Insomnia is one of the most common sleep disorders worldwide. In fact, as many as one in four women report struggling with bouts of insomnia. Insomnia can make it hard to fall asleep, make it hard to stay asleep, or cause the affected individual to wake up too early and not be able to get back to sleep. During waking hours, they may report increased levels of fatigue, exhaustion, irritability, mental fog, and more.
Most cases of insomnia are related to poor sleeping habits, mental health concerns such as depression and anxiety, a lack of exercise or proper diet, chronic illness, or even certain medications. Thankfully, there are many treatment options that exist—usually consisting of improving sleep habits, behavior therapy, and identifying and treating underlying causes. Sleeping pills may also be used but should be monitored closely by your primary care physician (PCP) for side effects.
Struggling with poor sleeping habits? Here are four tips to help relieve even the trickiest cases of insomnia.
1. Get on a Regular Schedule
Humans thrive in routine. We are creatures of habit, and setting a consistent bedtime routine is the perfect way to kick off your evening. Consider taking a warm shower or bath, turning off your electronics, and reading a book. This will help you to relax and unwind, better prepare your mind to shut off, and reduce the risk of insomnia or difficulty sleeping. Additionally, wake up at the same time each day, regardless of whether it’s a weekday or weekend.
Our circadian rhythm—the subconscious 24-hour internal clock by which our body operates—is key to regulating our body’s release of melatonin and other sleep-inducing hormones. This is not specific to humans; circadian rhythms exist in every living thing. By maintaining a consistent schedule, we can better adapt our bodies to fall asleep and wake up successfully.
2. Reduce Blue Light Exposure in the Evening
Your smartphone, computer, and other devices emit blue light. This artificial source of light tricks your mind into thinking it’s daytime, reducing the body’s natural release of melatonin, a sleep-inducing hormone. This can interfere with your ability to fall asleep and increase your risk for insomnia. Consider shutting off your electronics at least an hour before bed, wearing glasses that block the blue light, or putting your device in night mode. This will ensure your body’s natural clock is not thrown out of whack.
3. Relax and Clear Your Mind
Feelings of stress can cause rapid breathing and heart rate and reduce our natural ability to relax. In other words, stress can actually cause insomnia. Therefore, it is essential to find ways to unwind and settle down for the evening. There are many tips and tricks to releasing stress or anxiety, but consider the following:
- For one, consider doing light exercise or stretching before bed. Gentle movement can relax the muscles, focus the mind, and prepare the body for rest and healing.
- Also, consider practicing yoga or meditation before bed. This form of exercise incorporates breathing regulation with slow movement, giving you time to check in with yourself and create a safe, positive, and peaceful environment for sleep.
- If you are not partial to movement, consider journaling to clear the headspace—play background music or white noise to create a distraction and calm your inner voice.
4. Avoid Eating or Drinking Close to Bedtime
Eating or drinking, especially within an hour of bedtime, can reduce your ability to fall asleep as your body focuses instead on digesting food. In addition, drinking too much fluid before bed can overwhelm your bladder, leading to many bathroom trips and the inability to relax and fall asleep. Consider ceasing consumption three or four hours before bedtime to allow ample time to digest and clear out your system. This technique is also helpful for maintaining or losing weight as it is considered a form of fasting.
Insomnia is one of the most common sleep disorders worldwide. Most cases of insomnia are related to poor sleeping habits, mental health concerns like depression and anxiety, a lack of exercise or proper diet, chronic illness, or even certain medications. If you or someone you know struggles with insomnia or another sleep disorder, consider trying out the tips above and talk to your primary care provider (PCP). They are an excellent resource to help you relieve or treat insomnia.