You’re lying there in the dark, staring at the ceiling and telling yourself you should be sleeping rather than lying there with eyes wide open like an owl. Thoughts are rushing through your head about how bad you’re going to feel tomorrow. Tiredness is creeping around in the background but you still fail to nod off.
Frustrating isn’t it?
But you’re not alone. One study states that 30% of the adult population exhibits one symptom of Insomnia or another.
What do you do? You could take sleeping pills. Yeah, that will work. But the pills often have side effects.
Okay. So that’s medication crossed off the list. But, never fear, there are other ways to help you slip into the land of nod.
Effects of insomnia.
We all know how we feel when we don’t get enough sleep. We find it hard to concentrate. We get cranky (remember as a child if you were crying, Mum and Dad would put you down for an afternoon nap?).
Also, lack of sleep can affect your immune system, blood pressure and increase your chances of getting type 2 diabetes. (Source: Healthline.com)
Sleepless also affects your judgement and productivity.
It can also lead to depression if the insomnia is prolonged and untreated.
Okay. Enough of telling you what insomnia can do to you. Let’s ask another question. Turn this thing completely in its head. What can you do to insomnia?
Well…give these a try.
8 natural ways to help you sleep.
1. Sleep diary.
Okay, So this isn’t a method to help you doze off after staring at the clock for three hours. A sleep diary is a record of your sleep habits so that a health professional can use it to come up with a diagnosis for you.
It’s recommended to write in your diary for at least two weeks. But what do you write in your diary? “Dear diary, I haven’t slept for the past two days?” That will help. But here are some things you should record:
When you went to bed and woke up.
How long you slept for.
How well did you sleep.
Did you wake up during the night?
What did you do if you woke up during the night?
What stress of emotions you did you have?
What did you do to eliminate these?
How much alcohol or caffeine did you drink and at what time?
What medications did you take?
With this information, you and your health professional can work out a plan that will help you get a better nights rest.
You can either create your own diary or download one here.
When you’re lying in bed and trying to slip into the blissful world of sleep, take notice of your body. Is it tense? You need to relax.
Here is something that I often do to relax myself in bed.
Start with one foot. Tense it and hold the tension for 20 seconds, then release. Move to the other foot and repeat the process. Tense your calf muscles, then relax. Next, your thighs. One thigh then the other. Work your way systematically up your body (your back, your stomach, your arms, your hands, your fingers, your neck, your face). Once you have tensed each part individually, repeat the process but tense your entire body this time.
Just imagine warm, soothing liquid running through your body, easing the tension and causing every part of your to become relax, jelly like and most importantly…sleepy!
3. Look at your sleeping environment.
What do you do in your bedroom apart from sleep and…(embarrassed cough) try and procreate. If your bedroom is used for more than this, your thinking is primed and prepared to get you to do a task other than sleep.
The ideal sleeping environment should at least have the following characteristics:
Darkness: Make sure you have thick curtains that block out any natural or artificial light.
No technology: If you have a computer in your bedroom. Move it to another room. If you have to use a cellphone or tablet as your alarm clock, then make sure its switched to night mode. Our melatonin levels (the thing that keeps us awake) is affected by the artificial light emitted by computer/cellphone/ tablet screens. Do not check your phone/tablet just before going to bed. That will just keep your mind active and remember what the goal is, to deactivate ourselves and sleep.
Your bed: How comfortable is your bed? Are you always tossing and turning. What about the clothes you wear, are they loose fitting or tight. What about your pillows?
The temperature in your bedroom: Sleep experts say that the ideal temperature to sleep in is between 16 degrees – 20 degrees Celsius (60 degrees – 67 degrees Fahrenheit).
Once you have setup, or reorganised your sleeping environment then you are in a room that is conducive to one thing: sleep.
4. Avoid anything that will cause stress.
If you and your significant other have had the fight to end all spousal fights, then you had both better kiss and make up before calling it a night.
When stressed your body is tense and your heartbeat is racing. Also, you’ll be busy ruminating over everything when you should be happily sleeping.
Just before going to bed don’t discuss difficult topics that will cause tension. Don’t talk about things that will induce stress and resentment. If you do, then wait until you have calmed down before crawling under the sheets.
5. Have a sleep routine.
For shift workers (especially people who work rotating shifts), a sleep routine may be hard to establish due to the changing times when you have to work and such people will have to develop other techniques for assisting them with insomnia.
A sleep routine is simply a routine where you go to bed and wake up at the same time every day (yes, including the weekends). Your internal body clock will soon get used to the routine and you may find that you don’t even need an alarm clock to wake you up anymore. Your body clock will tell you it’s time to wake up!
6. Have a wind down time.
You have had a busy day, you come home and there are things to do. Cook dinner, work on that project the boss has said is due by the end of the week. Check your emails. Look on Facebook to see the latest post from your aunty who has gone skiing in Alaska. The list goes on. Busy, busy, busy!
If you don’t take time to wind down and relax before going to bed, then what is going to happen? That’s right. You’re just going to lie there and stare into the darkness and wish you could sleep.
Take an hour or so, just before it’s time to hit the hay for the night, to wind down. I don’t know what it is that helps you relax, as we are all different, but I can suggest that you reduce the amount of light in the room your in. Listen to some soothing music. These will tell your body and mind that its time to relax and shut down for the day.
7. What are you thinking?
In bed, you are lying there thinking about how you need to sleep and how tired you are going to feel the next day. Then, your thoughts move onto the next negative thought. These ruminations only result in keeping you awake. What happens when you are thinking such things? Yep. Tension and stress.
What you have to do is reframe the thought. Instead of freaking out over how dead you are going to be the next day, tell yourself that tomorrow night you are going to have the best sleep because you are so tired.
Cognitive Behavioural Therapy for Insomnia (CBT-I) is a branch of psychology that gives you the tools and support needed to help you combat the thoughts that are actually aiding your insomnia. CBT-I helps you deal with the stressors that are the catalyst of your sleeplessness.
You can learn more about CBT-I here: Cognitive Behavioral Therapy for Insomnia Part 1.
Ah…aromatherapy. Have you ever felt good after inhaling a particular odour? Good ol’ aromatherapy.
Particular scents can aid you in a obtaining a good nights sleep. One study found that lavender helped reduce anxiety and improved the sleep quality of hospital patients. Yet another study concluded that aromatherapy treatments are effective at improving sleep quality.
So, we now know that aromatherapy can help in overcoming sleeplessness. But what scents are particularly effective in getting you dropping off at night? One article by Huffpost lists 6 essential oils:
But not all essential oils are created equal. Make sure you consult with your aromatherapist as to which you should buy before forking over your hard earned cash. (It’s all about quality!)
Get out of bed.
If you find that after having done everything you still can’t get to sleep, a final piece of advice is to get up and go and do something.
Read a book. Do a chore/job around the house. Check your emails. Do something other than lying in bed and hoping that you will eventually drift off.
Once you feel tired, then go back to bed.
What things do you do to help you get to sleep? Please feel free to let me know in the comments!
And one more thing: Good night…sweet dreams!