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9 simple tips to battle insomnia and get a good night's rest

Updated on July 18, 2010


My experience with Insomnia, and how I beat it

I've had more than my share of sleepless nights for various reasons - having been in the US Air Force for 21 years, I have dealt with jet noise, Alaskan summers, job stress, shift work, the discomfort of deployments, snoring roommates, etc... Here are my tips to help you get good a good night's rest.

The most important thing you need to do, is try to identify the reason you can't sleep. This will go a long way towards choosing a course of action.

Here are my tips

  1. Use your bed for sleeping, sex, and light reading only. Doing things in bed that stimulate your mind, like homework, watching movies, surfing the Internet, etc. will make it difficult to go to sleep. Why, because it sends mixed signals between your body and mind as to what you're supposed to be doing there. Sleeping...
  2. Get comfortable. Make your bed, bedroom, pajamas, pillow, everything, as comfortable as possible. Everyone is different in their preference of sheets, bed and pillow firmness, nightclothes, room temperature, etc... If you're not sure, then you should experiment. Here are a few variables you can play with. Sheets - flannel, satin, high thread count cotton, Egyptian. Pillows - Memory foam, feather, fiber, soft vs. firm, or more than one (I like one against my back). Mattress- sleep number, posturepedic, air, traditional, or a Tatami mat. I slept on one of these in Japan and it was very firm, but quite comfortable. Pajamas - there are lots of pajamas to choose from. Some prefer sweats and a t-shirt, but I personally go sans pajamas. That's right, sleep in the nude if that's what makes you comfy. And if some of you ladies feel you need to wear a bra to bed, consider something more comfortable like a sports bra. Temperature and humidity- use an air conditioner, heater, or open or close a window. Use a humidifier or dehumidifier to get the humidity level to your preference.
  3. Get out of bed. Yes, that's right. If you don't fall asleep in the first 20 minutes, get right out of bed. I've spend countless hours lying in bed trying to force myself to sleep, but it doesn't work. Get up and do something mundane for 15 minutes, like washing the dishes or dusting the furniture, then try again. At this point, your body and mind will have reset and your chance of falling asleep will be better.
  4. Cancel outside stimuli, or use white noise. If part of your problem is outside stimuli such as light or noise, then cancel it directly if you can. If not, then fight back. For outside light, use blackout curtains. If it's an unavoidable light from something like an alarm clock, get yourself a comfortable sleep mask. You can usually find them in the luggage or travel areas in stores. For outside noise like traffic or a snoring partner, soft foam ear plugs work best. The mask and plugs can take some getting used to, but worth it in the end. Another thing I have in my room is a small air purifier. The drone of the fan lulls me to sleep, and I'm sure cleaner air helps too. If chirping crickets or ocean waves work for you, buy a noisemaker or download an app for your IPod, Android, or Smartphone. They're available online for a couple bucks.
  5. Medication- There are many products and drugs out there that can help, but use them sparingly because over time, with excessive use, they could damage your liver. Also your body will build up a tolerance to them and they'll lose their effectiveness. Tylenol PM works great for me, but only if I have a pain. Otherwise it's plain Sominex or Unisom. For a more natural remedy, I'm trying melatonin and it seems to help. I understand it works with the way your brain makes you feel sleepy in the evening as light levels decrease. Might be perfect for shift workers. Read the dosage for melatonin carefully - they come in 3 mcg (micrograms, which is very little) up to 5 mg (milligrams, which is much more).
  6. Limit alcohol, tobacco, caffeine, exercise, and heavy/spicy food prior to sleep. I used to think a few drinks before bed helped me fall asleep, but the quality of sleep I got with alcohol in my system was VERY poor, so avoid it, as well as tobacco, caffeine, exercise and heavy snacking 4-6 hours before bed. These will stimulate your system and make it difficult to feel sleepy. If you need a snack, try warm milk with a piece of toast and a banana.
  7. Relax and reduce stress, depression and anxiety. I know. It's easy to say this, but tough to do, however, I learned a long time ago to leave my work problems at work, and my home problems at home, and it made both environments much better for me. In the same manner I learned to leave ALL of my problems out of the bedroom. You need to be relaxed to go to sleep, so work on this. And never argue with your partner before going to bed. It not only bad for sleep, but it's not good for your love life. Be nice...
  8. A numb brain is good, so count those sheep. An active mind is not conducive to sleep, so use whatever technique works to slow it down. Whatever boring tedious task you can set your mind doing will work. I personally say my prayers because they're boring. After 10 "Hail Mary's" I'm usually out like a light, plus I just might get a few bonus point with the big guy.
  9. If your insomnia is persistent, then seek professional help.  If these techniques don't help you, you need to make an appointment with your health care provider. There's no need to suffer and a doctor will be able to help you identify any underlying issues. Plus there are many prescription medications that may help, like Ambien or Lunesta.

I hope you found some of my tips useful, and if you have any of your own, please feel free to let me know in my comment section.


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    • SONNY SIROIS profile image

      SONNY SIROIS 7 years ago from Fort Fairfield, Maine

      Hi Mary. I'm so sorry to hear about your husband's condition - that must be difficult for both of you. Do you have spare room or a comfy couch? If you could, on occasion, get a good night's rest in your own private space, and I'm sure he would understand.

      Some people do well with naps during the day, though I've never had much luck with it. But try an hour a day in a darkened quiet room if you can manage it. Put it on your schedule and stick to it.

      Now as far as your kids go, that's just rude. I think you need to lay the law down with them with a few rules - bed at an appointed time of YOUR choosing EVERY SINGLE NIGHT, with no exceptions. And set a snack time 30 minutes before bed, and then do not allow anything after that point. It might be a difficult transition for them, but kids need structure even if they don't know it. And remind them that YOU are the Mom and they are the kids - the sooner they respect that, the better.

      And if nothing is working, talk to your family doctor about what is going on. Be very open and honest - she may be able give you some professional advice, or prescribe you a little help.

      Best of luck, and my fingers are crossed for you to get a good night's rest!


    • profile image

      mary 7 years ago

      my husband has painful neuropathy that keeps me awake past 2 am. I do not have a regular sleep cycle, I can't get up in the mornings. I don't feel normal anymore. I'm beginning to hate my spouse for his medical issues but most of all I feel helpless. I've done everything you suggested. My children stay up past 4 am and that's an additional nuisance because they are in and out of the refrigerator.

    • SONNY SIROIS profile image

      SONNY SIROIS 7 years ago from Fort Fairfield, Maine

      Thanks ListLady! I use lists for lots of things, especially household chores. Crossing them off when they're complete motivates me to get them done.

    • TheListLady profile image

      TheListLady 7 years ago from New York City

      I love a good list - and this is a good list. Thanks so much.

    • SONNY SIROIS profile image

      SONNY SIROIS 7 years ago from Fort Fairfield, Maine

      No problem - I'll bet we're not the only ones. :) Thanks for the comment!

    • profile image

      Jill72 7 years ago

      LOL! I thought I was the only one to say my prayers to fall asleep. I always feel guilty when I drift off in the middle of The Lord's Prayer. Thanks for some good advice Sonny.