Insomnia doesn’t have to keep you up all night

There is no miracle cure or single remedy for insomnia because every sleepless situation is different. Insomnia can occur as a result of personal, psychological, medical, and lifestyle issues. Here is a collection of do’s and don’ts to help you get a good night's sleep.


Do

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  • establish a regular bedtime routine
  • consume food and drink that induces or supports restful sleep
  • create an environment and surrounding that support sleep
  • create a relaxed mood before going to bed
  • take sleeping aids only if prescribed by your physician
Don't

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  • use the bedroom for work
  • get emotional before bedtime
  • take stimulants or depressants before bed
  • exercise too close to bedtime
  • take naps during the day
  • take a hot or cold shower
  • stay in bed if you can’t sleep

Scott J. Hershman, MD, CCMEP‘s recommendation to ExpertBeacon readers: Do

Do establish a regular bedtime routine

For those suffering from insomnia it is extremely important that you keep a consistent sleep schedule by going to bed and waking up at the same time each day. This routine extends beyond simply the time you go to bed, it also includes your evening routine. Some suggestions are:

  • start with a warm bath or shower with soothing aromatic oils before bed.
  • play relaxing music or an audio book with a timer, so that it shuts off automatically

It will take some experimentation to determine the schedule that is right for you, but keeping to that schedule is essential to training the body when to be asleep and when to be awake.

If you find you only need 5 hours of sleep a night, don’t go to bed at 11 pm only to wake up at 4 am. Instead, stay awake until 2 am so you can wake up at 7 am as planned. Then, incrementally move your bedtime back by 15 or 30 minutes until you are sleeping a full night.

Do consume food and drink that induces or supports restful sleep

Drinks that help induce sleep include warm milk, non-caffeinated herbal tea, or simply a glass of hot water.  Foods that have been shown to combat insomnia are those high in vitamin B6, such as bananas, and magnesium-rich foods such as almonds, spinach, black beans, or oat bran.

Do create an environment and surrounding that support sleep

It is very important that your bedroom environment is conducive to sleep. Check your mattress and pillows to ensure they are comfortable and have the right firmness for you. Make sure the room temperature is on the cooler side and is well ventilated, since a bedroom that is too hot and stuffy often results in poor sleep.  Make the room as dark as possible by firmly closing the blinds or curtains, and also don't forget to turn any bright alarm clocks away from you and turn off the small night-lights as well. Keep the room quiet. This may require a white noise machine or the sound of a fan to block out all other noises.

Do create a relaxed mood before going to bed

Stress is a key contributor to insomnia. A mind still working over the day’s challenges or concerns about tomorrow, all interfere with restful sleep. Going to bed relaxed and at peace mentally, can greatly increase your chance of a good night of sleep. To clear the mind, try keeping a night journal where you write anything you must remember in the morning. Try simple meditation or relaxation exercises such as yoga.  Even try to simply lay still, breathe deeply, and mentally talk your body into relaxing and being calm works well.

Do take sleeping aids only if prescribed by your physician

Insomnia can be treated through medication, but it should be your last resort because some are habit forming, hard to wake up from, or can have long lasting impacts on your mood and general well being long after you stop taking them.

It is highly recommended that you consult with your doctor before you start taking any pharmacy products to help you sleep. That way you are well aware of all the potential side effects and helps to ensure you have exhausted all of the natural remedies.


Scott J. Hershman, MD, CCMEP‘s professional advice to ExpertBeacon readers: Don't

Do not use the bedroom for work

For people suffering from insomnia, it is imperative that the bedroom is a place only for sleeping. Using the bedroom for other activities such as watching TV, using a computer, doing homework, reading, or working, can contribute to insomnia since your mind will learn to associate the room with stresses and stimulation, rather than a sanctuary for sleep.

Do not get emotional before bedtime

Most often, being calm, relaxed and ready for sleep will help a person avoid insomnia. Being excited, arguing, partying or any other emotionally stimulating activity, can result in insomnia.

Do not take stimulants or depressants before bed

To help you go to sleep, try to eliminate your intake of stimulants like caffeine, soda, or  chocolate at least 4 hours before bedtime. In the same way, eliminate your intake of depressants such as alcohol and nicotine. Depressants will make you drowsy, but will also cause poor sleep and may wake you up early. Finally, don’t eat heavy meals or spicy foods before bed. This can also result in poor sleep.

Do not exercise too close to bedtime

Exercise is important for your overall health, since it can reduce your stress levels, which in turn helps you sleep. But if you suffer from insomnia, it is better that you exercise in the morning, rather than at night.

Do not take naps during the day

Taking naps during the day can contribute to insomnia at night. Try to avoid napping, but if you must, limit it to less than 30 minutes.

Do not take a hot or cold shower

Dramatically changing your body temperature by taking a hot or cold shower, can have the opposite effect then the one you desire – it can wake you up.

Do not stay in bed if you can’t sleep

If you find yourself lying in bed wide awake in the middle of the night, don’t try to fight it, get up and go do something. Trying to force yourself to sleep never works and any sleep you do get is usually restless, poor sleep, and you feel even more tired in the morning than you did going to bed the previous evening.  If you do get up, leave the bedroom, go to the kitchen or living room, and do something that is soothing and calming, such as read a book or magazine. After 30 minutes or so, head back to bed. Above all, try not to lie in bed stressing over how much sleep you are missing by being awake, or worrying if you will be able to go to sleep.


Summary

Insomnia affects millions of people and is usually the result of some mental, physical, and environmental factors that disrupt a regular sleep cycle, which if not addressed, can become chronic. There are many different remedies for insomnia but fundamentally you need to recognize and address the root cause of what is keeping you awake. All of the remedies simply help you regain your regular sleep routine. If none of the remedies work and you find yourself awake night after night, consult a doctor because there may be other medical conditions preventing you from sleeping.

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