10 Ways to Get Rid of Insomnia
It can be a lifelong partner or strike every once in a while with cruel precision. Some of us chase it away with relative ease, finding a cure at the bottom of a warm glass of milk, while others have to fight tooth and nail to get a few hours of sleep every night. But whether inability to sleep is a constant companion or an unexpected visitor, most of us wish it would leave us alone.
As someone who had a sleep disorder for the past 14 years, I know exactly what it's like to feel very exhausted from doing very little. Insomnia is not only a problem, it's also a habit. You stay up past your bedtime once, twice, and by the end of the month, you can't remember when you didn't have dark circles under your eyes.
For some people–like writers and artists–insomnia is an occupational hazard. For the rest of us, it's a sign of a problem or stress. If you stay up every night to engage in a creative activity of some sort, you'll probably be doing that for the rest of your life. But if the only reason you stay up is to watch TV, surf the web, or walk restlessly around your flat, it's probably time for a change.
So, it seems you can't sleep
Take a pill, as a good doctor would say, or a shot of vodka, as a bad doctor might (you never know, until you try). Here is a list of 10 unconventional insomnia remedies that I found useful or especially popular among the sleepless web surfers.
Caution: some of these may put you to sleep.
1. Wear yourself out
Taking things easy can be great. Taking things too easy can leave you with more energy than your body needs at the end of the day. If you notice a decrease in your daily and overall physical activity, weight gain, and unusual alertness during nighttime, your sleep problems may be the result of your slow days.
If you're taking a break from work/school and find yourself with too much time on your hands, make sure to burn enough energy daily to wear yourself out before sleep. Set aside some time every day to do something energetic, like swimming, jogging, doing daily chores or shopping on your own two feet instead of taking a car. Get lots of fresh air and take long walks in the evening or ride a bicycle home.
2. Wear your brain out
Another way to wear yourself out before bed is mentally. Try learning or memorizing something right before going to sleep, just when your body is starting to relax. Falling asleep this way comes with two major benefits.
First of all, you'll be using your nightly vigilance to learn something you're interested in, like foreign words or historic events you wanted to brush up on. Another major perk is that cramming right before sleep really drives things home. Memorizing things is strangely easier with your head resting gently on a pillow rather than your friend's shoulder in an overlit classroom. I can't remember how many times I fell asleep in front of my computer in the middle of Rosetta Stone exercise (which doesn't put me to sleep during daytime, by the way).
3. Sleep in fixed hours
Self-discipline is everything, as some of my old mentors would say. More than anything it applies to forming healthy habits, such as the ones regarding your sleep.
Work out a sleep schedule you want to follow and stick to it, waking up and going to bed at the same time. A great tool for that is sleepyti.me. Use this website to figure out how many hours you have to sleep in order to feel good, and how many you can skip without feeling exhausted. Sleepytime operates under the impression that waking up in the middle of a sleep cycle leaves you feeling groggy and exhausted, but waking up in between cycles keeps you fresh and alert. So, if you want to get enough sleep and wake up feeling good, consult sleepyti.me to do the calculations before setting your alarm.
4. Have a nightly ritual
Preparing for bed is a ritual in its own, but you can always take it up a notch if you want. Do the same things before retreating to bed every night and soon your body will start associating them with sleep. Relaxation and warm shower can be a part of your nightly routine.
Another way to stimulate your subconscious through association is by adding scents to your little sleep ritual. Try using the same soap or burning special incense every night before turning in. Scents have a powerful connection to memory and aromatherapy will help you to relax.
5. Get bored
That's right, you heard me. Instead of spending the night browsing for items on Etsy or getting engrossed in a powerful detective thriller, read something dull and boring, like the manual for your new plasma TV. Or, if your will is stronger than mine, Moby Dick. The trick is to keep reading past the point of mere boredom until you sink into oblivion.
In other words, whatever makes you yawn, makes you sleep.
6. Take caffeine and nicotine out of the diet
These two not only can provoke insomnia, but also add to your anxiety.
7. Watch how alcohol affects you
When you suffer form a sleep disorder, you may be advised to decrease the intake of alcohol. For a non-drinker, however, even a small glass of wine can work as well as a magic potion that instantly puts you to sleep. Monitor your sleeping habits and how your daily activity affects them. It's possible that drinking late at night results in your inability to enjoy sleep.
8. Get up and do something
If you just can't seem to fall asleep, don't toss and turn or stare listlessly at the ceiling. Instead get up and do something relaxing (but not stimulating like browsing the web) until you start feeling sleepy.
9. Wake up at the usual hours (even if you didn't get enough sleep)
It may be difficult at first, but maintaining a healthy sleep-wake cycle is more important in the long run, as it helps to form the habit. So even if you're missing some precious hours of sleep, make an effort to get up at the usual time to stay in sync with the rhythm your body is used to.
10. Get a sleep journal
You had a horrible night of sleep but can't decide what caused it? Get a sleep diary to keep track of what you do and eat before calling it a night and how that affects your ability to rest. Perhaps finishing that burrito two hours before sleep was not a sound idea after all. Next time, when in doubt, consult your sleep journal.
So, those were the 10 Ways to Get Rid of Insomnia. Some of them old and tested, others new and unconventional. Try one, and maybe you'll save yourself the pain of having to hide those dark circles with even darker shades. You don't want your boss to think you're having too much fun, do you?
Thank God for Fridays.