[dropcap]S[/dropcap]leep is incredibly important to your health and wellbeing. Not only does a better night’s rest help your body repair itself, but it also helps your mood and motivation.
Everyday tasks that seem simple or menial can become impossible and frustrating when you’re running low on energy.
Scientists may not yet be able to confidently say why we need sleep, but it is surely known what happens when we do not get it.
What goes on during your nighttime snooze is known, and it is more than you think. Many physical processes occur when you’re at rest; muscle growth, tissue repair, and hormone release are some examples.
A lot of these processes only happen when you’re asleep as well. Without that, your body will be negatively affected.
Human and animal studies show that when deprived of sleep for a long period of time, the body can lose all immune functionality and die very easily.
It is extremely unlikely you would ever put yourself in such a situation, but even losing a few hours a night will still have its effects.
During sleep, the brain is extremely active. Adenosine, a by-product of cellular function, builds up throughout the day. It is thought that this accumulation may be what drives us to sleep.
The brain works to clear this build-up during sleep, which is why you generally feel much more alert after waking up.
The brain also uses this time to understand and adapt to changes that may occur- this is called plasticity. Babies and infants need many hours of sleep to properly learn and function, but the same holds true for adults.
Performance and memory is heavily affected by sleep deprivation.
No matter what any studies show or what theories are developed, one thing is absolute- not sleeping makes you tired, and being tired has consequences.
With all these facts and plain old experience to back it up, it makes sense to try and get good sleep. Sometimes that just doesn’t seem possible.
Things such as stress, medications, and different medical disorders can cause you to lose sleep. Habits such as napping throughout the day and consuming caffeine can also disrupt restful and restorative sleep.
It might seem like you can’t remove all of the causes, but that does not mean you can’t lessen their effects and improve your sleep.
When it goes beyond the point of taking an hour to fall asleep or just waking up throughout the night, it is time to face the problem head on. That problem is insomnia, and there are plenty of things you can do to help yourself.
How to Sleep better – Insomnia
Everybody gets tired sometimes, and the occasional restless night is not abnormal by any means. When it begins to affect your life and quality of living, it becomes a real problem.
That problem is unfortunately very common for many people. Insomnia refers to the inability to fall asleep and/or stay asleep.
For some, insomnia may only occur in reaction to a specific event or stressor, like illness or travel. This is called short-term, or acute, insomnia.
When insomnia occurs more than three nights a week, for more than three months, it is called long-term, or chronic, insomnia.
Each type can be sleep onset or sleep maintenance insomnia, depending on if the problem occurs in falling asleep or remaining asleep throughout the night.
Causes of Insomnia
Insomnia can be caused by many things, both in and out of your control. Certain medical disorders, like asthma or chronic pain, can result in insomnia. Medications of all types can also cause it, from birth control to antidepressants.
The most common causes of insomnia are anxiety and depression, as well as other emotional disorders and issues. When coupled with the medications intended to treat them, insomnia can become even worse.
It is cyclical in many cases as well you can’t sleep because of your anxiety, and not sleeping increases your anxiety, for example. Your daily habits and associations can also cause insomnia, but these causes can be addressed with much less difficulty.
Your diet and level of exercise can impact how you sleep, and how you sleep can influence what you consume and your ability or motivation to move.
Turning to caffeine or sugar to stay awake can make it even harder to sleep at night. Like with medical causes, habit can also make it seem like you’re stuck in a cycle.
Where you sleep can also have a great effect on insomnia. Too much light, too much noise, uncomfortable bedding- everyone has their preferences, but they can’t always be completely met.
No matter what is causing your insomnia, there is something that can be done to improve your sleep. Some changes might seem drastic, but there are small habits and things that can be done as well.
When something as “normal” and “natural” as sleeping becomes something that is difficult and causes you stress, you need to act on it. There are many tips and tricks, as well as changes, that can make sleep less of an issue and more of a benefit to your wellbeing.
How to Sleep better at Night
Sleep shouldn’t be hard, but getting to that point may be difficult. By changing your routines and habits, improving your diet and activity, and changing your bedtime associations, you can help yourself.
Sleeping better now means you will feel better tomorrow, and you will be healthier in the future. A lot of what can be done might seem unnatural, or one idea might not work.
Everybody has their own reasons for insomnia, so you just have to find your own solutions.
