Sleep is a major player when it comes to good health, yet one of the activities we tend to neglect the most. Most of us are aware that we need to get adequate rest to function, but for many of us sleep gets low priority to our relationships, our bills, and the never-ending to-do list. Insomnia can be defined as “a chronic inability to fall asleep or to enjoy uninterrupted sleep”. Many of us have suffered from lack of sleep at least at some point in our lives, but if it’s an ongoing struggle for you to get to bed and actually fall asleep once you’re there, here are some simple ways for you to take the reins on your sleep cycle and get back on track.
Chances are, you will suffer from difficulty with insomnia at some point in your lifetime. It can be distressing, and cause difficulty with functioning during your wake hours. The first thing you may want to do is to run to the doctor for a prescription for a medication to help you sleep.
However, you don’t always need to rely on medications. In fact, insomnia can usually be cured on your own by simply changing your lifestyle and routines.
Resist the temptation to run to the doctor right away, and instead take some steps to treat your insomnia naturally before you seek your physician:
1. Do all your unpleasant tasks and work stuff early in the evening.
Worrying is one of the biggest culprits of a sleepless night. As counter intuitive as it may be, one of the reasons a lot of us suffer from lack of sleep is because we’re up worrying about getting enough sleep! Dr. Fuhrman brought this up in one of his tele-seminars that I was listening to a few days ago and it got me thinking about how true that really is. I myself have been guilty of laying in bed checking the clock, and restlessly counting the hours of sleep I would get if I fell asleep quickly. Worrying about how many hours of sleep you’ll get, hoping you’ll get to sleep quickly, being concerned about having to get up early; all of those things actually prevent you from getting to sleep in the first place. You definitely don’t want to be thinking about annoying, stressful bills or your boss before you go to bed. That’s the perfect recipe for insomnia!
2 . Adopt a routine schedule
Try to maintain a regular, routine sleep/wake schedule. That is, go to bed at the same time every night and awaken at the same time each morning no matter how sleepy you are. This may cause some difficulties the first few nights, but eventually your body will get used to maintaining the same schedule. Do not vary your weekend schedule by more than one hour from your weekday schedule.
3. If you’re going to read before bedtime, just like watching TV, make sure the subject matter is light.
Grisly murder mysteries with serial killers on the loose, or reading masters of horror, like Stephen King, might not be the best thoughts to have in your head before entering dreamland. And it’s best not to read in bed – remember, sleep only! BUT, if you MUST read in bed, purchase an orange light bulb to dial back the light intensity. Dim down bright lights, get off the computer and keep your surroundings quiet before bed. Have you ever experienced feeling super tired all day from lack of sleep and then getting that “second wind” that keeps you up late, yet again? Understanding that your brains run on very intricate hormonal cycles grants you with a new option to work in harmony, rather than against these natural rhythms. When light hits your retina, it stimulates a nerve pathway in the brain to the hypothalamus. Once the light arrives there, it reaches a place called the supra-chiasmatic nucleus or (SCN) which is basically a control panel responsible for sending out signals to other parts of the brain that control hormone production, your body temperature and other factors involved in feeling either awake or tired. Our brains are wired the same way they were wired 1000 years ago when we went to sleep at sun down and woke up with the sunrise. Light and darkness are triggers for your brain to either wake, or prepare for its sleeping state. The pineal gland is activated by darkness which then begins to release melatonin (a sleep hormone). If light is hitting your retinas, you are activating a surge of hormones to keep you awake which is the opposite of what you want right before bed.
4. Avoid heavy meals before bed, digestion and discomfort can make your sleep less healing.
It’s better to eat 2 hours before bed or more, so that when you go to sleep your digestion system isn’t working overtime and your body can heal anything else that needs attention. You’ll have a sounder sleep as well. Drink warm milk before bedtime. It’s the tryptophan in the milk that will stimulate your serotonin to make you sleepy. Add some honey for flavor and additional health benefits. If you don’t like milk, drink a teaspoon of honey with a cup of hot water. Honey stabilizes blood sugar levels and also contributes to melatonin production.
Lastly, look for areas of your life that may be creating more worry or stress for you than necessary. Sometimes we are stressed on a sub-conscious level. Meaning things are bothering us, but we have avoided them for so long that we are really not even sure that those things are anymore. Explore the ways you can enhance your life by making healthier choices and honouring yourself on a deeper level. Living in gratitude has amazing benefits, so count all of the things you are grateful for on a day-to-day basis and watch how things change around you.