We can all safely say that we have struggled with sleep at one point or another in our lives. The difficulty is we all seem to have varying and individual degrees of sleep problems…. Maybe you find it difficult to sleep when you have too much on your mind, maybe you wake up and cannot get back to sleep, or maybe you drink too much coffee to get yourself through the day and it stops peaceful, deep sleep.
The point is Insomnia is not an easy term to define because we each have different variations and ways of which it may manifest. I have suffered with Insomnia in the past, never severe but it has been bad enough to make me want to do something about it. I usually wake up early in the morning and find it difficult to get back to sleep, this can be especially annoying when you are up at 4 AM with a late night scheduled that day. Saying this I have also experienced trouble falling asleep, and having fitful sleep throughout the night.
Through the years I have come up with certain things that help, but most importantly I find the key is to never look at insomnia as a battle. Once we start fighting to get to sleep the battle is already lost. Easier said that done but we need to accept sleepless nights and work with them.
1. If you have trouble getting to sleep - Try and make yourself genuinely tired, this doesn’t mean running around all day (although spending more time on your feet helps) but rather signalling to your mind that it is time to go to bed and rest. Spend some time in a dark room, no electronics and only a small bit of light. Insomnia can be a great opportunity to manage your thoughts or read something important, do something constructive until you start to yawn and your mind/body unwinds.
If you can’t sleep, then get up and do something instead of lying there worrying. It’s the worry that gets you, not the lack of sleep. ~Dale Carnegie
2. Soothe the Stomach – Our stomach is like our second brain, if it is upset or unsettled then you will be unable to relax. Whether you had difficulty digesting your dinner or are hungry, an unsettled or unhappy stomach will cause you to lie awake restless. If you are hungry go and eat a small snack (a warm glass of milk works well) or if you have an unsettled stomach then try some Slippery Elm Bark as it can soothe the stomach and get rid of indigestion aiding to repair the stomachs lining while you sleep.
3. If you Wake early and can’t get back to sleep - Find ways to calm the mind, in my experience this happens 99% of the time because we have too much going on or you have pushed yourself too hard the previous couple of days. Whether it has been working too hard, working out too hard or not taking enough time out – it often manifests itself in waking up in the middle of the night feeling restless. Take a step back and try to take things easy – only do light stretching and walking for exercise or take more time out for relaxation for a couple of days. The other reason early morning waking can occur is low blood sugar – this will normally manifest in waking up hot and bothered. In this case having a small snack before bed can help keep blood sugar stable throughout the night – try something with a mix of fat and complex carbohydrates.
No day is so bad it can’t be fixed with a nap. ~Carrie Snow
4. Take Naps - It seems counterproductive at times and many people will recommend avoiding naps if you have trouble sleeping. For me the opposite is true, but I am talking about true naps that last 15-30 minutes not straight sleeping during the day. A nap should be a mind refresher, you should always remain conscious and in touch with reality. When done right naps work as a way to rest the mind for a short period of the day, but they have lasting effects and work as a way to calm the mind and promote sleep that evening. A good nap is especially useful if you have had sub-optimal sleep the previous night or have a late night planned.
5. Lose the Fear – Of what a lack of sleep can do to you. One of our deepest instincts is sleep, you will always fall asleep sooner or later. Whether it is in a couple of hours or the next night. The habit of sleep is too deeply ingrained in our human nature for it to be thrown off. And besides the next day after a restless night usually isn’t that bad. And although a lack of sleep isn’t great for you it can’t harm you as badly as many fear mongering articles will have you believe.
We can never escape from insomnia as no one is guaranteed 100% good sleep all the time, but we can learn how to deal with it. The tips above can help but above all losing fear of a lack of sleep and not fighting insomnia is the way to improved sleep on a regular basis.