This may take you some time, but finding the motivation to keep trying will help. If you find your effort dwindling, just think about how you could have restful, easier sleep soon.
Do not see each restless night throughout your trying as a setback, but rather a step forward into improvement.
Home remedies for insomnia: Diet and Exercise
Reducing your sugar and caffeine intake should be done for your own overall health, not just for sleep. If you do drink coffee or other caffeinated drinks, make sure to limit those to the daylight hours only. Keep heavy meals for the earlier hours as well.
Eating heavy foods close to your bedtime can make sleeping difficult for anyone, especially if you have insomnia.
Alcohol can help you relax, but do not rely on it to help you sleep- it can interfere with your natural sleep cycle. Some people find that a light, healthy snack before bed helps them sleep.
Keep any bedtime snacks to things like bananas or whole-grain cereals, and make sure to keep portion size on the lighter side.
Exercising is good for you, and there are types of exercise that everyone can try regardless of their physical shape or ability.
Whether you hit the gym after work for an intense weight session, do yoga at home, or simply take a walk at lunchtime, you will be helping yourself now and in the long run.
By improving your health in general, sleep should also be improved. If anything, tiring yourself out a bit should make it easier as well.
Keep intense exercise at least three hours before bed, but yoga and other gentle types of exercise can be done in the evening. Even something as simple as stretching while you’re in bed can help.
How to fall asleep: Technology
Whether technology like smartphones and computers are vital to your job, just for fun, or to make things easier, technology does affect your sleep.
It is recommended to stop using phones and computers about an hour before bedtime, to help let your brain and body know it is time to wind down.
You can try reading a book instead if you’re breaking the habit of using your phone in bed.
If you find yourself looking at screens after dark, using a screen filter app or program can help. Your body reacts to different light colors and intensities, so reducing “blue light” will make sure your brain knows it isn’t daytime anymore.
Technology can be helpful in some ways- using an app to help you with breathing exercises is just one example.
Technology can definitely impact your sleep in a bad way, but it can improve your waking up.
If you find yourself to be groggy in the morning, try calculating an optimal wake-up time using a sleep cycle calculator, or invest in an alarm clock that uses changing light to simulate the sunrise.
If you dread the sound of your alarm going off, try nature sounds instead.
A vibrating wristband or mat under your pillow can also help wake you up without it being jarring. Use these tools to help you adjust, but do not depend on them. Your goal is to fix your sleep cycle and quality, not change how it works.
Taking a warm bath, stretching, dimming lights in the evening, and listening to calming music are only a few options. Keep stimulating work and activities for the daytime as well.
You can set aside specific times for certain activities to help stay on track, such as only letting yourself check your phone once an hour before bed as an example.
If you have a relaxing hobby like knitting or drawing, doing something familiar that is also calming can be a great help.
If you find that anxiety, worrying, or stress is what keeps you up, consider addressing that directly.
Making lists of positive happenings of your day, or just thinking about something from a different perspective, can help to put you in a more positive place.
You can’t always get rid of stress, but learning proper stress management is important.
If you start thinking about everything that you need to do the next day or everything you didn’t finish before bed, try writing those thoughts down and then keeping your mind off of them.
This way, you know that you won’t forget what is important. Writing things down can help in other ways as well. Instead of spending time in bed looking back over the day, try writing a page or a list of what happened.
Sometimes you can’t fix things like these on their own. Everyone worries and everyone has stress sometimes, but if you believe your issues to be chronic and worrisome, do not hesitate to talk to a professional or a close friend.
Many people are worried about the stigma that comes along with mental health care, like seeing therapists, but you should never be.
There are professionals who teach specific things like stress management, couples’ counselling, or grief management. If you have something in particular causing you trouble, you may find great resources.
And if it is more than just stress or usual worrying, seeking out a psychologist and possible medical help may be what you need. Addressing issues like these will benefit your entire wellbeing, and your sleep too.
Insomnia cures Supplements and Medication
There are countless over-the-counter medications and supplements that can help you sleep, but these should never be considered a permanent solution.
One of the most well known supplements, as well as one of the most available, is melatonin. This is a naturally occurring hormone that regulates the sleep-wake, or circadian, cycle.
If you have trouble falling asleep, immediate release formulations will be your best choice.
