Are you having trouble getting a good night’s sleep? You’re not alone. Insomnia affects around 30%-35% of the population in the short term, while an unlucky 10% suffer from it chronically.
Getting little sleep at the best of times is no fun, and when it occurs frequently, it can soon impact your physical and mental health. Sleep is a necessity just as vital as drinking and eating, so you should always ensure you’re able to get a good night’s rest whenever you’re able.
While it may seem like a monumental struggle, there are ways to help induce a natural sleeping state with some preparation beforehand. Note that none of these are guaranteed. Each person responds differently. But with so much of your time spent sleeping (or trying to sleep) and so much riding on it, the investment is well-worth the effort.
Avoid Chemicals, Where Possible
While some products advertise themselves as being a way to help ease someone into natural sleep, the fact remains that many may change the body’s natural circadian rhythm, which can cause more disruption to your sleeping patterns further down the line. Some may not even help you sleep at all, but rather knock you unconscious with no crucial REM stage – the critical stage where you dream – robbing you of the benefits of a night’s rest.
The latter is especially true if you try to drink yourself to sleep. You should not make yourself dependent on alcohol to get a good night’s rest, and the results of drinking into the night will figuratively hit you over the head in the morning. A hangover is nobody’s friend, and any sleep you get will hardly be refreshing.
In general, you should try to avoid chemical products for insomnia if you can help it but if all else fails, get a recommendation from your doctor before you seek a pharmaceutical option. They can help you find a suitable solution.
Develop a Consistent Sleeping Routine
Avoid going to bed at irregular hours. Set a bedtime for yourself and always try to meet it. This will get your body used to resting at that time, and encourage it to be more open to sleep when it comes. Keep your bedtime practical for your lifestyle. If you work third shift, take that into account.
Avoid sleeping in, as well. Keep your sleep pattern measured and consistent. Go to bed at a specific time, wake up at a specific time. This will get your body used to the pattern, and leave you feeling less groggy and dissatisfied in the morning. It will also make sure you don’t wake up at odd hours, potentially disrupting your routine outside of sleep.
Napping is actually very healthy, and can improve your physical and mental health substantially.
But just like your bedtimes, it needs to be consistent. Set specific times and avoid napping in the hours before you’re to go to bed. If you suffer from extreme insomnia, you may want to avoid naps altogether.
Learn to fight off after-dinner drowsiness too. Your body will often feel tired when digesting a meal, but that’s actually the time to force yourself to be active. Don’t ruin your body’s cycles with unscheduled shut-eye. In general, you want to give your body time between your last big meal and going to bed.
Be Active before Going to Bed
As well as keeping you physically fit and active, doing some light, gentle exercise before you sleep can be a good way to wind the body down before you hit the sack. Avoid anything too rigorous, such as jogging or weight-lifting, as this will have the opposite effect and pump you full of sleep-robbing adrenaline. Instead, opt for tai chi or yoga, as these are more constructive towards getting some sleep.
Avoid Bright Screens
For two hours before turning in, avoid bright screens from your PC or TV. The images overstimulate your brain, and you may find that your thoughts are too unsettled for you to drift off. Using smaller, dimmer screens can help mitigate this effect.
For the same reason, when insomnia strikes, never try to kill time by watching TV or playing a computer game. Instead, consider reading a (non-electric) book or listening to soothing music. If you need to get up during the night, keep the lights dimmed. This will keep them from tricking your body into thinking it’s time to wake up.
One major cause of insomnia is stress. As you may expect, you can’t relax when you’re anxious or wound up about something. Should you lead a fretful, anxiety-inducing lifestyle, take steps to calm down and unleash steam in the hours before bedtime. Do something you enjoy that relaxes you. Meditate. Talk to a loved one. Light some candles, burn a stick of incense, and treat yourself to a hot bubble bath. Perhaps you could start a journal to organize your thoughts.
Think of your Mattress
All these can help you destress, combat insomnia, and help you get a better night’s sleep, but don’t forget about your bedding. Sometimes we overlook what we’re sleeping on just as much as we do the habits that help us sleep well. With so much time spend on your mattress, it’s worth asking yourself if that isn’t part of your sleep issues. The benefits of modern materials now available may surprise you. A newer foam mattress, like the gel-infused Lull Mattress, will certainly fit your body better than something old and lumpy, whether it’s otherwise showing it’s age or not.
Christian Mills is a freelance writer and family man who enjoys writing on topics ranging from history and culture, to the challenges of parenthood and life in the home.