Insomnia will ruin your life if you ignore it.
Maybe it doesn’t seem like that big a deal if you lay awake at night for only 45 minutes or so before you fall asleep. But sleep deprivation can increase your risk of catching all kinds of diseases, from heart disease to cancer to Alzheimer’s.
And if that weren’t bad enough, sleep deprivation also dramatically increases your risk for all kinds of mental health problems like bipolar disorder, schizophrenia, depression, anxiety, and more.
Losing even an hour of sleep each night to insomnia could cost you big in the long run.
Fatigue, daytime sleepiness, and difficulty concentrating or focusing are some of the common symptoms of insomnia (and sleep deprivation). Each year, one in four Americans develop insomnia. Worldwide, 20% of people are sleep deprived. The number is growing and continues to increase.
Despite the statistics and studies proving the harmful effects of insomnia, too many of us simply ignore the problem or learn to accept that “it’s just the way I am.”
But there is something you can do about insomnia, and you can get better!
Sleep deprivation definitely prevents us from firing on all cylinders in daily life. It affects our performance in school, work, and in all other areas of life. It may also affect relationships both personal and professional, not to mention the damage it can do to your health!
There’s a long list of what causes insomnia, but there are also numerous ways to treat it.
Here’s our list of the top ways to get rid of insomnia and take back control of your sleep:
As you probably know, there are countless benefits of regular exercise. One of them is improved sleep quality. Energy exhaustion from exercising helps regulate the restorative process during our sleep. The more you exercise, the better your sleep at night, and the easier it is to fall asleep quickly.
However, you need to develop an exercise routine in order to enjoy the benefits. Creating an exercise habit can profoundly improve your health and your sleep. A study on exercise and how it affects sleep quality confirmed that a regular exercise routine developed over weeks or months improves sleep significantly.
Exercise also helps improve your quality of life and mood (as does getting enough sleep, because sleep deprivation destabilizes your brain’s ability to regulate emotions). If you find yourself easily stressed, anxious, depressed, irritable, or unstable emotionally, both exercise and getting enough sleep have been shown to make a big difference in each of those areas of emotional and mental health.
So if you weren’t motivated enough to work out and exercise regularly, just know that the benefits are so worth it.
2. Eat Healthy
The nutrients from the food we eat also can greatly affect how you sleep at night.
Eat food that contains melatonin; melatonin is important to regulate a healthy sleep-wake cycle. Our pineal gland (a gland located inside the brain) produces melatonin when it receives a signal from the retina of the eye, the signal is transmitted when it detects light; the absence of light stimulates melatonin production. So there is a high melatonin level during the night where there is less light detection, and low during the day when it’s bright. Therefore, it’s best to eat food with melatonin, such as walnuts, during the night or before sleep to aid our body’s process of going to sleep.
Maintain a balanced or high level of serotonin. It also plays an important role in our body’s sleep-wake cycle and internal clock. In fact, serotonin is synthesized in the pineal gland to produce melatonin. Low serotonin levels pave the way for anxiety, aggression, low self-esteem and more. To help increase serotonin, eat carbohydrates: specifically low-fat or fat-free carbs. Snack on some carbohydrate-rich food before bedtime or sometime during the day.
Exercise can boost the serotonin level in our brains, too.
Magnesium-rich foods also give you the nutrients that improve sleep quality. If you have a deficiency in nutrients such as magnesium, it can cause your sleep to suffer. Magnesium can prevent insomnia, and bananas are known to have a high level of magnesium, so it’s good to consume one 2-3 hour before bed.
Many experts suggest to eat foods rich in magnesium not only just to battle insomnia but magnesium has a lot of benefits on our overall health. You can also take a magnesium supplement to help improve your sleep (and reduce anxiety).
Tryptophan can boost sleep quality too. You can increase the tryptophan level in your body by eating protein-based foods (like Thanksgiving turkey!) This amino acid can be converted into a particular molecule ”5-HTP” that is used to produce serotonin and melatonin. So an increase in tryptophan levels can increase serotonin production that will lead to a higher level of melatonin, improving your sleep quality as well as quantity.
3. Develop Healthy Sleep Habits
As important and effective as regular exercise and consuming sleep-enhancing nutrients, you should also develop a routine sleep habit. This can improve your ability to fall and stay asleep.
