Around one in three adults is thought to be unable to get a proper night’s sleep. This can sometimes lead to insomnia. Lack of sleep can adversely affect your physical and emotional health, and will leave you feeling tired, irritable, and unable to concentrate for long periods. Your immune system may also become less effective in fighting off infections.
Being unable to sleep can also become a vicious circle. If you’re an insomniac, you may go to bed worrying about being unable to get to sleep, which will tend to result in you actually being unable to get to sleep. This in turn will make you worry even more about not sleeping properly, which will increase the likelihood that you won’t sleep properly.
The causes of insomnia include raised stress levels, anxiety, exhaustion, indigestion and depression — but with a few changes to your lifestyle and environment, you’ll be able to alleviate these symptoms and improve your sleep. Check out the following ways to prevent or eliminate your insomnia, which will help you to regain control of your sleeping hours!
Change your diet
What we put into our body can affect how well we sleep. Protein-rich foods such as milk, tuna, chicken, nuts and potatoes are rich in the amino acid tryptophan, which helps the body to produce more serotonin — a hormone that allows you to relax. So, eating protein-rich food for your evening meal is a good idea! However, large meals should be avoided in the four hours prior to you going to bed, and stimulants such as caffeine, nicotine and alcohol should be given a wide berth close to bedtime.
Reduce your stress
Tackling the causes of stress is a problem in itself, of course, but finding a solution to it will go a long way towards eradicating any sleeping problems. When the body is under stress, adrenaline is produced in the body, which increases and stimulates the ‘fight or flight’ response, thus keeping you alert and unable to nod off. Writing down any worries you have to deal with can be a good way of bringing on a sense of calm.
Change your sleeping environment
The setup of your room may also affect your sleeping habits. Bright colours should be avoided, and thick curtains should be in place to prevent light from entering and causing you to wake up. The room should not be cluttered, and temperatures should not be too hot, as heat is believed to disrupt the natural cooling mechanism that prepares the body for sleep. Plus, one of the most important factors in getting a good night’s sleep is your bed — so buy as good a quality mattress and bedding as you can!
Establish a routine
Getting into a routine before bedtime lets your body know that it’s time to sleep. For example, you could take a bath, have a warm drink such as hot chocolate, or listen to some relaxing music before going to bed every night. You should also plan to go to bed and get up at the same time every day in order to maintain a set routine. If you ever find you’ve gone to bed later than you would normally, then you should still get up at the same time as you usually do in the morning, as this will prevent your body from getting out of synch.
Exercise is good for lowering stress levels and aiding sleep. Doing exercise will raise your core body temperature and increase your adrenaline levels — which will then gradually lower, and eventually induce tiredness. Exercise should be done in the afternoon or early evening, since adrenaline levels take around five hours to fall significantly enough to promote deep sleep. Exercising just before bedtime will prevent you from sleeping soundly and is best avoided.
Use and/or eat minerals
Taking a bath before bedtime with Dead Sea salts can help to relax the body and deepen your subsequent sleep. The salts contain potassium and magnesium — the latter of which is considered to be one of nature’s finest tranquilisers! It is also advisable to eat green vegetables as part of your evening meal, because these are also rich in magnesium and potassium as well as other minerals such as calcium, which all have a calming influence on your body and mind, and will aid your sleep.
Take natural herbs
There are many herbal remedies available which can naturally aid sleep. One of the most well known is valerian, which has multiple sedative effects — making it a valuable natural remedy for stress and insomnia. Many herbal formulas use valerian in combination with other calming herbs such as hops, passion flowers and lemon balm. Drinking chamomile tea before bed can also help — especially if your insomnia causes restlessness and irritability.
Use soothing oils
In Traditional Chinese Medicine, insomnia is viewed as a disturbance of the ‘Shen’ (‘spirit’), which can be remedied by applying soothing oils such as rose, jasmine, camomile or lavender to specific acupressure points on your body, or by adding a few drops of one of the oils to your pillow before bedtime. There are many bath oils that contain these ingredients, too — so why not use one of them in combination with or as an alternative to mineral salts?
Try a relaxation technique
A number of relaxation techniques such as meditation and visualisation, as well as gentle exercises such as yoga, can be tried in order to help decrease your stress and thus decrease the buildup of stress hormones — and therefore aid your sleep. Check out realbuzz.com’s sections on Yoga and Meditation for more information on these techniques.