labels. Some medications like diuretics (“water pills”) should not be taken late in the evening, since they can cause nighttime urination. Some medications can be activating and are best taken earlier in the day, like decongestants, steroids, stimulants, and certain SSRI anti-depressants. Be sure to talk to your doctor or ask a pharmacist to see if any of your medications are contributing to your insomnia or poor quality of sleep.
6. Sleep Aid Considerations Although there are numerous prescription medications available on the market to treat insomnia, some can be habit forming or result in dependence. You may want to consider these non-prescription remedies first before thinking about getting a prescription from your doctor:
Melatonin is a natural hormone produced by the body at night, especially when it is dark. It plays a vital role in your sleep-wake patterns, known as circadian rhythm, and promotes sleep health.
Chamomile can produce a calming and relaxing effect, which can result in sleep induction. It can make you mildly drowsy, just enough to doze off into sleep. Many people enjoy it as a nice warm cup of tea in the evening.
Lavender may help promote relaxation and have a calming effect. It is most beneficial when paired with good sleep hygiene. It is used most often in aromatherapy as an essential oil.
'White' noise may help promote sleep by providing relaxation through sounds at low volumes. I know noise seems counter-intuitive when you think of sleep. However, sounds of ocean waves or rainfall may actually promote a calming environment and help induce it.
It is important to work on your sleep hygiene as well as minimize any triggers that cause nighttime wakefulness. Insomnia is not uncommon and many people suffer from it. Be sure to talk to your doctor to make sure these helpful tips are right for you. Hopefully by now, you are familiar with the simple remedies that can help you overcome poor sleep quality. Do not let insomnia be your nightmare! Take charge of your sleep health with these simple remedies and hopefully it will put your insomnia to bed.
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