32 Effective Strategies to Treat Insomnia

32 Effective Strategies to Treat Insomnia

32 Effective Strategies to Treat Insomnia

Image Credit: Alyssa L. Miller Via Flickr Commons

It’s estimated that 30-40% of American adults experience symptoms of insomnia each year. While the clinical definition is the inability to fall asleep, remain asleep, or get the amount of sleep needed to wake feeling rested, most insomniacs define it something more as follows:

Why is the alarm clock mocking me? Let’s see, if I get to sleep RIGHT now, I can still get 3 hours of sleep before work. Why am I not falling asleep? Would it help to count these ceiling tiles again? How much time is left now? Maybe if I don’t look at the clock I will be able to drift off…

Insomnia is frustrating. It is, in essence, the mind being so busy the body can’t properly shut down. Its symptoms include but are not limited to: difficulty falling asleep, frequent wake-ups during the night, waking up too early in the morning, daytime sleepiness, difficulty concentrating, and irritability.

Acute insomnia can last anywhere from one to several nights or chronic insomnia can plague a person for months or even years.

Insomnia is often a side-effect of another disease or condition, like depression, chronic pain, medications, or stress.

Most of the time insomnia is caused by a combination of medical and psychological issues along with scheduling issues, relationship conflicts, and behavioral factors.

Whatever the origin in your life, there is help available for immediate relief. We’ve compiled a list of 32 tested and true ways to help your mind let your body sleep.

1. Learn your pattern

Start by recording how much and when you sleep, as well as fatigue levels throughout the day, and other symptoms.

This helps in two ways. First it can help you identify things that help or hurt your chances of good sleep, and it also can be a useful tool for a doctor or therapist if ultimately you choose to seek one out. There are digital programs and apps that can help, such as Zeo, YawnLog, and others.

2. Therapy

Cognitive Behavioral Therapy for Insomnia (CBT-I) is a pretty common technique of therapy involving self-monitoring, positive mental thinking, and adjusting environment to be more conducive to sleep.

CBT-I techniques can be learned from a therapist or through books or online guidance for those not interested in seeing a therapist.

3. Set a routine

Seek out activities and things that help you wind down as bed time approaches. And stick to the same sleep schedule consistently, even on weekends.

4. Keep your bed a bed

Simply put, beds are made for sleep and sex. Using a bed as a home office or entertainment room only serves to disrupt the sleep pattern.

5. Choose the right bedding

Being comfortable in bed is essential to quality sleep and greatly increases the chances of satisfying sleep. Whether hard or soft, choose a bed that is comfortable and restful for you and your sleep needs.

6. Stop smoking

It’s a fact that smokers are more likely to suffer from symptoms of insomnia. One possible explanation is nicotine withdrawal in the body during the night.

7. Seek medical help

If nothing you have tried at this point has helped, speaking to a medical doctor can help. Doctors can help rule out other sleep disorders and point out if lifestyle or medications are factors in your troubled sleep.

8. Exercise early

Research has shown that moderate aerobics can help improve the quality of sleep for many insomniacs. Experts recommend working out at least three hours before bed to allow the body time to unwind before sleep.

9. Schedule time to worry

Journaling is one good method, but the key here is to take 15 minutes out of each day to address or vent about problems. This helps keep these thoughts from sneaking up into your brain as it should be going to sleep.

10. Limit caffeine intake

Especially on mornings that we’re dragging after a poor night of sleep, it can be an easy crutch to reach for caffeinated drinks. Unfortunately drinking caffeine can make sleeping at night much more difficult. If you can’t quit cold turkey, start by limiting your caffeine crutch to early in the day so that it is no longer affecting you by bed time.

11. Nap appropriately

Catching 10-20 minutes of sleep during the day can help with fatigue and is shown to boost creativity and memory. It’s important not to nap after 3:00 or 4:00 p.m. however, as late naps can interfere with being tired at the appropriate time.

12. Get out

Spending time outdoors during the day and higher levels of exposure to natural light are shown to promote a healthy balance of melatonin, which helps with getting to sleep at the end of the day.

13. Dietary help

Experts recommend a diet high in magnesium for sleep, such as almonds, cashews, spinach, and halibut. Other recommended foods are those high in vitamin B complex, such as leafy greens and legumes. Some researchers also suggest supplements of taurine, vitamin B6, and magnesium.

