We, humans, are creatures of habit. So if you are perpetually awake at night, the problem is probably rooted from a sleep routine you’ve developed over time. The good news is that you can break the habit after identifying its cause.
But don’t worry if you disagree with that theory. Not all night owls are created equal after all. And there may be other reasons you cannot fall asleep the way other people do. The more important thing is to beat insomnia and not let it ruin your life.
Here are some changes you can consider making to achieve that:
If you can’t sleep, don’t fight the feeling. Let go, says Dr Guy Meadows. In a Guardian article, the clinical director of The Sleep School tells insomniacs that “letting go is about acceptance and a willingness to be awake in bed”. Meadows’ theory links attempts to counter sleeplessness to the problem. But this kind of staying put should be coupled with mindfulness. And mindfulness is about separating yourself from your thoughts, instead of getting lost in them.
Doing nothing also means being okay with being awake. It’s about not trying too hard to battle this state. Sleep is natural. And when you let go of the struggle, you may be able to fall asleep without much fuss.
Relax your muscles
If letting go is too abstract for your taste, here’s something you can do instead. Explore muscle relaxation techniques. Try progressive muscle relaxation. You can follow the steps here or listen to guided meditation such as this body scan. The method and its examples have been proven effective in relieving insomnia. Also, they’re easy to learn and accessible to everyone. Further, muscle relaxation allows you to focus on one muscle group at a time, a way to practice mindfulness as well.
Make sure your room environment is sleep-inducing
The room you sleep in can have an impact on sleep quality. So make sure the elements in that space contribute to a restful sleep.
- Temperature: According to the Sleep Council, the ideal temperature should be 16-18 degrees Celsius.
- Lighting: Orange light helps you drift off while blue light, which your smartphone screen emits, induces wakefulness. A dark room is perfect because it promotes the release of body-relaxing melatonin while blue light suppresses its production.
- Bed: Find a bed that suits your body size and needs. Also, choose a mattress that’s neither too hard nor too soft.
- Pets: If it disturbs you during bedtime, let your pet sleep in another area of the house.
Do your worrying before going to bed
Sometimes, a variety of thoughts assault you as you lie in bed. Your mind is still in hyperdrive. And it is great at causing panic, worry, or anxiety. For instance, it makes you worry about the result of tomorrow’s activities such as a big presentation. Or it reminds you of a plan you haven’t calendared.
To avoid this situation, set a time to review what you have to do the next day. After dinner can be a good time. You can worry about things during this window. But when it’s done, it’s done. It will probably be easier to let go if you finish any business before you doze off.
Avoid eating and drinking near bedtime
Altering your eating and drinking habits can go a long way.
Having a late dinner or a midnight snack near bedtime can activate your digestive system. In turn, this will keep you up longer. The symptoms can be worse for people with gastroesophageal reflux (GERD) or heartburn. Moderate your drinking, too, as this can drive your bladder to work overnight. The need to empty it frequently disrupts sleep.
Speaking of fluids, you should avoid those that contain caffeine. Chief is coffee, which is known to counter the process that allows you to fall asleep. Tea also has caffeine content. Energy drinks and sodas should totally be out of the picture as their sugar content levels are not healthy, to begin with.
Have you been sedentary for some time now? You better start to get moving. Exercising is being connected to better sleep quality. You don’t have to get into extreme workouts. You can start with 25-50 minutes of modest exercise, at least three times a week.
Of course, there is no scarcity of articles telling you how moving daily benefits the body’s health. It also has an impact on your well-being. There is really no downside to this, except for when you have a condition that prevents you from moving with too much effort.
If you exercise after work, do it three hours away from snoozing. If you’re busy round the clock, you can alternatively squeeze in gentle yoga right before bedtime, as this helps you relax and get ready for slumber.
Create a sleeping routine
Last but important, schedule your bedtime and stick to it. As we said earlier, we are creatures of habit. This means that you can train yourself to get to and up from bed at specific times. You just have to start at some point. And start small.
Remember, the optimal time for your body to sleep is seven to nine hours. So if you need to be awake at the crack of dawn, you have to be hitting the sack early the night before. And even if you have a flexible weekday schedule, the key to maintaining sanity is to follow a sleeping routine. You’ll also feel better and fulfilled because the benefits will show up in the long run.