For something that should come so naturally,the simple act of sleeping well, it turns out, is pretty hard for some of us. On any given night, more than a handful of our Facebook friends shall document their monumental struggles with insomnia. But how does it get this way? I mean as babies, sleeping is the one thing we know how to do so expertly. Oh and crying. And pooping… Where was I headed with this again? Oh right, sleeping.
Somewhere in our quest to enjoy life, many of us lose the ability to enjoy a restful sleep. Why is this so? I will explore it a bit. Before we do that however, let’s explore why we want to even improve our sleep in the first place. After all those 9 hours spent in a semi-comatose state can be spent doing much more important and productive things like finding the solution to world peace or catching the new pokemons. Any layman will tell you how a good night’s sleep improve’s one’s outlook on life as well as productivity. The latest research backs this ancient wisdom. Better sleep has been proven to correlate with lower stress, better overall health and better results at work as well as retaining new information.
So what are the things you can do to handle recurrent insomnia before you need to see a specialist sleep doctor? Some of these are so obvious that if you haven’t tried them yet you will kick yourself after reading through. Others are a bit out there so please check out to the end.
Make yourself as tired as possible physically
Incorporate as much physical activity as you can into your daily routine. If you can exercise more, the better. The body naturally craves more sleep as it is put through tiring activities. As a bonus you will generally become healthier, both as a result of the enhanced sleep and as a benefit of the exercise.
Reduce destructive eating habits
Avoid very heavy meals close to your bedtime. Turns out this is another bit of ancient wisdom that modern science backs. Reminds me of the saying, eat like a prince in the morning, a king at midday and a pauper at night. That way your body isn’t stressed out digesting a heavy meal to the point it makes you too uncomfortable to sleep. In addition, you want to avoid drinking caffeine or alcohol too close to bed time.
Stick to a regular sleep schedule
Messing with the body’s natural sleep-wake cycle (circadian rhythm), can and usually leads to insomnia. So in such cases you need your body to get back into its natural rhythm. You should set a sleep time and stick to it even if you’re not sleepy. Your bedtime should find you in bed, practicing various relaxation techniques to try and get yourself to sleep. These include deep breathing. progressive muscle relaxation and clearing your mind of all thoughts.
Control your exposure to light close to your bedtime
Human being have evolved to associate bright lights with daytime and thus time to be active and forage for our daily fruit. As such trying to sleep in well lit spaces or watching bright screens just before sleeping interferes with our sleep cycle. Of course there are people who can sleep through the brightest midday sunlight, but I highly suspect those kind of people wouldn’t need to read an article on bettering their sleep. So yes, put away the mobile phone you’re reading this on and get to sleep already.
Make your bedroom environment more conducive to sleep
As a continuation of the above point, all the light emitting items in your bedroom must be off. Try and make your room as dark as comfortable for you to sleep. If you need a nightlight, ensure it’s dimmable or as dim as possible. In addition to lights, you need to keep distracting sounds and noises at bay. Of course it may not be possible to keep out loud noises such as sirens but try and reduce whatever you can as much as possible.
Try and keep the worries away
Worrying at bedtime is a major cause of insomnia. Whether it’s as serious as financial trouble or as minor as thinking of imaginary comebacks to hypothetical arguments, many of us face drifting minds right when we’re trying to get to sleep. As you struggle to sleep, the first step is clearing our minds. If you MUST think of something at that time, try and envision a nice quiet place. Sleep should promptly follow
Limit daytime naps
Daytime naps are disruptive on our circadian rhythm. They take away from the sleep you could have at night while not being restful enough on their own. If must absolutely have a daytime nap, make it not longer than 30 minutes long. In fact such short naps have been known to be very rejuvenating and refreshing as opposed to longer naps which leave you feeling groggy.
Of course you could always read a long, boring article like this one to get you to sleep. If however you’re still not sleepy after all these changes, it may be time to break out the sleeping pills and planning to see a doctor about your condition. Sweet dreams my pretties.