Occasional insomnia happens to everyone and usually goes away on its own. For those who suffer from chronic insomnia, however, it may not be so easy to get a restful night’s sleep. Here are six tips for easing the effects of insomnia and getting more peaceful rest.
1. Cut Back on Alcohol, Nicotine, and Caffeine
Alcohol can make you feel sleepy at first, but the effect quickly wears off. To help you stay asleep, avoid drinking alcohol right before bedtime.
Nicotine acts as a stimulant, so using nicotine products close to bedtime may contribute to keeping you awake. Smokers tend to fall asleep more slowly than non-smokers and generally wake up more times during the night than non-smokers as well.
Drinks with caffeine (including tea, coffee, colas, and energy drinks) can interfere with your sleep pattern. Not only do they keep you from falling asleep, but they lessen the quality of your sleep if you do happen to fall asleep. Avoid caffeine drinks for several hours before going to bed.
2. Don’t Lie Awake Worrying
Lying in bed thinking about falling asleep and worrying about falling asleep won’t help you fall asleep faster. In fact, it can cause your brain to associate your bed with being awake.
If you’ve been lying in bed awake for at least 20 minutes, get up and do something relaxing, such as a breathing exercise, a relaxation exercise, reading a book, or listening to some soft, calming music.
3. Get Regular Exercise
Exercise too close to bedtime can actually keep you awake. Plan to get moderate exercise all or most days of the week well before your bedtime. Regular exercise helps you relieve stress, and stress contributes to insomnia.
4. Give Yourself Down Time Before Going to Bed
The National Sleep Foundation recommends having at least 30 minutes of relaxation time before going to bed each night. During this time, do something that doesn’t involve an electronic device, such as reading a book or meditating. The light from these electronic devices signals the body that it’s daytime and tells your brain to be alert. One hour prior to going to bed, dim the lights in your house to help prepare your mind and body for the nighttime routine.
5. Go to Bed at the Same Time Every Night
Having a regular sleep-wake schedule, even on weekends, helps train your brain to know when it’s time to be alert and when it’s time to start feeling sleepy. Go to bed at the same time each night (as often as you reasonably can) and wake up at the same time each morning. Even if you have a hard time falling asleep at first, or if you wake up in the morning still feeling sleepy, try to get your body and brain on a regular schedule. Try to set your bedtime for when you’ll naturally begin to feel sleepy.
6. Use Journaling to Set Aside Anxieties
Instead of lying in bed thinking about the things that concern you, write them down. The simple act of writing your worries in a journal can help you mentally set them aside so that when you’re ready to go to bed, your mind has moved on to something else.
If you suffer from chronic insomnia, it affects your day-to-day routine, and these common methods for falling asleep don’t seem to work, consult your health care provider. In some cases, insomnia can be a sign of a related health condition. Health care providers can recommend additional tips to help you sleep, which may include prescription or non-prescription medications.