If you have issues sleeping through the night, an extended release formula can help. Melatonin can interact negatively with certain medications, particularly blood thinners, so make sure to speak with your doctor if that may be a concern of yours.
Some herbal supplements you may wish to try include chamomile, valerian root, and kava. Chamomile can be most often found in a tea form. Studies show that chamomile extract reduced rats’ times to fall asleep just as much as certain tranquilizing medications.
Chamomile has been used for thousands of years with a successful track record. Those allergic to ragweed or those who are pregnant or nursing should not consume chamomile.
Valerian root can help you fall asleep faster and stay asleep as well. The effectiveness of valerian increases over time with repeated use, so it should be taken every night, but not for more than a month or so at a time. Valerian can cause headaches, upset stomach, or morning grogginess.
Alcohol or other sleep aids should never be consumed at the same time as valerian root. Kava is another natural option that has been used for many, many years.
It has been proven to work for mild to moderate anxiety and can promote relaxation. Kava can affect liver function, especially when used with medications that are metabolized in the liver, or alcohol. Both chamomile and kava work best for stress-related insomnia.
When to Ask for Help
If nothing you try on your own seems to help, it might be in your best interest to speak with your doctor. Insomnia can be caused by medical condition, and exploring your health with a professional may lead you to some answers.
With such a common problem as insomnia, there are resources available.
Why can’t I sleep at night?
Medical Conditions that can Cause Insomnia
Insomnia can be a result of serious illness, or common ailments. Heartburn is an example of this. When laying down, the symptoms of heartburn may worsen and make you uncomfortable.
Elevating your upper torso can help this, as can over-the-counter and prescription medication.
If you suspect heartburn as your problem, it is still a good idea to talk with your doctor- heartburn can cause other complications as well.
Other common conditions that can result in insomnia include diabetes, mental health disorders, and headaches. Insomnia can also be caused by seemingly unrelated conditions, like kidney disease or neurological disorders.
You may not know of something going on until you bring up your problems with a medical professional. Discovering any condition earlier on means you can receive treatment before complications occur.
Something that causes insomnia is likely to affect your whole body and general health as well.
A cause of insomnia that seems obvious is sleep apnea and other sleep disorders. These conditions affect sleep directly, but can also lead to other serious issues. Disrupted breathing throughout the night can increase the risk for heart failure, and even death.
A major indicator of sleep apnea is chronic snoring. If your partner or someone else complains that you snore, do not take it as an insult- take it as an important clue in figuring out why you have insomnia.
Your health is extremely important, so if you or someone else suspects anything, getting in contact with a doctor or specialist is recommended.
How to fall asleep There is Always Hope
Insomnia can prove itself to be an extremely frustrating problem. You may try countless things that do not work, and it may seem that nothing ever will.
Not being able to sleep can lead to issues with your daily function, which can further increase the frustration of living with insomnia.
This daily stress can then cause even more loss of sleep.
It might seem like you’re stuck in a bad cycle, but that is not true. Insomnia can be addressed in more ways than you may think of, so there will always be another thing to try.
Remember that insomnia is a health condition like any other. If you have the flu, you go to the doctor for help and advice. If you have insomnia, you should do the same.
One in three people are thought to have at least mild insomnia.
Millions of others are in or have been in the same exact situation as you. Specialists work to treat insomnia specifically, whether it be through cognitive therapy or medical intervention.
Your problem is not a burden to anyone else, and working with a professional can help you to see that.
Perhaps an at-home solution will be what solves your sleep troubles. Do not dismiss things that may seem silly, like breathing exercises or herbal tea.
Sometimes what seems to be such a big problem can have a very simple solution, but you will not know until you try.
Exploring what might be causing your insomnia can give you insight to both your physical and mental health, and it can uncover problems that may have been hiding.
Sleep is incredibly important to every bodily and mental function. Losing sleep or associating sleep with frustration or negativity can deeply impact your daily life and health.
Getting quality sleep will keep you aware, awake, and with a more positive outlook.
Everyday tasks can seem impossible when you are exhausted, but it does not have to be that way.
Knowing why you can’t sleep and knowing what can be done to help give you the proper tools to tackle insomnia, whether you do so on your own or with the help of a medical professional.
The most important thing to remember is to not dismiss your sleep troubles as normal or not serious. If there is a problem, it can be solved.