There is nothing worse than slogging through a day devoid of precious sleep due to insomnia symptoms. You’re too tired to be productive, yet you can’t sleep if you go back to bed!
I’ve been there…
I feel like the past four years I’ve been a walking zombie. After health issues and emotional stress crept into my life, I hadn’t had the luxury of a normal night’s sleep for years. I would have problems falling asleep, and even more issues staying asleep.
My sleep disturbances originated from multiple disorders, which are beyond the scope of this article. It took addressing all of those in combination with changing some of my bad sleep habits to finally kick insomnia to the curb.
I’m happy to report that after dealing with some of the underlying health causes impacting my ability to sleep, and then addressing my poor sleep habits, that today I am completely cured of my insomnia. I get a full night’s sleep just about every night and wake up ready to take on my daily goals.
So, how did I morph from zombie to zesty?
I did it by addressing some of my bad habits. Here’s how I supercharged my sleep by getting rid of my insomnia symptoms, and how you can do the same.
1. Create a Relaxing Nightly Ritual
Getting into bed in the right frame of mind is very helpful for drifting into dreamland. I actually suffer from Restless Leg Syndrome (RLS). I began taking nightly bubble baths with lavender oils to get relaxed before bed. This helped eliminate the RLS so that I could sleep. Whatever activity makes you the most relaxed, save it for your bedtime routine.
I also eliminated anything that could upset me before bed. Since I have trouble turning off my brain at night, I made sure that I wasn’t going to engage in any upsetting conversations or read any negative emails before bed. I also avoided any work activities that stimulated my brain.
For the best sleep, try to do whatever you can to create a very relaxing atmosphere and frame of mind to decompress before bed.
2. Get on a Schedule
Do you ever go to bed much later than your normal bedtime, and then find yourself awake? Personally, I found that if I didn’t get to bed by 11 p.m., my second wind caused me to stay up all night.
If you want to get a good night’s sleep, try to go to sleep and wake up at the same time every day.
3. Create the Ideal Sleep Setting
In addition to keeping your room dark, also keep it cool, make sure your bed is very comfortable, and find ways to keep the noise down. If you live in a location where you cannot control the noise, try to get a white-noise machine or use a fan to drown out noise pollution.
Also, reserve your bedroom for sleeping and sex. If you work in your bedroom or watch television, your brain can turn on in anticipation of those events. You need to train your brain that it needs to power down, not up, when you walk into your bedroom.
4. Seek Out the Right Light
Your body follows a natural 24-hour circadian rhythm, which impacts the sleep-wake cycle. It is regulated by the hormone melatonin. Light exposure is a trigger for the body’s management of this hormone. When there is less light, your body produces more of this hormone, which makes you sleepy.
During morning hours, it’s beneficial to get a good dose of natural light to help your body wake up. However, during the evening hours, you will want to limit light so that your body can prepare for bed. This means that you shouldn’t watch TV or look at computer screens at least 30 minutes to an hour before bed. Instead, listen to relaxing music or read a book.
When you go to sleep, make sure that your room is completely dark. You want your body to produce more melatonin to keep you asleep. If you are unable to make the room completely dark, try a sleep mask to limit the light exposure to your eyes.
If you do wake up in the middle of the night, avoid turning on lights. Try to use a flashlight or motion-activated night light to lead your way to the bathroom. This helps keep your melatonin production high so you can fall back asleep easily.
5. Track What Works for You
I’m a big fan of experimentation and tracking results. Everyone is different! I use a sleep app called Sleep Cycle to track my sleep and adjust my activities based on what gives me the best sleep over time. You could also try the Beddit 2.0 Sleep Tracker, which gets great reviews online!
Don’t Give Up
At one time, I felt that I would never experience a normal night’s sleep again. It took consistently following these habits before my sleep cycle normalized and I started experiencing restful nights.
Once I was able to eliminate my insomnia symptoms, my motivation and productivity during the day soared! So, keep great sleep in the forefront of your mind during the day, implement these steps, and give yourself permission to stop living life only half awake. In no time, you will be greeting the sunrise with a smile!
6. Good Sleep Starts During Your Daytime Activities
Exercise was one of the most critical elements to eliminating my insomnia. Make sure to get at least 30 minutes of exercise every day to ensure a good night’s sleep. However, try to avoid exercising too close before your newly scheduled bedtime, as this could wake you up.
Here are a few rules of thumb to follow to eliminate your insomnia symptoms:
- Eliminate caffeine in the afternoon and evening hours. Caffeine can cause sleep issues for some people even 10 to 12 hours after drinking it.
- Don’t drink alcohol before bed. While a nightcap may help you fall asleep, your quality of sleep suffers as alcohol impacts your ability to sleep as deeply so you may wake up during the night.
- Limit liquids in the evening. After all, you will be much more rested the next day if you can avoid the bladder alarm clock. This also eliminate the chance that you won’t be able to fall back asleep.
- Avoid big meals at night. If you eat a large meal, especially one with a large amount of fat, your stomach may not be finished with it by the time you’re ready for bed. (Some people do feel better eating a small meal before bed instead of going to bed hungry. If you need to eat something to fall asleep, try something light such as fruit or yogurt.)
- Don’t smoke. Nicotine is a stimulant, which will keep you awake. Smokers also experience nicotine withdrawal as they sleep, which causes them to have a harder time sleeping deeply and staying asleep.
7. Progressive relaxation
This mind-body relaxation technique is a simple, striking way to become familiar with your body and the places where you hold stress and tension. Progressive relaxation involves working, one at a time, with different areas and muscle groups of the body, first tensing and relaxing them. This cultivates an awareness of what both tension and relaxation feel like in your body. With that awareness you become better prepared to address that physical tension—and any mental or emotional stress that accompanies it.
Used as part of a nightly power-down routine, progressive relaxation can help you release physical and mental tension that, left unaddressed, can interfere with sleep. A typical progressive relaxation routine starts at the lowest point of the body—the feet—and works gradually up to the top of the head, tensing and relaxing every area of the body along the way.
The Broad Benefits of Relaxation
Scientific studies show the benefits of these relaxation techniques in managing stress and promoting sound and restful sleep. Controlling stress and getting sufficient high-quality sleep are two important components of health, so by employing relaxation techniques to help in these areas, you’re making an investment in your fundamental well-being.
These same techniques are also used to help a range of other health conditions. On their own, and more often in conjunction with other therapies, these five practices may help:
- Reduce chronic and intermittent pain.
- Limit daytime fatigue.
- Ease nausea.
- Improve cardiovascular function, including lowering blood pressure.
- Treat and control symptoms of mood disorders, including depression, anxiety, and PTSD.
- Quit smoking.
These techniques are also used in treatment of cancer and other serious illnesses to help patients better cope with symptoms and treatment. There is preliminary, emerging evidence that meditation and relaxation practices may contribute to better cancer outcomes. Studies also indicate that relaxation practices may have a positive effect on immune function and nervous-system activity.
The broad potential benefits of relaxation practices stand to go way beyond helping you manage your way through the holidays, or navigate post-election conversations with co-workers and friends. Integrating relaxation exercises into your daily life can significantly improve your sleep, lower your levels of ongoing stress and anxiety—and help you better cope with the acute spikes in stress we all encounter in life. They can contribute to whole-body health and wellness, through every day and every season.