Simple Techniques for Dealing With Insomnia
Insomnia is a major problem for a great many people; not being able to sleep at night can have a profound effect on our ability to function, our mood and our long term health.
Fortunately, there are a number of simple techniques that insomniacs can try in order to get a better night's sleep before we need to turn to sleeping medications. These techniques include things that you can do during the day, developing an effective evening routine, what to do if you can't sleep and tips to help you stay asleep. They include:
In the morning
- Set an alarm at the same time each morning
- Don't stay in bed or go back to sleep in the morning
- Schedule 'worry' or 'thinking' time during the day
- Increase your light exposure during the day
- Take regular exercise
In the evening
- Avoid caffeine after 6 PM
- Create a relaxing evening routine
- Avoid alcohol directly before bedtime
- Go to bed at the same time every day
- Go to bed and read
- Have a pen and paper next to the bed in case you wake up
If you wake up at night
- Try to get back to sleep
- Meditate and relax individual groups of muscles
- Try deep abdominal breathing
Techniques to use during the day
Set an alarm at the same time each morning - An important part of dealing with insomnia is training your body when to go to sleep and when to wake up. This means that you should set an alarm for around 8 hours after you go to bed. Set the alarm for the same time each day and get out of bed when it goes off, even if you are tired.
Don't stay in bed or go back to sleep in the morning - Even if you had a bad night's sleep, don't be tempted to stay in bed and go back to sleep. Taking naps during the day will significantly impact your ability to get to sleep at night and will impact on your sleeping schedule.
Schedule 'worry' or 'thinking' time during the day - This may sound a little unusual, but one of the most common causes of insomnia is anxiety and turning things over in your mind. Because of this, having time each day that you can think about and try to solve your problems can help your brain to relax at night.
Increase your light exposure during the day - Exposure to natural daylight helps to regulate your sleeping and waking cycles, so try to get outside for at least half an hour a day.
Take regular exercise - As well as being good for your general state of health, exercise is a great way to help your sleep problems. Try to take at least half an hour of moderate exercise a day.
Techniques to use in the evening
Avoid caffeine after 6 PM - Because caffeine is a stimulant, it can be difficult to sleep if you have too much in your system. Because of this, you should avoid any food or drink containing caffeine after 6 PM.
Create a relaxing evening routine - This means winding down properly before sleep. You might enjoy a cup of cocoa or hot chocolate, have a relaxing bath, spend time sitting quietly and generally being restful.
Avoid alcohol directly before bedtime - The quality of sleep that you have if you have been drinking alcohol is not as good as other types of sleep. Additionally, if you have to get up during the night to go to the toilet or because you are dehydrated, this can make it more difficult to get back to sleep.
Go to bed at the same time every day - It's very important to train your body and establish a rhythm for sleeping. Just like getting up at the same time each morning, it's important to go to bed at the same time each day. This will help your subconscious mind and your body to realize that it is time for sleep.
Go to bed and read - Reading can be a good way to calm the mind just before you sleep. Try to focus on books that are gentle and not too exciting!
Have a pen and paper next to the bed in case you wake up - If you wake up with thoughts during the night, having a pen and paper where you can capture them means that you won't have them going over and over in your head and hopefully will help you get back to sleep.
If you can't sleep or you wake up in the night
Try to get back to sleep - Don't assume that you are just going to stay awake, instead spend a few minutes trying to get back to sleep.
Meditate and relax individual groups of muscles - Slow down your breathing, clear your mind and focus on your breath. As you do so, tense and release individual groups of muscles in your body to help you relax.
Try deep abdominal breathing - Taking slow breaths down, deep into your abdomen can instill deep relaxation and help you get back to sleep.
If you can't sleep after a few minutes, get out of bed - staying in bed and not being able to sleep will just add to your frustration. If you can't sleep, don't watch the clock, get up and go somewhere and do something restful such as reading.
A word on medications
There are three main types of medications that you can try:
'Natural' supplements and medications - This includes medications such as melatonin or valerian. You would be well advised to read up on the effects of these medications before trying them, and if you do so, try a small dose first of all. You might also want to consult with your doctor.
Over the counter sleeping pills - These are medications available from your pharmacy without a prescription. These pills can be very effective for some people and not as good for others. Speak to your pharmacist about which ones might be best for you.
Prescribed sleeping pills - Drugs such as Zolpidem and Ambien will need to be prescribed by your doctor. If you are still having significant issues with sleeping despite trying all of these techniques, speak to your doctor about what solutions are available to you.
What is insomnia?
Do you have isuses with insomnia?
Whatever you try, these techniques will help to ensure that you get a restful, full night's sleep. Sleep well!