Many of us have suffered a sleepless night. We toss and turn, look at the clock every five minutes, and count sheep up to a thousand before we simply give up and turn on the TV. And because we are exhausted, we sleep all the better the following night. But insomnia is a different matter entirely. It is a chronic condition that can persist over weeks, months, or even years with symptoms like having trouble falling asleep, waking multiple times each night, or waking up feeling like you haven’t slept at all. It will almost certainly lead to minor symptoms like drowsiness, fatigue, and an inability to focus, but it can also cause more serious side effects like confusion, memory loss, depression, and a host of stress-related disorders. So here are a few tips to help the insomniacs out there catch a few zzzs.
- Drop the coffee. Nothing will keep you up like caffeine, so try changing your diet to exclude sources like coffee, tea, soda, and chocolate (many of which also contain sugar) and see if it helps. It’s also good to know that caffeine affects everyone differently, so even if you have coffee in the morning, it may still keep you up at night.
- Quit drinking. In this case, alcohol is the culprit. You may think that a late night glass of Chianti or a handle of vodka will throw you into a deep slumber, but nothing could be further from the truth. While moderate levels of alcohol may relax you, they won’t give you the shut-eye you crave (since they prevent you from reaching restful levels or REM sleep). Passing out will definitely leave you oblivious for awhile, but it won’t make you well-rested.
- Schedule a sleep study. Your problem may not be insomnia at all, but rather a much more serious problem like sleep apnea (where you stop breathing throughout the night only to start awake). This will not only leave you sleep-deprived, it can actually kill you if you stop breathing long enough, so you might want to get it checked out if you notice you’re not snoozing like you used to.
- De-stress. It’s easy to get caught up in the many stresses of modern life, from managing your career to running a busy household. So it’s no surprise that you fall into bed exhausted every night only to worry over what you forgot to do today, all the items on your upcoming agenda, and relationship problems that stem from all of your anxiety. Your spinning mind can become a veritable torture device. So take a hot bath, ask your spouse for a massage, or do some yoga before bed to calm your mind, relax your body, and prepare yourself for sleep. Another good trick is to keep a pad and pen by the bed to write down whatever it is you think you might forget (as a method of obtaining a little peace of mind).
- Make a sanctuary. There is no better way to get a good night’s sleep than by training yourself to have one. To that end, remove items from your bedroom that can be distracting (television, digital clock, loudly buzzing electronics) and set it up as a temple of restfulness. Appoint your nest in soothing colors, comfortable fabrics, and soft lighting to ensure an environment that lulls you. Then accessorize with some appropriately boring bedside reading material, a soothing sound generator, and even an aromatherapy setup to get you in the mood for a snooze.