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Insomnia is Ruining My Life—What Can I Do?

Published by Courtney Hall

Insomnia is a sleep disorder that can severely impact your mental and physical health. Some sufferers can’t fall asleep, while others find they wake in the middle of the night and can’t get back to sleep. After poor sleep, you may find it hard to concentrate or focus, suffer from anxiety or struggle with depression.

Behavioral Adjustments

If you’re struggling to fall asleep, stay asleep or fall deeply into a restful sleep, there are some behavioral adjustments you can make to improve what’s referred to as your sleep hygiene. Keep your bedroom extremely dark. If you read in bed until you’re sleepy, try reading in another room for a set amount of time, then go to bed. This will help you build a new habit of only using your bed for sleep. Avoid caffeine, nicotine, and alcohol before bed. Despite being able to fall asleep easily after consuming alcohol, it has been scientifically proven to disrupt your REM sleep.

According to the findings, alcohol does allow healthy people to fall asleep quicker and sleep more deeply for a while, but it reduces rapid eye movement (REM) sleep. And the more you drink before bed, the more pronounced these effects. REM sleep happens about 90 minutes after we fall asleep. -(WebMD)  If re-flux, gastrointestinal discomfort, or hunger are an issue, try ingesting one-fourth cup of unsweetened applesauce before bed to settle your stomach.  Please consult a doctor or specialist if acid reflux or gastrointestinal problems persist.

See a Specialist

You may need to participate in a sleep study to determine the source of your poor rest quality or inability to fall asleep. Before participating in a sleep study, make sure that the testing will be comprehensive. Your brain activity may be monitored, but conditions such as sleep apnea can heavily impact your sleep quality. A sleep disorder specialist should have a degree in respiratory therapy in addition to having passed the specialty exam set by the National Board of Respiratory Care. Carefully review the education qualifications of the professionals who will review your sleep study to make sure you get the information you can use.

Tire Yourself Out

If you can’t sleep at night, you may feel sluggish during the day. You may also feel you need a nap in the middle of the day or actually nod off unintentionally. Instead, try to force yourself to stay awake until bedtime. Exercise daily at least two hours before bedtime. Take a warm, but not too hot, shower before you go to bed to relax your muscles. Keep your bedroom cool and snuggle into a cocoon of blankets to help you physically relax into a deep rest.

Reduce Light and Screen Exposure

Televisions, e-readers, tablets, and phones are not conducive to quality rest. These screens expose you to light that tells your body that it’s daytime and that you shouldn’t be in bed. If you have a hard time falling asleep at night, move the television out of your bedroom and avoid screens for an hour before bed. You may even have luck using candles as your primary light source for an hour before bed. Use battery-powered flickering candles if flames are a safety concern. Let your home go dark before you go to bed to help you naturally get ready to sleep.  Never keep your cell phone in your bed or under your pillow.  Keep it away from your bed and out of reach.  If you wake up during the night and your cell phone is near, you are prone to opening it up, and we all know what happens next!  Leave your phone out of reach!

Quality sleep is hard to find in our hyper-connected world.  Anxieties and worries can nest in your brain, and it may feel as though they come out to play as soon as you try to get some rest. Focus on good sleep hygiene, avoid caffeine, nicotine, and alcohol before bed, and let your body sink into sleep.

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