If you have ever experienced insomnia then you know well the terrible effects it can have on your body and mind. You aren’t alone. It is estimated that somewhere between 20 and 30 percent of the U.S. adult population struggles with insomnia, either on a regular basis or intermittently.
There are many theories as to why insomnia is such a prevalent and growing problem. Many point fingers at the high stress, fast paced lifestyle that most people live today. Go back just 100 years and you will see that people slept more. Today we sleep an average of 20 percent less than they did then – and our population has more health risks. Experts believe that this is not a coincidence.
Restful, restorative sleep doesn’t start when your head hits the pillow; it starts when your feet hit the floor in the morning. What you do during your waking hours greatly determines the quality and amount of sleep you will get.
Your caffeine intake is a good place to start. A morning cup of joe is okay, but you really need to cut it off around 10 am and definitely by noon. Caffeine can stay in your system and affect you for longer than 7 hours. Even caffeinated sodas can keep you up. Don’t think that just because you don’t feel the buzz, it isn’t affecting you.
There is no argument that exercise is good for you. There are some people who claim that they get the best sleep when they work out in the evening. This can work for some people and not for others. However, you should get exercise at some point during the day. It has so many benefits and helps to give you a stronger, healthier body which will help your sleep.
Lay off the alcohol and nicotine before bed. Many people are tempted to have a nightcap or go for a smoke before bed, especially when they can’t sleep. The truth is that these activities can actually have the opposite effect, especially with women. Nicotine is a stimulant and alcohol prevents you from reaching REM and the deeper sleep stages where you get true rest. Alcohol is also a diuretic so you will likely find yourself waking several times to hit the restroom which will definitely interrupt your slumber.
Start preparing your body for sleep about an hour before bedtime. Turn off your computer, TV, or any other backlit device. The lighting in these devices actually tricks your brain into thinking that it is still daylight. This inhibits its production of melatonin which is the hormone that your brain releases to help you fall asleep. Instead, read a book, talk to a friend, or write in a journal. These things will help you relax and prepare your body for sleep.
Make your bedroom a sleep haven. Make sure it is cool, comfortable, dark, and sleep inducing. If you like it quiet, do what you can to make it a quiet area or invest in ear plugs. If you like some noise, use a fan or a white noise machine. A few drops of lavender on your sheets and pillow can also improve your sleep. However, if you start stressing about not being able to fall asleep, get out of bed. You don’t want to associate your bedroom with stress or anything other than peacefulness and sleep.
There are many herbs that work wonders for those who have trouble nodding off. Passion flower is great for insomnia and anxiety. Add a little lemon verbena which is also a great natural sleep aid. These two combined make a wonderful, fragrant, sweet tea.
Chamomile and California poppy are also very good. California poppy has the added bonus of helping you get better sleep. Valerian root, often called “nature’s Valium” is exceptional for stress related insomnia and hops is also good for insomnia caused by anxiety and stress.
Women who are pregnant or nursing should not take any herbs or medications without first consulting their physician.
Melatonin is not a cure for insomnia. While it can promote sleep, it typically does not work on the chronic insomnia that most sufferers experience. Sleep aids and PM pain relievers are also not effective for chronic insomnia. They may work for the occasional sleepless night, but over time some may stop being effective. Some prescription sleep aids can also be addictive which will only exacerbate the problem. Prescription pain medications are not good sleep aids. They may make you markedly drowsy but they typically do not promote restful sleep and people often wake up groggy the following day.
Insomnia can be a stressful, debilitating condition that can affect every aspect of your life. There are things that you can do, though, to overcome it and get the restful, restorative sleep that your body and mind need. Take care of yourself today for better sleep tonight.