This article is written by a guest author: Kiley Morrow
Insomnia is, in its lightest form, irritating. But for a person who has chronic insomnia, the results can be downright debilitating.
If you have chronic insomnia, and it is affecting how you function throughout the day, consult with your physician. You may need to undergo a sleep study to get to the root of your sleep problem.
But if you have occasional insomnia, it may be caused by something you are or are not doing before climbing into bed. Try these tactics to see if you can get a better night’s rest.
1. Examine your mattress. How old is your mattress? Does it feel comfortable, or do you wake up with neck, back, or leg pain? Does it sag in the middle? Is it too soft or too firm? One of the easiest fixes for insomnia is to pick the best mattress for you .
Picking a good mattress is both an art and a science. Of course, you have personal preferences on how the bed should feel, but an industry expert can also help you pick the right mattress based on your body type and your sleep style.
2. Keep your phone, computer, and TV out of the bedroom. If you periodically have insomnia , grabbing your phone and scrolling through Facebook in the middle of the night is not the right way to combat it.
Your mom has been telling you that watching too much TV is bad for you since you were six, but why does it affect your ability to fall asleep? There seem to be several reasons why. Whether the real reason is because of the blue ultraviolet light that is emitted from the screen, or it’s because watching TV in bed puts your head and neck in an uncomfortable position is up for debate. Let’s not also discount the idea that watching news shows in the middle of the night may not be the most calming, relaxing experience in the world.
3. Check the side effects of your medications. Your allergy pill may keep you from having itchy eyes and a runny nose, but it may also keep you from sleeping. Even if your husband takes the same allergy medication as you and suffers no side effects, your body may react differently to the drug. Talk with your doctor or pharmacist about switching medications if you think that your sleep is being affected by the medicines you are taking.
4. Get plenty of exercise throughout the day. If you have a job that requires you to sit behind a computer all day, you may not be getting enough physical activity. Your body needs to move, and the more physically exhausted you are at night, the better you will sleep.
Some experts claim that the exercise should not be too close to bedtime. You might need to play with your exercise schedule to determine when is the opportune time for you to run, bike, or swim.
5. Try relaxation strategies. Whether you are struggling to survive during a pandemic, or you are worried about the number of items on your to-do list, you may not be sleeping well because you are too tense. Practice relaxation strategies, such as meditation , breathing exercises, and muscle relaxation , to get your mind ready to fall asleep and stay asleep.
6. Try to control your sleep schedule. Insomnia is sometimes a vicious cycle. You can’t sleep at night, so you take a nap during the day. When you go to bed the following night, you may not feel as tired, so you don’t stay asleep all night. The next day, you find yourself dragging in the afternoon and in need of a nap.
Instead of continuing this vicious cycle, force yourself to be awake until it is time to go to sleep.
7. Consider the lighting in your bedroom. Our bodies are designed to stay awake during daylight hours and to sleep at night. If you are struggling to sleep through the night, you may try light therapy . If a street light shines into your bedroom window at night, you may consider investing in room darkening curtains to create a pitch-dark environment in which to sleep.
8. Consider your eating schedule. Some people report not being able to sleep well if they eat too late in the evening. This may or may not affect you, but if you have insomnia, you may want to try to alter your eating schedule.
Try to eat earlier in the evening, especially if you are going to partake in a rather heavy meal.
9. Limit the amount of caffeine and alcohol you consume. Of course, you know that consuming caffeine can affect how awake you feel throughout the day. If you are struggling to sleep, it could be that you drank too much iced tea or Diet Coke throughout the afternoon and evening.
Even if a glass of wine seems to make you sleepy, drinking it can alter how well you sleep at night. Drinking alcohol may cause you to wake up in the middle of the night and may affect your REM sleep.
Drinking too much of anything before bed may affect your sleep because it may cause you to run to the bathroom several times throughout the night.
10. Limit external stress before sleep. Do you find that sometimes after a long day at work, you find yourself continuously scrolling through your Slack messages with co-workers, looking for any updates from work, etc. late at night? Sometimes, the stress of working all day, especially during stressful times can take a toll on us. We find ourselves feeling stuck in those hard moments because it feels so intense.
Maybe, create a schedule for yourself to establish limits of when and when you shouldn’t be focusing on work. It can also give you ample time to relax before bed and create that relaxing headspace for yourself.
The tricky part of dealing with insomnia is that while one of these suggestions may affect how you sleep, they may not affect another person. You may also be able to go years of drinking caffeine without ill effect, but then find that as you age, your body reacts differently to the stimulant.
Finding the right formula for you to get the best sleep will take trial and error. In the meantime, make good choices throughout the day and evening, and try to maintain a positive attitude.