Experiment with different ways to sleep better you think you can do and see which ones work best for you.
Here are some ways to sleep better at night:
- Choose and set a specific time to go to bed sleep and to wake up then stick to it.
- Listen to your Circadian Rhythm: the 24-hour cycle that tells our bodies when to sleep, rise, and eat. When you feel tired in the evening, get some sleep.
- Practice sleeping during two periods over 24 hrs. That is, aside from sleeping during the night, allow yourself to have power naps in the afternoon (this is Biphasic sleep).
- Lower the temperature of your room at night. It gets hard to get a good sleep when it’s too warm.
- Lessen the noise that can interrupt your sleep with white noises like a fan, air filter, or white noise machine.
- Limit the light and blue light. As mentioned earlier, if there’s less light our body produces melatonin, and that helps you sleep.
- Don’t drink caffeinated beverages or alcohol before bedtime. You shouldn’t drink caffeine within 10+ hours of going to bed, because it has a half-life of seven hours.
Without a proper bedtime routine, you won’t be able to fall asleep quickly at night. Unless you are someone who can immediately fall asleep just minutes after laying down or closing your eyes, you need a bedtime routine.
Consider some of these tips for a bedtime routine you can follow.
When you begin your bedtime routine, it’s telling your brain that you are preparing for sleep. Practice this every night, and falling asleep quickly will become predictable and reliable.
“Our sleep system, along with most other neurophysiological systems, likes predictability and consistency.” – Rebecca Scott (NYU Langone Comprehensive Epilepsy Center—Sleep Center)
Having a routine helps your brain and body feel calm and safe, initiating hormones that help you sleep, and staving off stress hormones that keep you up at night. That’s one reason why we read the same bedtime stories to our kids every night: the routine helps them fall asleep much more easily!
Different people have different sleeping styles. You just need to find a rhythm and routine that works best for you.
Meditation can also fight insomnia. It helps to draw out the relaxation response from our body, which is the opposite of the stress response.
A study on mindfulness meditation proved that meditation can lessen stress-related ailments, such as depression. From a group of adults who participated, one group did a mindfulness-awareness program and the other half of the group did a sleep education class. In the end, the mindfulness awareness group suffered less from insomnia than the other group.
For starters, you can try some of the suggested meditation for sleep techniques in this article. There’s no risk to attempt meditation, it’s safe, and has lots of benefits.
5. Insomnia Medications
The risks and benefits of prescribed drugs to treat insomnia differ for each person. Before taking pills to help you with your insomnia, absolutely consult with your doctor first. We are not sleep experts, so it’s best to have an appointment with a doctor to find the right prescription meds for you.
There are different types of sleeping pills. Here are the common ones:
Antidepressants: mainly used to treat depression, they’re also used to treat insomnia as depression is related to having difficulty sleeping.
Benzodiazepines: commonly used for insomnia. These can cause drowsiness, muscle relaxation, and lower anxiety levels. There are different types of this prescription med.
Doxepin: works by slowing down brain activity to allow sleep.
Eszopiclone: causes relaxation to help you fall asleep and stay asleep.
Ramelteon: helps patients to fall asleep faster. It works similarly to melatonin.
Suvorexant: may help you to fall asleep and stay asleep longer.
Zaleplon: used for a short time to treat insomnia. It affects chemicals in the brain that are imbalanced in people with insomnia.
Zolpidem: used to treat insomnia. It may help you fall asleep and stay asleep
Also consider if you have other health issues, as the above medications may interact with other medications prescribed for other health problems that may lead to drug dependence or abuse. Consult and follow your doctor’s advice.
All these tips and remedies are effective, but applying and sticking to its practice requires discipline and self-love. The benefits of the above tips may not happen as soon as you expect them to, but stick to it! Satisfactory results will take time, but they’ll be worth it.
Seek advice from your loved ones, and ask them to help you find that perfect bedtime routine. Find an accountability partner to regularly check if you’re doing exercise. Ask your closest friend or family to accompany you to the doctor and together choose to eat healthily. Or if there’s no one right now, just do it by yourself.
Do it for yourself.
Find something to aim for, it will motivate you to have more discipline to do what’s good for you. It’s more painful to stay the same than to change and be a better version of you, right? Get rid of that insomnia and start to have better sleep.
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