Insomnia is a problem that plagues people of all ages. I for one have had difficulty sleeping since I was young. The older I got, the less problems I’ve had. However, there are still nights when I just cannot fall asleep. Through the years I have picked up some tricks to aid in my insomnia. Here are a few tips for the person having trouble sleeping.
A common mistake people who suffer from insomnia make is insisting upon staying in bed even when they cannot fall asleep. The longest one should do this is roughly one hour. After that, continuing to lay down is just counterproductive. If you’ve found yourself in bed for a long period of time without falling asleep, try getting up and reading something that won’t keep you captivated. A good example would be a short magazine article or even a newspaper clipping. Don’t read something that will keep your attention, such as a novel. If reading doesn’t work, the television or radio is another option to consider. Just as with reading material, putting on a movie or show that will keep your attention is not the purpose here. Sometimes I’ll put ESPN on if it’s late at night, as they often show a replay of a game which I already know the conclusion to. I can keep the game on without wondering what happens, thus I don’t feel like I’m missing anything if I close my eyes. The point is to be doing something other than just being still.
Try to limit any activity two hours before heading to sleep. With the busy schedules of everyday life, this is easier said than done. However, for the person dealing with insomnia, relaxing before heading to bed may be a first step towards getting a good night’s rest. There are the obvious things, such as not exercising before trying to sleep. Don’t limit it to just that. Attempt to keep any strenuous activity to a minimum during the evening. If you’re the type of person who gets stressed playing a video game, leave the Playstation turned off at night. If there are chores to be done around the house, put them off until later. I often get caught up in an article I am writing, so I try not to start anything past ten o’clock at night. This gives me plenty of time to let go of whatever I was working on and let my mind move to unimportant matters, which leads me to my next point.
Insomnia and stress are often intertwined. Professionals often advise those who suffer from sleeplessness to either limit the amount of stress in their lives or to not concentrate on stress during the night. A very comforting thought, but this is easier said than done. It is important to make some “me” time so that any stress you are feeling can be dealt with. Try to do this before you attempt to sleep. If you’re feeling particularly stressed about something and you don’t feel comfortable speaking with somebody about it, write out your thoughts in a diary or journal. As best you can, do this at least an hour before you get into your pajamas. Doing this will ensure the stressful topic is not fresh in your mind before bedtime. In this journal, write out what it is causing you to be stressed. Follow that with a few ideas about what you can do to solve the problem. The next morning, read your ideas and see if they can be implemented.
It’s a cliché, but people truly are creatures of habit. Getting into a bedtime routine every night is a great way to fight insomnia. Granted, it will take awhile to work, but eventually your body will get used to the routine and begin to shut itself down at night. Make this routine as simple as possible so that you don’t have a lot to do before sleep. In my routine, I change into comfortable shorts and a shirt, use the bathroom, brush my teeth, turn the computer off, say my nightly prayer and then head into bed.
Of course there are the usual suspects when it comes to insomnia. Don’t drink caffeine before trying to sleep. Don’t eat a large meal right before bedtime. As odd as it may sound, limit alcohol consumption. Alcohol may put you out but it will not let your body fall into the sleep that it requires. Put the cigarettes away at least an hour before trying to sleep. Nicotine increases your heartbeat and thus can keep you awake.
As with anything, curing insomnia may not be as simple as utilizing a few tips. If none of the above suggestions help, a sleep aid may be useful. An over the counter product can be habit forming, so use these in moderation. If the problem persists and nothing works, seeing a doctor is always an option to be considered. Hopefully, your insomnia won’t be this drastic and the tips I’ve offered will be a first step to helping improve your sleeping patterns.