Problems with sleep or insomnia can negatively impact our well-being including our emotions, thoughts, behaviors and body sensations. Insomnia can cause the following difficulties:
- Unstable Emotions: Irritability, grumpiness, numbness, sadness, anxiousness.
- Unfocused Thoughts: Difficult concentrating (including thinking clearly or make decisions the next day).
- Changed Behaviors: Avoid your usual activities when you are experiencing sleep problems.
- Body sensations: Tired, drowsy or worn out.
Tips for Getting a Good Night’s Sleep
To improve your ability to sleep and reduce insomnia, aim to increase the behaviors that improve sleep while and reduce the behaviors that interfere with sleep. Start with small changes in your everyday behaviors that impact how fast you fall asleep and whether you stay asleep. Follow the tips below for success:
Tip #1 Avoid caffeine close to bedtime
Too much caffeine close to bedtime creates difficulty sleeping. This is especially true as you get older.
Some caffeine examples to exclude are coffee, tea, soft drinks and chocolate. Some medications for colds, allergies, pain relief and appetite suppression also contain caffeine so be sure to avoid them before bed.
Tip #2 Avoid alcohol close to bedtime
Drinking alcohol before bedtime can disrupt sleep and also cause breathing problems and jerky arms and legs. People with alcohol problems often have chronic sleep problems.
Tip #3 Unwind
Stress greatly impacts on sleep, so it’s important to take time to relax before bed. Read a good book, do crosswords or Sudoku, take a bath or shower, listen to calming music or try a relaxation exercise. Screen time is stimulating and the blue light from devices can affect sleep, so it’s best to avoid watching TV, going online or using other electronic devices at least 30 minutes before bed.
Tip #4 Exercise a few hours before bedtime
Research shows that people who exercise regularly (30 to 60 minutes, three times a week) have deeper sleep. Exercising gives you a boost of energy, so aim to exercise four to eight hours before bedtime.
Tip #5 Follow the same routine
Keeping a consistent schedule helps your body get into a routine. Try to keep the same sleep/wake schedule every day since people who get up and go to bed at different times each day are more likely to have sleep problems.
Tip #6 Avoid naps if you experience sleep problems
Naps interrupt sleep at night. If you take a nap aim for around 30 minutes at most to minimize negative impacts on your sleep patterns. Needing naps daily and or frequently may indicate a potential sleep disorder which should be discussed with your primary care doctor.
Tip #7 Avoid going to bed too hungry or too full
Avoid eating large meals two hours before bedtime. If you’re hungry, eat a light, healthy snack just before going to bed. Examples are bananas, cherries, oatmeal, sweet potatoes- all of which help to create melatonin which stimulates the body’s interest in sleeping.
Aim for eating healthy meals and snacks at regular times throughout the day for a good night’s sleep.
- Cherries (tart cherry juice) (check out this cherry smoothie recipe)
- Dark chocolate
- Sweet potatoes
- Herbal tea
- Turmeric milk (See tea for recipe https://www.healthline.com/health/food-nutrition/warm-milk-to-sleep#1.-Anti-inflammatory-golden-milk-is-your-bedtime-go-to
- Ashwaghanda https://www.healthline.com/health/food-nutrition/moon-milk-ashwagandha
Tip #8 Get up if you do not fall asleep within half an hour
Leave your bedroom and do something relaxing instead of laying in bed. Try listening to soft music, taking a bath, drinking a warm caffeine-free beverage or meditating.
Avoid watching TV or going on a screen during this time. Go back to bed once you feel very drowsy. Sticking to this routine to fall asleep after several nights will become easier with time- don’t give up. Studies show it is very effective in reversing sleep problems.
Tip #9 Make your bedroom comfortable and only use it for sleeping
Make sure your room is not too hot or too cold—slightly cool is best. A mattress with good support and comfortable bedding are both helpful.
Avoid watching TV, working, studying or any other mentally stimulating activities, especially if you are already experiencing sleep problems.
Tip #10 Challenge the belief you can’t function without a perfect night’s sleep
When you can’t sleep, you might check the clock and worry about getting through the upcoming day. This increases anxiety and makes it even harder to fall back asleep. Turn the clock away from your view. Remind yourself that you can likely do your daily activities even when you feel tired (unless this would pose a danger to yourself or others).
- Write down the things you need or want to do for the next day and do them then.
When to Seek Help
If you do not experience success with following the above suggestions for managing insomnia, consider seeking help from a professional. Among options are cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) for insomnia, using psychotropic medication, and seeking an evaluation with a sleep specialist, who might suggest you participate in a sleep study.
Insomnia symptoms can be overwhelming, but with support and help, they can be managed or eliminated. We at VWWC welcome the opportunity to help you on your wellness journey. Contact us to set up a session.