Updated April 15, 2021You feel tired all day long, but once your head hits the pillow at night, you’re wide awake. Or maybe you fall asleep easily, but wake up in the middle of the night and can’t get back to sleep. If you’re reading this post, these scenarios probably sound familiar.Insomnia is a sleep disorder that could be caused by a combination of factors like stress, anxiety, depression, medication, or poor sleep habits. Nighttime symptoms include trouble falling asleep and staying asleep, and daytime symptoms include concentration difficulties, fatigue, and problems with mood. The good news is there are ways to deal with insomnia and get a good night’s sleep.About InsomniaInsomnia is a sleep disorder that can occur on its own or along with another medical condition. When you have insomnia, you suffer from one or more of the following nighttime symptoms:Trouble falling asleepDifficulty staying asleepWaking up too earlyAnd one or more of the following daytime symptoms:Not feeling well-rested the next dayDifficulty concentrating or paying attentionIrritability or low moodPoor performance at work or schoolAcute insomnia is a short-term condition, usually brought on by stress or illness. Most people have experienced acute insomnia at some point in their lives. However, it become chronic insomnia when you have trouble sleeping at least three nights a week for at least three months.People at increased risk for insomnia include women and those over the age of 60. Stress, mental and physical conditions, and irregular schedules can also put you at a higher risk of insomnia.“If you are starting to have insomnia, the following tips can be helpful to prevent you from developing chronic insomnia,” says Dr. Jessee Dietch, a clinical psychologist with a speciality in behavioral sleep medicine. “If you’ve already developed chronic insomnia and have been dealing with it for months or years, consider seeking treatment from a provider of Cognitive-Behavioral Therapy for Insomnia.”1. Optimize Your Sleep Environment Most people underestimate the importance of a good sleep environment. Insomnia may feel like a problem that is all in your head, but your surroundings play a role, too. Some best practices for your sleep environment include:Make the bedroom a place for sleep only— not a place for watching television, texting friends, catching up on work, etc.Set the thermostat to a temperature between 60 and 67 degrees.Use blackout curtains to make your bedroom as dark as possible. Turn off any other lights in the room or hallway. If you’re not able to darken your surroundings, use an eye mask.If you can hear busy streets or other distracting sounds from your bedroom, use a pair of earplugs to muffle the outside noise.Find the best mattress, bedding, and pajamas for your needs. If you wake up feeling hot at night, use moisture-wicking or temperature-regulating fabrics to keep you cool through the night.2. Maintain a Regular Sleep ScheduleIf you wake up early on weekdays and sleep in on the weekends, you are doing your body a disservice. Consistency pays off when it comes to insomnia. The best way to approach this change is to choose a single wake up time that you will follow 7 days per week, no matter what time you go to sleep. In the morning as soon as possible after waking up, expose yourself to bright light, preferably outside. This might be tough to stick to at first, but after a few weeks your circadian rhythm will adjust to this new routine and your body will adjust and you will begin to wake up at these times naturally.3. Cut Down on CaffeineSome people are more sensitive to caffeine than others. Keep track of your caffeine intake and sleep patterns. If you start noticing a pattern of poor sleep on the days when you stop for coffee on the way home from work, it’s a good indication you should limit caffeine. Even eating dark chocolate after dinner can be stimulating to the nervous system and impact sleep quality. A good rule of thumb is to quit using caffeine about 10 hours before you’d like to go to bed. If you have trouble feeling alert in the afternoon, substitute your normal caffeine with a brief walk or other exercise.Colleen Ehrnstrom, author of “End the Insomnia Struggle: A Step-by-Step Guide to Help You Get to Sleep and Stay Asleep,” also adds, “Be aware of caffeine and stimulants that might be in foods or medications (such as allergy meds) that can also interfere with sleep.”4. Stay Active Try not to work out right before bedtime, but do make time for exercise daily. Not only can you get more hours of sleep with exercise, but you can also sleep more soundly.Colleen Ehrnstrom states, “ If you are not currently exercising, consider spending 5 minutes doing something to get your body moving (e.g. walking stairs, jumping jacks) every day. The optimal time to do this is around 4 or 5 hours before bed to help promote the process of sleep.”5. Don’t Eat At BedtimeWhen your digestive system is working overtime, it can impact your sleep. If you make a habit of eating and then lying down shortly afterward, you can develop gastroesophageal reflux (GERD) and suffer from heartburn. This occurs because when you’re flat on your back, acid from the stomach can flow up to the esophagus, causing irritation. On the other hand, if you find yourself waking up in the night feeling hungry, it might be helpful to have a snack about an hour before bed.Watch your drinking before bedtime, too— if you end your day with a glass of water or a cup of herbal tea, you may find yourself waking up to use the bathroom a few hours after falling asleep. A good rule of thumb is to have no more than 8 ounces of liquids after dinner.6. Reduce StressStress is a significant cause of insomnia. Relieving anxiety is easier said than done, but here are some proven strategies to help calm your mind before bedtime:Use techniques like progressive muscle relaxation and deep breathing to clear the mind and release tension from the body. If you find this type of relaxation difficult because of the stillness it requires, try gentle stretches.If a mental to-do list keeps you up at night, write down what’s on your mind so you can tackle those tasks in the morning.Avoid stressful situations and conversations before bedtime. Don’t check in on work at the end of the day, and if social media leaves you feeling keyed up, skip it, too.Implement a calming bedtime routine. This could include a warm bath at night or reading a book.Take up the practice of journaling. This is particularly helpful if you find yourself waking up in the middle of the night and can’t fall back asleep because your mind is racing.Get out of bed if you can’t fall asleep after about 20 minutes. Trying to fall asleep when you can’t makes you even more stressed out. Leave your bedroom and read a book, do some knitting, or work on a puzzle— any