2:15, 2:21, 2:47, 3:06… watching the clock during insomnia can be tormenting. When will I finally fall asleep? You wonder. Finally, you drift off into a deep dreamy sleep and what feels like moments later; BEEP, BEEP, BEEP! The alarm irritatingly reminds you that you can’t sleep in to make up for hours lost. Groggy and tired you drag yourself out of bed and reach for that extra strong cup of coffee.
Insomnia, a frustrating condition to have. As an insomnia sufferer myself I understand the struggle. There are things that do work and that can help you get a better night’s sleep. You might still have the occasional night of wakefulness but hopefully not as often.
What causes insomnia?
There are different causes for insomnia for different people. Some may have chronic worry and cannot seem to turn off the worry switch in their mind and so obsessive thoughts disturb peaceful sleep. Others just wake up unable to fall back asleep. Still others sleep fine once they fall asleep, but may take hours to relax enough to sleep. All, equally frustrating, may require different method’s to solve.
- Too much caffeine
- Too much ginseng or other stimulants
- Not enough exercise
- Sensitivity to sound and light
- Depression or anxiety
What solves insomnia?
Again, different people may require a different solution. Sometimes you have to work through different methods to find what works for you through trial and error. Each attempt has to be given some time and commitment, as it might not be solved in an instant. Here are some ideas to try:
- Go to bed and wake up on a regular schedule (to train your body to be in a certain rhythm).
- Have a relaxing bed-time routine. Read, watch an unexciting show, slow down, get off the phone, computer or other things that require you to think. Drink herbal tea and wind down.
- Stop drinking coffee or other stimulants by early afternoon. Some say by noon. Find what works for you. If you need caffeine to get you through the afternoon then try a type of drink with less caffeine, such as tea.
- If you cannot fall asleep after 20 minutes, get up and sit on the couch or other place until you feel drowsy again. Then go back to bed. (This trains your mind not to think too much while in bed).
- Some research has shown that those who take calcium supplements sleep better. http://www.ehow.com/how_4536607_calcium-sleep-well-night.html
- Melatonin, a natural sleep aide can help. You can buy Melatonin at the grocery store. Take it 20 minutes before bed.
- The worry box. For the worriers, a worry box helps. Buy note cards and a plastic note card box. Write down the things you worry about on the note cards. You are allowed to pull out the note cards for 10 minutes a day to worry. When you close the box you are not allowed to worry anymore. Some keep them organized in categories, such as Family, Work, and Misc…
- Drink a glass of milk before bed or during insomnia. Some research shows it doesn’t work. I will say that it works for me. It is supposed to release melatonin naturally and help you to fall asleep.
- Use the time to pray. If I can’t sleep I like to feel that I am using the time for something useful. I feel prayer is very useful and so I pray when I can’t sleep. Of course as I get tired my prayers become unusual “lord thank you for… help me to… eat pizza and get a new tire on my house…” But, I figure God understands. ;)
- If the cause of your insomnia is depression, then you may need an anti-depressant to help. Talk to your counselor or doctor about what might be best for you.
- For short-term insomnia a little bit of Benadryl can help. This is not useful for long-term insomnia and can cause dehydration.
- Sleep prescriptions can be habit forming and have side effects. Only try these if nothing else works. Also, you can probably cut the prescriptions in smaller doses because they are pretty powerful.
- Getting on a regular cardio exercise program can also help. People who exercise regularly sleep better. http://www.sleephotline.com/Sleep/categories/Excercise-Sleep.html
- Avoid long naps in the afternoon. If you absolutely need a nap. Set an alarm and make yourself get up after 10 to 20 minutes but no longer.
- Sometimes sleep deprivation can cause insomnia. Strangely, if you are over tired then you can’t sleep. Why? Because your body releases strong hormones to keep you going such as Cortisol or Adrenaline. If you make yourself stay up late to get things done, you may sabotage sleep later. http://www.adrenalfatigue.org/adrenal-fatigue-related-health-conditions/sleep-disruptions.html
Caffiene meter: (taken off the box of one of my favorite teas; Good Earth). http://www.goodearth.com
Coffee: 100 milligrams (Give or take)
Black Tea: 50 milligrams
Green Tea: 30 milligrams
White Tea: 20 milligrams
Herbal Tea: 0 milligrams
(Per 8 oz.)
Don’t make me give up my coffee!
For those of you who shudder when you think of cutting back on coffee or soda, let me tell you that the relief of a good night’s sleep is worth it. My doctor recently told me to “eliminate” caffeine for health reasons. Horrified, I kept repeating the word “eliminate” with a big question mark. “Eliminate? Certainly I can just cut back.” “No” she said. I had to stop.
Guess where the first place this compliant and willing patient went after the appointment? You guessed it. Starbucks! I headed straight there and ordered a Grande of my favorite coffee. That was my last one, though, for several weeks. I did stop drinking coffee. It was really hard to do. I was really tired and a bit grumpy. I was amazingly spacey and forgetful too. I became aware of how dependant on Caffeine I was to get through daily life.
I started to become aware of one nice side effect to my caffeine reduction…Sleep! Yes, I slept better. I felt better, and I had more natural energy during the day. It was great. Yes, I do drink a cup of coffee in the morning now, but I no longer drink three cups in the morning and then a cup or two in the afternoon. Why? Because I want to sleep! I have switched to tea for my afternoon pick me up and I do have more energy. Give it a try…I dare you. You might find you feel more rested and happier. Go for it.
Blessings to you and to all a good night’s sleep! Gretchen