I’ve tried sleeping on my back, on my side, counting sheep, and reading the dictionary. But nothing seems to be working. I just can’t fall asleep and I’ve been in bed since midnight. I check my phone again. It’s 4am. Urgh. Tomorrow’s going to be a loooong day. Thank you, insomnia.
Sounds familiar? Insomnia hits all of us at some point or another. There are many causes behind it. Maybe it’s stress. Maybe we’ve just switched jobs and our routine is all muddled up. Or maybe we’re just not adopting the right habits for a good night’s sleep.
Prolonged sleep deprivation can lead to high blood pressure, heart attacks, strokes, obesity, and other illnesses. Heck, even losing sleep for a night or two can make you less alert and reduce your ability to think clearly. Impaired cognitive abilities can cause anything from fights with your loved ones to severe traffic accidents.
Losing sleep is frustrating. Nobody wants to spend long hours at night counting sheep.
So here’s a few things you can try to battle the beast that is insomnia:
1. Cut out the caffeine
Many people think that it’s okay to have a cup of coffee in the afternoon. What they don’t realise is that the effects of caffeine can last up to 20 hours and screws up your sleep patterns. Experts recommend your last dose of caffeine before noon or better still, completely cut out from your diet. Keep in mind that caffeine can also be found in black tea, green tea, cocoa, chocolate, some soft drinks, and many over-the-counter pharmaceuticals. It’s a good idea to check through your daily intake to see how much caffeine you’re actually consuming (400mg is the recommended dosage for a regular adult).
2. Dim the lights
Darkness increases natural melatonin production which helps put you to sleep. Turn off the lights and draw the curtains to create a sleep conducive environment. Keep your smartphones faced down and computers out of the room so there aren’t any distracting lights.
3. Have a pre-bedtime snack
Munch on a slice of wholegrain bread or some crackers an hour before bedtime for an easy ride into snoozeland. Eating carbohydrates causes stimulation of a neurotransmitter called serotonin that is able to reduce anxiety and promote sleep. That’s why foods served in the plane contain high levels of carbohydrates to ensure the comfort of passengers. If carbs are not your thing, try foods high in melatonin – a sleep hormone. These include tomatoes, oranges, apples, bananas, and more.
4. Get naughty before bed
You’ve probably seen movie plots revolved around people falling asleep right after sex. This familiar storyline is actually backed by science. When you orgasm, your body releases a hormone called prolactin, which makes you feel relaxed and sleepy. Besides being fun, masturbation and sex both work to help you snooze.
5. Don’t bring stress to bed
Insomnia can often be triggered by psychological stress. Deal with your daily stress through muscle relaxation and breathing exercises. Here’s a 15-minute muscle relaxation tutorial to help you out.
6. Take a bath
Epsom salt (also known as magnesium sulfate) is a dissolvable granule form of the mineral magnesium. Soaking in magnesium sulfate-enriched water will up your magnesium levels. This helps to relax your body and mind. Make it a habit to take a hot 15 to 20-minute Epsom salt bath before heading to bed to relax your muscles and mind. (You can purchase Epsom salt in most supermarkets as well as pharmacies).
7. Stop smoking
If there aren’t already enough reasons to quit, here’s one more. Health statistics show that smokers have higher risk of contracting insomnia than non-smokers. This is due to the nicotine in the cigarettes which is a stimulant that contributes to insomnia. Stay away from those ciggies if you want a good sleep.
8. Use your bedroom only for sleep and sex
Using your bed as a second office isn’t going to bode well for your circadian rhythm. If you’re always on your laptop, tablet, or phone while in bed, your brain will start associating your bedroom with activating stimuli. So instead of triggering sleep, it will bring about alertness and activation. Experts deem these electronic gadgets sleep thieves. To fall asleep better, you should silence your phone and leave the tablet and lappie out of the bedroom.
9. Get a better mattress
Various studies have shown the vital role a good mattress plays in your snooze time. Even small differences in mattress support correlate to the changes in your sleep pattern. You might not feel like it’s justified to splurge on a good mattress. In this case however, the benefits far outweigh the cost since you spend a third of your life in bed.
10. Find a pre-sleep ritual that suits you
Reading a chapter of a book or sipping on camomile tea, a bedtime ritual will help you catch up on the zzzs. Your body needs to be relaxed and prepped for sleep, so the daily activities that you follow before you fall into bed will help point your brain in the right direction.
11. Sniff on lavender
Lavender, besides being a pretty plant, helps to slow down your heart rate and blood pressure while relaxing you. It’s also known to help with sleep, with studies showing that subjects breathing in lavender before bed slept better, and deeper. There are various ways to incorporate lavender into your sleep routine. You can put a few drops of lavender essential oil into your bath before bed, sprinkle it on your pillow, or have it on a scent burner in the bedroom.
12. Establish a regular sleep-wake cycle
Your body thrives on routine. If you go to bed and wake up the same time everyday, your body remembers the rhythm and follows it. However if you’re constantly changing your routine, you’re making it hard for your body to understand when to sleep. Try sticking to a regular bedtime and wake time and your body will follow the rhythm.