activity which calms you and doesn’t involve screen time will work.Cognitive behavioral therapy for insomnia (CBT-I) with a qualified therapist can also help those dealing with lack of sleep caused by stress and anxiety. You can also try this program at home as there are apps and books to help you create a personalized sleep program that works for you.7. Be Mindful of NapsWhen you are suffering from sleep deprivation, it’s tempting to take naps to catch up on your sleep. While napping is certainly helpful, it’s important to be mindful of when you’re taking your naps.If you’re chronically sleep-deprived, feel tired enough to fall asleep, and you have the opportunity to do so, by all means, nap. When your body needs rest, you should listen to it. However, it’s best not to get too carried away with mid-day naps. Meaning, your day-time shut-eye shouldn’t last for hours and shouldn’t be too close to bedtime.A good rule of thumb is to schedule naps at least 5 to 6 hours before it’s time to go to bed, and keep them brief (20-30 minutes). That way, your sleep is not hindered when bedtime rolls around.8. Limit Activating Activities and Wind Down at Night The blue light emitted by televisions, computers, and mobile devices can disrupt the body’s natural sleep cycle. This occurs because the blue light impacts the body’s production of melatonin. Beyond the impact of blue light, the activities that you do on your phone can be very stimulating and may keep you up or get your mind racing. Your brain is not a switch that can be flipped from “awake” to “asleep.” Give yourself a wind down time of at least 30-60 minutes before bed where you avoid stimulating content and instead engage in relaxing activities.9. Limit time awake in bedIf you are experiencing insomnia, you might start to feel like your bed and bedroom are your enemy. Part of overcoming insomnia is changing your relationship with your bed. You want your brain to know that bed = sleep. The best way to achieve this is to limit any waking activities in bed. That means scrolling on your phone at the beginning of the night, watching TV in bed, and most importantly laying awake frustrated in the middle of the night! If you do have a hard time falling asleep, don’t get in bed until you are feeling ready for sleep — that is, you’re feeling drowsy or nodding off. This might be later than the time that you’ve been going to sleep, but that’s OK! Similarly, if you wake up in the middle of the night and can’t get back to sleep, get out of bed and do something relaxing or peaceful until you feel sleepy again.10. See Your DoctorIf you’ve tried these strategies and still suffer from wakefulness at night, make an appointment with your doctor for a physical exam. Medical and mental health conditions associated with insomnia include:Chronic painOveractive thyroidSleep apneaRestless leg syndromeGERDHeart diseaseAnxietyDepressionPosttraumatic stress disorderMedications with stimulant side effects, including cold and allergy medications, antidepressants, and steroids“The most likely recommendation that your doctor will make is to refer you to Cognitive Behavioral Therapy for Insomnia (CBT-I), which is the first line treatment for insomnia. This strategy is recommended ahead of medication, so if possible you should try this approach first,” says Dr. Jessee Dietch.Common Questions About InsomniaHere are some questions you might have about insomnia:Can insomnia be cured? “Yes and no,” says Colleen Ehrnstrom, “Insomnia is a very treatable challenge and you can make changes that improve your quality of sleep. But there is no “cure” for sleep because sleep is a fluid experience (like your appetite, mood, and concentration); variability is a normal part of the human experience. To create sustainable and healthy sleep, it is important to implement habits and lifestyle choices that support your body’s ability to sleep. These guidelines can help you to promote a healthy sleep pattern that you can rely on overtime. However, if you have struggled with sleep for more than a month, you will likely need to consider augmenting these guidelines with a more structured sleep program known as cognitive behavioral therapy for insomnia (CBT-I).” How do you deal with severe insomnia?If your sleep problems are so severe they impact your ability to function, make an appointment with your primary care provider for a physical examination. You can also learn more about how to address these challenges on your own by learning more about CBT-I.How can I fight insomnia naturally?The tips listed in this article are all-natural ways to fight insomnia. Keeping a regular sleep schedule, exercising throughout the day, and practicing good sleep hygiene are some of the best ways to naturally support your body’s sleep patterns, thus reducing symptoms of insomnia.Relaxation techniques like breathing exercises and progressive muscle relaxation are also helpful. Most insomniacs are able to treat their sleep troubles without the use of over-the-counter or prescription sleep aids.How do you fall asleep on your schedule?Progressive muscle relaxation and deep breathing are two simple ways to increase your ability to fall asleep quickly.To do progressive muscle relaxation, lay on your back in bed with your arms at your side. Starting at your feet, tighten your muscles, then consciously relax them. Move up your body, tensing and relaxing each muscle group as you go until you reach your head.There are many breathing exercises to help you fall asleep. The easiest is to take long, deep breaths through your nose and exhale slowly through your mouth. Repeat until you start drifting off to sleep.Is 3 hours of sleep better than no sleep?Three hours of sleep is not enough to feel 100 percent but it’s better than not getting any. The same principle applies whether you’re getting two hours or six hours of sleep. You’ll feel sluggish if you’re not getting enough sleep, but any sleep is preferable to none.Deal With Insomnia and Sleep Better TonightBecause insomnia has many potential causes, there is no one-size-fits-all solution for it. Try implementing the strategies listed in this article before turning to sleeping pills. Good sleep hygiene practices, like limiting screen time before bed and adhering to a sleep schedule, can be beneficial but may not be enough to treat insomnia if it has become chronic. .If you notice that stress and negative thoughts are impacting your insomnia, relaxation exercises and journaling may help. If you implement these simple strategies for overcoming insomnia, you’ll reap the rewards of better sleep.This article is for informational purposes and should not replace advice from your doctor or other medical professional. Comments Cancel replyLeave a CommentYour email address will not be published. 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