Having trouble sleeping?
Insomnia is the inability to sleep. The difficulty can be in falling asleep, remaining asleep, or both; it can be temporary or chronic.
Common causes of insomnia include:
Stress. Concerns about work, school, health or family can keep your mind active at night, making it difficult to sleep. Stressful life events – such as the death or illness of a loved one, divorce, or a job loss can also keep you awake.
Anxiety. Everyday anxieties as well as more-serious anxiety disorders, such as post-traumatic stress disorder, may disrupt your asleep. Also, worry about being able to go to sleep can make it harder to fall asleep.
Medical conditions. Some conditions linked with insomnia include arthritis, cancer, heart failure, lung disease, gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD), overactive thyroid, stroke, Parkinson’s disease and Alzheimer’s disease.
Change in your environment or work schedule. Travel or working a late or early shift can disrupt your body’s circadian rhythms, making it difficult to sleep.
Poor sleep habits. These include an irregular sleep schedule, stimulating activities before bed, an uncomfortable sleep environment, and use of your bed for activities other than sleep or sex.
Medications. Some possibilities are antidepressants, heart and blood pressure medications, allergy medications, stimulants (such as Ritalin), and corticosteroids. Many over the counter medications, including some pain medication combinations, decongestants, and weight-loss products – contain caffeine and other stimulants.
Caffeine, nicotine and alcohol. Caffeine and nicotine are stimulants that can prevent you from falling asleep. Alcohol is a sedative that may help you fall asleep, but it prevents deeper stages of sleep and often causes you to awaken in the middle of the night.
Eating too much late in the evening. Having a light snack before bedtime is OK, but eating too much may cause you to feel physically uncomfortable while lying down, making it difficult to get to sleep. Many people also experience heartburn which may keep you awake.
Strategies to help with insomnia:
- Make sure your bedroom is quiet, dark, and cool.Try using a sound machine for white noise and blackout curtains if necessary.
- Stick to a regular sleep schedule. Go to bed at the same time every night, and get up at the same time each morning (including weekends).
- Establish a consistent bedtime routine. Take a warm bath, go for a relaxing stroll, or practice meditation/relaxation exercises as part of your regular nighttime routine.
- Get plenty of exercise during the day. Studies have shown people who are physically active sleep better than those who are sedentary.
- Reduce your intake of caffeine and alcohol, particularly in the evening.
- Spend time outdoors as often as you can to get exposure to bright, natural light.
- Avoid large meals late in the evening.
- Spend time (up to an hour) in dim light before you go to bed at night. Lower the lighting in your house and bedroom and if other members of the household object, wear sunglasses.
- Learn and use a relaxation technique regularly. Breathing exercises, progressive relaxation, meditation and yoga are good examples.
- Stop obsessing about being awake. Not surprisingly, studies have shown that individuals who worry about falling asleep have greater trouble dropping off. It may help to remind yourself that while sleeplessness is troublesome, it isn’t life-threatening.
- Count. If your mind keeps running and won’t shut down, try counting backwards starting at 100. It gives your mind something else to focus on, and you may find yourself drifting off to sleep.
- Short naps are good. Try to get into the habit of napping: ten to twenty minutes in the afternoon, preferably lying down in a darkened room.
- Listen to a soothing CD. Dr. Jeffrey Thompson has a set called Brainwave Symphony and another called Brainwave Suite each of which contains a CD to unwind and aide falling asleep. My daughter has found these helpful. They are both available through Amazon.
- Foot Soak. Soak your feet in very warm water for 15 minutes or so before going to bed. If you get hot flashes, use tepid water or slightly cool water instead.
- Foot Massage. Rub your feet, about 5 minutes each, before lying down to go to sleep.
- Lavender Essential Oil. Rub 2-3 drops of lavender oil in your cupped palms, then inhale deeply to draw the scent all the way into your amygdala gland (the emotional warehouse) in your brain to calm the mind. Then, rub a drop of Lavender oil on your palms and smooth on your pillow to help you sleep. Use a high grade pure essential oil, not one that has been diluted with alcohol or a base oil.
- Write it all down. If your brain is racing and/or making to do lists, get up and write everything down that is running through your head. Then crawl back into bed.
- Keep a gratitude journal. Every night before you get into bed, write down 5 things that you are thankful for that happened that day. Studies have shown that people who follow this habit sleep longer and feel more refreshed upon waking.
- Have regular Acupuncture and/or Zero Balancing sessions. Many people report experiencing better, more restful sleep when consistently receiving treatment.