One in four people suffer from Insomnia in the developed world. A major sign you may suffer from insomnia is waking up multiple times a night, or not being able to get to sleep three or more days a week. Insomnia is considered chronic if it happens for three months or longer. There are three major causes of insomnia. They are medical, emotional, and psychological. Some people initially try dealing with it by increasing their caffeine intake, taking prescription medications to fall asleep, or increased napping during the day. These self-remedies can work in the short term, but eventually make their insomnia worse. In this post I am going to be dealing with the physical causes of insomnia.
One of the first steps in treating insomnia is developing good sleep hygiene. I am going to share five tips that will help you start to develop good sleep hygiene. They are 1. Avoid increased caffeine intake, 2. Don’t exercise to close to bedtime, 3. Reduce stress from work, 4. Increase exposure to light during the day, and 5. Avoid excess napping. These tips can be used by both those who suffer from insomnia and those that are good sleepers.
Avoid Increased Caffeine Intake
Above I said one of the first self-remedies people do to fight insomnia is increase their caffeine intake. Caffeine is a stimulant and the more you have in your system at bedtime the harder it is to go to sleep. Decreasing your caffeine intake will naturally reset your body clock so you will be able to fall asleep. A good rule of thumb is to not consume caffeine after Noon. Those who go to bed later around 11:00pm can push this time back to 2:00pm. For those of us who are used to high levels of caffeine it is a good idea to taper your caffeine consumption, so you do not go through withdrawal. Try switching to half caffeinated and half decaf coffee to start with. Then you can progress too just decaf.
Don’t Exercise Too Close to Bedtime
Exercising is a great way to stay fit and feel healthy. Regular exercise can also contribute to helping you get a better night sleep as well. However, exercising too close to bedtime can have the opposite effect you were hoping for. When we exercise our bodies get really wound up. It takes some time to for us to calm down. I would suggest doing your exercise earlier in the day before 2:00pm if possible. Another recommendation is to avoid exercising three hours before bed. This will allow your body plenty of time to calm down and relax. Then you will reap the benefit of getting better quality sleep.
Reduce Stress From Work
Work can be very stressful. We all deal with deadlines and there is always something new coming down the pipeline that must be done immediately. Very often we are not able to have control over these situations. However, we do have control over how worked up we let ourselves get from the stress. Developing good stress management techniques is essential to reducing the negative effects of this stress. Exercising is a great way to get rid of the excess stress. One of the key benefits to exercising is it alleviates all stress whether it is good or bad. The next best remedy of course is meditation. I would recommend doing a quick breathing meditation. Taking the time to focus on your breathing allows you to calm your mind and body. You will then be able to focus on prioritizing the tasks. You might also try combining these two techniques together by taking a five-minute walk outside and doing your breathing exercise at the same time.
Increase Exposure to Light During the Day
Light is one of the main stimuli our bodies use to set our internal clock. Light is a natural stimulant and can help reduce your need for an extra cup of coffee. The more exposure to light you have, the more awake and alert you will feel. Try sitting close to a window at work. Take brief walks. You may also want to have lunch outside. You will want to start decreasing your light exposure two hours before bed. This will give your body enough time to adjust to a darker environment and signal your internal clock it is time for bed.
Avoid Excess Napping
Napping is a great pick me up when you are feeling tired or sleepy during the day. It can make you feel more energized and put you in a better mood. However, napping can decrease your quality of sleep and contribute to insomnia. Taking a quick power nap before 2:00pm every now and then is ok. Nonetheless, you do not want to make it a daily habit. Constant napping indicates there is a deeper issue such as depression. If you are suffering from depression, please see a mental health professional. They will be able to provide the most appropriate treatment option for you.
These five tips are designed to address the basic physical causes of insomnia. They are a good starting point for developing good sleep hygiene. Combining them with a sleep meditation will allow you to relax your mind and body. As you implement these techniques you will notice the difference in your quality of sleep. Being well rested is a change you deserve.
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