14. Relax

Meditation, yoga, deep breathing, and other relaxation strategies are all effective methods of improving sleep quality and quantity.

15. Avoid large meals before bed

Feasting on large quantities of food before your established bedtime has been linked to trouble falling asleep and staying asleep.

16. Dim lights before bed

According to a study, exposure to artificial light sources between dusk and bed time can negatively impact sleep quality. Rather than living in the dark for hours, however, try by dimming lights as bedtime nears. Another way to help this is to change light bulbs to “soft” or “warm” bulbs that have lower color temperatures and reduce the effects of artificial light on our nervous systems.

17. Turn off screen electronics

The artificial “blue” light that screen electronics put out simulates daytime hormones in our bodies and disrupts sleep patterns. Reduce the effects of this by switching off televisions, computers, and phones an hour before bedtime. If you can’t bear to not have the television on as you go to bed, dim the brightness of the screen.

18. Don’t drink right before bed

Alcohol may seem like a good idea to calm your brain and nerves before bed, but it actually can disrupt sleep cycles later in the night. Try to limit alcohol consumption to dinner time and skip the late nightcaps.

19. Mentally relax before bed

Avoid doing work, watching engaging television programs, reading complex material, or overthinking right before bed. Working the brain keeps the body awake as well.

20. Have sex or masturbate before sleep

This is actually studied and proven. Sexual congress before bed releases feel-good hormones and promotes healthy rest.

21. Environment

A cool, dimly lit or dark bedroom encourages restful sleep. For optimal sleep conditions, maintain a temperature between 60-75 degrees Fahrenheit and use your desired combination of heavy curtains, shades, or an eye mask to control light. This is especially useful for those of us who work odd hours. Also wherever possible, charge phones and computers outside the bedroom, as this blue light can disrupt sleep.

22. Consider supplements

Melatonin and valerian are two highly-recommended natural sleep supplements. Search the web for other recommended sleep aids and always follow instructions and precautions carefully!

23. Try to sleep only when tired

Going to bed when you should be sleeping but aren’t tired is a recipe for failure. Rather than lay awake, get up and engage in a relaxing activity like yoga or listening to soothing music until you feel the urge to sleep. If you’re not sleeping within a reasonable time, repeat process.

24. Minimize noise

If you have external noises that you can’t control, such as a busy street outside or a barking dog at the neighbor’s house, mask the sounds with a bedside fan, a white noise machine, or some other relaxing sound to help you sleep.

25. Vent stress

If your scheduled worry time wasn’t enough, make a little extra time before bed to write down some of your anxieties. If you write them in a journal or notebook, you can literally close the book on your worries before bed time.

26. Soothing tea

Studies have found that chamomile tea can reduce anxiety, getting people in a better mindset for sleep.

27. Take a hot bath or shower

Stepping from warm water into a cool bedroom will help drop the body temperature swiftly and slightly, which can slow metabolic activity and induce sleepy feelings.

28. Sip warm milk

Science doesn’t necessarily recognize a connection between warm milk and sleeping, but years of tradition equal wisdom in our book. Many people swear by warm milk to soothe and encourage sleepiness.

29. Leg exercise

Though exercise was specifically mentioned as something to avoid before bed, easy leg lifts, squats, or some other form of leg activity can help shift blood flow to the legs and away from the brain. In some this helps quiet the mind and ease the transition to sleep. I personally find a short walk with the dogs before bed helps us all prepare for bed time better.

30. Count sheep

Another tried and true, though not terribly scientific, focusing on something innate like counting sheep or simple breathing exercises are a great way to disengage a busy mind.

31. Visualize sleeping

One good relaxation method is to imagine being in a peaceful sleep while practicing deep breathing and muscle relaxation techniques. Simply start and one end of the body and work your way to the other, clenching and releasing muscle groups until your body feels more relaxed.

32. Accept insomnia

Don’t let your mind make mountains out of molehills with the internal mental struggle of insomnia. If you are able to accept trouble sleeping as simply that, you can focus your mind away from being awake and eventually find sleep. Don’t worry, the occasional night of disturbed sleep won’t likely lead to losing your job or the end of the world, but it can lead to enjoying a beautiful sunrise from time to time.

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