A Familiar Situation: You keep changing your position, trying to get comfortable. Blanket on, blanket off, too hot now too cold. Finally you fall asleep only to wake up at 2am for no apparent reason. More tossing and turning… eventually you dose off only to re-awaken at 5am… You are exhausted and cannot believe that you need to get up in just another hour. Life sucks!
What is Insomnia?
Insomnia is the inability to fall asleep, stay asleep or the habit of waking up too early and not feeling rested. It is exceptionally common in our fast paced lives.
Insomnia can be short term which means that it does not last more than one month and it situational in nature. For example, you are an accountant, and working crazy hours during tax filing season – your brain does not seem to shut off at night and you just can’t sleep.
Long term insomnia lasts more than one month and tends to be linked with a physical or mental heath concern. This type of insomnia has you feeling exhausted and in a mental fog a lot of the time – you feel that it is difficult to focus and your motivation is low.
Simple Causes of Insomnia
- Not having a sleep and wakeup routine
- Drinking too much tea or coffee during the day and especially after 4pm
- Taking naps during the day that exceed 20 minutes in length
- Watching TV or doing some work on your computer before bed
- Using your bedroom as a workspace during the day
- Ongoing worries about work, your personal life and your health
10 Tips for getting better sleep and improving insomnia symptoms
1. Your Bed Is For Sleep ONLY!
Use your bed only for sleeping. Do not read, eat or work on your bed. What you want is to program your mind to think of your bed only as it place where sleeping occurs.
2. Go to sleep at the same time every night
The brain loves predictability and will start to gear down naturally before your bedtime if it can predict when exactly that is. Try and get to bed every night within a flexible 30 minute window.
3. Start turning down the lights
About one hour before bed, start reducing your exposure to artificial light from the TV, computer or lamps. This starts to prime the mind for sleep readiness.
4. Understand your sensitivity to caffeine and other stimulants
If your system is sensitive to stimulants – make sure you stop using them early in your day so that do not keep you up at night
5. Avoid working out before bed
Exercise can have the effect of making you feel revved up and ready to go. Do your best to exercise in the morning – it will set you up for productivity throughout your day.
6. Avoid drinking water right before bedtime
If you wake up at night to pee – more your last glass of water to 7pm and hydrate very well during the day
7. No naps and get up early
Many people take a nap with the intention of getting up after 20 minutes but then end up sleeping for hours instead. Instead, get in the habit of waking up early so that your body asks for sleep by 10:30pm.
8. Do not fall asleep with the TV on
You may not realize it but your subconscious brain can hear noise all the time and full rest cannot be achieved with sounds or lights in the background.
9. Ditch your electronics
Research studies show without doubt that using your devices less than 2 hours before sleep can cause sleep disturbance. A great strategy is to stop using your device 2 hours before bed and park it for charging across the room so that you cannot simply reach for it if you wake up through the night. This suggestion is very difficult for many but if done for a few days – will become easier
10. Stop stressing about your sleep
The human brain focusses on outcomes and makes them happen. If you are dreading a restless night – you will produce one. Instead – take some deep breaths and visualize feeling rested and refreshed the next morning when you wake up.
Bottom Line: Short term, non medical, insomnia can be cured by following the suggestions above. For most people suffering with this type of insomnia the questions becomes do you want to solve this problem? The reality is that you are going to have to buckle down and put the above strategies into practice. Sleep well!