Trouble falling or staying asleep?
The tips contained here will help you beat insomnia so you can fall asleep and sleep better tonight.
If you don’t suffer from chronic insomnia, one or two of these tips may be enough to help you overcome insomnia.
However, if your insomnia has been troubling you for months or even years, then it likely means that you’ll need to make some long-term changes in your lifestyle in order to improve the quality of your sleep.
The good news is that you only have to focus on one new idea at a time. Try to use one of the following tips for 21 days, which is the minimum time period required to form a new habit. Once this first habit is in place, add a second one.
Note: You may suffer from a sleeping disorder such as sleep apnea. The tips and ideas contained below won’t negatively impact you if you do, but you may need to consult a doctor if my tips don’t help you beat insomnia and get the sleep you deserve.
10 Tips to Beat Insomnia and Start Counting Zs
- Stick to a regular sleep schedule. Go to bed and get up at the same time every day, including weekends. I know you may be tempted to sleep in when you don’t have to go to work, but you’re actually doing yourself a disservice if you do. Your circadian rhythm is very sensitive. If you’ve ever traveled to a different time zone, you’ve experienced having to adjust your circadian rhythm and you know it can leave you feeling sluggish and unfocused, not to mention how hard it can be for you to fall asleep on a new schedule. To beat insomnia, find a single sleep schedule that will work for both your weekdays and weekends, and stick to it!
- Skip long afternoon naps. If you can limit yourself to a 20-minute nap shortly after lunch, then it may not affect your quality of sleep at night. Avoid taking naps in mid to late afternoons, especially long naps that only make it harder to fall asleep at night. Everyone is different, but if you’re currently taking naps and are having issues falling or staying asleep, stop your naps and see if your sleep quality improves after a few days. I personally find that going for a short 10-minute walk around the block works better than a nap. Walking re-energizes me for the rest of the day, without making me feel sluggish and without affecting my sleep at night.
- Don’t toss and turn in bed. If you’re lying awake in bed, tossing and turning, get out. Walk to the living room and read a book for 30 minutes or until you start feeling sleepy. I didn’t suggest you turn on the TV… Stick to a relaxing activity that won’t increase your heart rate (no exercise) or stress levels. To beat insomnia, I recommend you read a book or magazine, meditate, or even take a bath or shower.
- Turn off electronic devices. We live in the age of information. Most people have a cell phone that doesn’t leave their sight. News is available 24/7. Email, Skype, Facebook, and such allow us to stay in touch with friends and family. These technologies are fantastic but they can also prevent us from sleeping well at night. Get into the habit of turning off your computer, cell phone, TV, etc. at least one or two hours before bedtime. The light emitted by these devices can affect your sleep-wake cycle, not to mention the content you’re reading or hearing about. You can wait and find out about that problem at work or the latest crime on TV tomorrow morning… Fewer bad news means better sleep.
- Avoid caffeine and alcohol. Of course, drinking coffee and tea before bed can prevent you from getting a good night’s sleep. While caffeine affects people differently, I recommend you avoid caffeinated drinks like cola, most pop, coffee, and tea after 4 PM. Herbal tea is totally acceptable and even recommended. Learn how herbal tea can help reduce insomnia. While some people believe alcohol can help them fall asleep, they forget that alcohol will also negatively impact the quality of their sleep. As such, if you want to beat insomnia, avoid drinking before going to bed or stick to one glass of wine or beer with dinner. Read this article on how alcohol relates to insomnia.
- Exercise at least 3 hours before bedtime. Yes, exercise can make you feel more tired at the end of the day, and therefore improve the quality of your sleep, but under one important condition: you can’t exercise too close to bedtime! Taking a leisurely walk around your neighborhood is fine, but you shouldn’t take part in any activity that will increase your heart rate because your body will need quite a few hours to wind down from such activities, which will prevent you from falling asleep quickly.
- Food. Don’t go to bed on an empty or full stomach. It’s best to stick to a light dinner at least 3 hours before bedtime to avoid heartburn and to prevent weight gain. It’s best to include food rich in tryptophan, which helps the production of melatonin, or vitamin B, which helps release serotonin and which also prepares you for a better night’s sleep. Turkey, bananas, avocados, leafy green vegetables, milk, peanut butter, and whole grains are good options.
- Clear your mind. Set a bedtime routine in which you make the decision to clear your mind and stop worrying about work, family, etc. at least one hour before bedtime. Keep yourself busy with relaxation activities like meditation, breathing, reading, taking a bath, etc. I personally beat insomnia by turning off my computer, getting in my pajamas, and enjoying a warm cup of chamomile tea in bed while reading a book or magazine. This ritual occupies my last hour every day and allows me to enjoy a good night’s sleep. If something is bothering me, I write it down on a notepad on my bedside table. That way, I know it won’t be forgotten tomorrow but I can forget about it now.
- Turn your bedroom into a sleep haven. Remove all electronics from your bedroom, with the possible exception of an alarm clock. Try to keep it at least 3 feet (1 meter) away from you and turn it so you can’t see what time it is. Use high thread count bed sheets, sleep in the nude or in an outfit that you find extremely comfortable. Spray your pillow with lavender linen spray. Only use your bedroom for sleeping, reading, spending time with your partner, or other relaxing activities that don’t involve electronics (i.e., don’t bring your laptop to work on a project, don’t watch the news in bed, etc.)
- Check your medicine cabinet. Are you taking prescription drugs or health supplements? They could be interacting with each other or causing side effects that could affect the quality of your sleep. Talk to your doctor to determine if this is the case. If so, ask if there are alternative treatments that won’t affect your sleep.
Should You Take Sleep Medication to Beat Insomnia?
While grabbing some over-the-counter sleep aids may seem like a good idea, changing your lifestyle may prove to be a safer and more effective choice in helping you beat insomnia. Several studies have been conducted that point to that conclusion. In fact, Mark Mahowald, M.D. and director of the Minnesota Regional Sleep Disorders Center in Minneapolis said, “there’s very little evidence that these sleep aids actually result in significant sleep.”
Another option is prescription drugs to help you sleep and beat insomnia. Of course, these need to be approved and recommended by a doctor, so your doctor probably knows best! Prescription sleep drugs are often very effective following a single traumatic or stressful event such as the death of a loved one or being the victim of a serious crime. Most sleep drugs cause dependency, so it’s best to only use them for a limited time and to focus on improving your lifestyle with the tips mentioned above.
Other interesting Articles about Sleep and Insomnia
Learn more about how to beat insomnia by reading the pages listed in the sidebar.