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Insomnia: Ten Tips on How to Sleep Better

Updated on January 16, 2012

Insomnia: A common sleep disorder

Insomnia is a sleep disorder that affects as many as 50 million people in North America. Insomnia typically refers to difficulty or an inability to fall asleep or stay asleep. The insomnia referred to in this article is the typical insomnia sleep disorder most people have had experience with. It is also referred to as primary insomnia. There is no psychological, medical, or environmental cause primary insomnia. Other types of insomnia (not primary) do occur as a result of (or in concordance with) psychological disorders, physiological problems or environmental causes. These sleep disorders are more complicated than simply being the inability to sleep or return to sleep because other factors are involved.

Trouble sleeping and sleep deprivation

Most individuals who suffer intermittent bouts of insomnia have difficulty getting to sleep or struggle with getting back to sleep in the middle of the night. Many people describe their battles with this sleep disorder as being very frustrating as they lie awake in vain trying to get back to sleep while their mind is racing. The more they try to sleep, the worse it seems to get. Most people have experienced this on occasion. If it lasts more than a week it is the transient type most people experience. It is still a serious problem as trouble sleeping and sleep deprivation can make daily functioning very difficult. Some people experience insomnia that can last up to a month and even longer. These types of insomnia are also beyond the scope of this hubpage. If you have a more severe form of insomnia consult a sleep disorder specialist.

Helping sleep disorder sufferers

I have had experience over the years helping children who suffered from various sleep problems and sleep disorders. It is important for all of to find ways to get a more regular and restful sleep. Some of these approaches work equally for adults. Before consulting a medical or mental health professional that specializes in sleep disorders it might be worthwhile to maybe try a few of these tips first. Take a look at the following tips and see if they can help with any sleep problems you might be having.

Sleep Tips

SleepTips #1. Diet. One of the culprits that affect good sleep is diet. Primary insomnia may be the product of a diet high in stimulants or tyramine. It is no surprise that a sleep disorder like primary insomnia would be more and more common as high stimulant energy drinks, designer coffees, and soft drinks become part of the typical diet of many adults. Caffeine ingested in the evening often makes getting to sleep and staying asleep difficult.

Tyramine is an amino acid that causes the body to produce norepinephrine, a chemical that interferes with sleep functioning. Tyramine can be found in certain meat products like bacon, ham, hot dogs, bologna, sausages, and processed nuggets. It can also be found in aged cheeses, soya based products and chocolate as well as in produce like spinach, avocados, raisins, tomatoes, eggplant and potatoes. These foods should be avoided in the evening when someone often suffers from a sleep disorder like insomnia. Foods that are difficult to digest, like rich sauces, should also be eaten earlier in the day.

Sleep Tips #2. Regularity. Related to tip two is the importance of getting fiber in ones diet and having regular bowel movements. It is hard to sleep well when we haven’t evacuated or bowels prior to sleep. It may be a subject many of us would prefer not to discuss but a sleep disorder like insomnia can be exacerbated by constipation.

Sleep Tips #3. Bed Time Routine. Preparing for bed in a regular and routine way can help us combat a sleep disorder like insomnia. Many people live busy lives and often have hectic schedules. As a result rituals and routines often go by the wayside. When our pre-sleep routine is predictable and routine our mind and body are better prepared for sleep. It’s often not as simple as just laying our head on a pillow and going to sleep. If a sleep disorder like primary insomnia is occurring it can also help to take a bath prior to going to sleep as this tends to physically relax us. The bed time routine should include regular patterns like brushing and flossing our teeth, combing hair, washing our face etc.

Sleep Tips #4 Less Stimulation. Prior to bed time try to wind sown slowly by removing unnecessary stimulation in our environment. This means dimming the lights turning off the TV, not staring at a computer screen, and maybe replacing it with soft relaxing music as we get ready for bed. Sleep disorders like insomnia are more likely to occur when we are over stimulated. It is common for many adults not to think about the level of stimulation in our lives. Sleep deprivation is often associated with overstimulation.

Sleep tip #5 Rituals. If your experiencing sleep deprivation from a sleep disorder like insomnia it can be helpful to add some other bed time rituals. One ritual that can help is to spend a moment being grateful. You don’t have to be religious to do it either. What this does is direct your mind in the direction of appreciation and filling up emotionally on what you have. Being grateful or thankful prior to sleep is an excellent way to create a sense of well being that aids in sleep. Everyone has something to be grateful for. Maybe children, friends, family, a job, your health, your pet. There is always something to be thankful for.

Sleep Tips #6 Back Up. Your mind is racing and you are always thinking about what you need to do tomorrow. Take the time to refocus and recalibrate your mind by remembering your day in reverse. Try to do this slowly and deliberately and in great detail. Most people are amazed by how much they have actually done. You can remember pulling up the covers, getting out of bed, walking to the bed from the bathroom, putting the towel back, washing your face etc.etc. The more details you can include the better. Again this helps fill us up and prepare us for sleep. When I do this I rarely complete it before I am asleep. Tomorrow morning we can go back to planning our day. Bed time is for sleep.

Sleep Tips #7 Breathe. Small children and pets are often put to sleep by the sound of their parents breathing. A relaxed lingering inhale followed by slightly faster whooshing exhale is a pattern that tends to bring on sleep. Try to focus on the sound and pattern of the breathing. Thoughts may fleetingly enter your mind but do your best to stay in the moment with your breathing.

Sleep Tips #8 Muscle Relaxation. Your body may also feel a little tense and wound up. Tensing and relaxing different muscle groups in our body while focusing on our breathing can also help further relax us. Try to start with the feet and work your way upwards. A sleep disorder like insomnia is less likely to occur when there is less tension in our body. If you can work out or exercise earlier in the day, this can also help.

Sleep Tips #9 Slow Down. You still have trouble controlling all of the thoughts and ideas racing through your mind. The more you try to sleep the more these thoughts keep coming. One thing you can learn to do is manipulate the images and self talk in your head. Try running everything in slow motion. If you have to have an inner dialogue, do it very slooowwwllyyyy. Think of the scene on taxi where Jim asks what does a yellow light mean ? If you are unfamiliar with the reference check out the video. If you’re also very visual you can slow down the images in your mind and/or make them fuzzy and blurry or even have them fade out slowly.

Sleep Tips #10 Bedtime Stories? If you have a partner beside you in bed try having them read to you. The sound of someone reading (even better if they are monotone) can often help us to go to sleep. It can take the attention of the self-talk inside our own mind and can help soothe and relax us. You could also try a book on cd or mp3 with a narrator who has a calming voice. Make sure it is a more peaceful relaxed type of story though as a thriller might have the reverse effect.

A few other suggestions.

Some or all of these tips may help you get to sleep better and sleep more soundly. If you are still having trouble with insomnia, contact your physician or a sleep disorder specialist. In some instances, it could actually be your bed but I think the mattress or pillow. Clean bedding and making sure there are no dust mites also helps.


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