50 Ways on How to Get Rid of Insomnia
Being an insomniac unable to fall asleep during countless number of nights can be extremely frustrating. How do I know? I’ve been there. Individuals with insomnia can face different challenges, including difficulty falling asleep, or waking up during the night / wee hours of the morning and having trouble going back to sleep. You’ve probably experienced ending up trying different ways to fall asleep with no avail as the minutes pass by. You toss and you turn around your bed, listen to music or try out different sleeping positions, but nothing works. Today, you’re in for a treat because I’ve spent hours to put together a complete list of how to get rid of insomnia.
Some are scientifically proven.
Some have worked for some people but not others.
Some are based on my personal experience.
Whatever it is, it’s all here for you to explore and hopefully pick out ones that works well for you. I’ve sorted these into 3 categories: not quite challenging, somewhat challenging and ones that require external help.
Not Quite Challenging
1) Caffeine Keeps You Awake
Drinking coffee at night is a sure fire way to stay awake all night. Caffeine is a stimulant which many people use after waking up in the morning to stay awake and alert throughout the day. Caffeine works by blocking out sleep-inducing chemicals in the brain and increasing adrenaline production, which is certainly what you DON’T need if you’re trying to get to sleep. Common rule of thumb is to not drink any caffeinated drinks after two in the afternoon.
2) Establishing a Sleep Schedule
One of the problems that could cause sleeplessness is that your body’s out of sync natural sleep-wake cycle, or what is also known as the circadian rhythm. Simply put, if you religiously follow a sleep schedule – going to bed and waking up at the same time – you feel more refreshed and energized than if you sleep for the same number of hours but at different times.
3) Having the Right Pillow
Having the right pillow can be extremely important for reducing neck pains, and which can wake you up in the middle of the night especially if you like sleeping on your side. An ideal pillow is one that is designed to provide the best support for your neck and to ensure that your neck is in the proper alignment when you’re sleeping.
4) Having the Right Mattress
For many people, sleeping on an uncomfortable mattress is one of the main reasons why it is difficult to fall asleep. Having the best mattress for you not only ensures maximum support and comfort, but also reduces the stress exerted on pressure points along your body, such as your back, hips and shoulders.
5) Sleeping in a Position You’re Most Comfortable With
While some sleeping positions tend to have more benefits compared to others, there may be certain ones that you feel most comfortable in. For me, sleeping on my side has always been the most comfortable and I find myself having a better sleep when I’m in this posture.
6) Turning Off Electronic Devices
Numerous studies have shown that disturbances such as electric fields, radio frequency and electromagnetic radiation can cause sleeping difficulty and waking up often during the night – two issues commonly faced by individuals with insomnia. Turning off all your electronic devices such as your smartphone, tablet, personal computer and television can help reduce these disturbances.
7) Get Some Exercise
A few studies performed have suggested that exercising significantly “improves the sleep of people with chronic insomnia.” In particular, a study concluded that moderate intensity aerobic exercise such as walking decreased the amount of time insomniacs took to fall asleep. Not only that, performing light exercise can cause you to stay asleep for a longer period of time and have better sleep quality.
8) Making Sure the Room Temperature is Comfortable
This one’s an obvious tip. Feeling too hot? Remove your blanket and open your bedroom’s window to get some breeze. Or if you’re feeling too cold, be sure to have a blanket nearby. Making sure your thermostat set point is at a comfortable temperature is a must!
9) Get in Comfortable Clothing
Putting on comfortable, loose clothing for sleeping is one of the things you can do to sleep more comfortably throughout the night. If your night shirt is too tight, you’ll probably end up feeling uncomfortable and find yourself constantly trying to fix your shirt.
10) No Fluid Intake an Hour Before Sleeping
Whether it is water, soda, fruit juices, or alcohol, you should avoid any fluid intake at least 1 hour before your bedtime. Having to go to the bathroom after you’ve fallen asleep not only disrupts your sleep, but if you’re like me, it can be extremely difficult to get back to sleep.
11) Reduce Sugar Intake before Sleeping
Some doctors suggest that the consumption of refined grains and sugars before bed can be bad for people who have trouble sleeping. These refined grains and sugars which raise blood sugar levels can overstress the organs that regulate hormone levels throughout the body. As hormone levels fluctuate when you’re asleep, you are more likely to wake up in the middle of the night.
12) Taking a Warm Bath 30 minutes to an Hour Before Bedtime
The human circadian rhythm influences the body’s temperature. In the afternoon, the human body temperature drops gradually into the evening and we start getting the sleepy feeling. Taking a warm bath just before bedtime can raise your body temperature after which, subsequent drops in body temperature can give you the same sleepy feeling you get in the afternoon.
13) Soothing Music
Soothing and relaxing music can help you fall asleep. Psychologist Dave Elliot from the University of Cumbria, United Kingdom, found that soothing and relaxing music had similar characteristics. All of them had “90 beats per minute, a 4/4 beat, piano and strings and narrow note sequences where the notes moved from low the high.”
14) Do Something If You’re Not Falling Asleep
Have you been tossing and turning around for a long time but can’t seem to get some sleep? Well, it’s time to get out of bed and do something. Read a book, write in your diary and sleep journal or do something relaxing instead. Doing something else when you’re unable to sleep makes it more likely for you to fall asleep when you try again. Just be sure not to do anything too stimulating, like listening to upbeat or high tempo tunes.
15) Some Carbs Before You Sleep
An Australian study conducted suggests that eating carbohydrates before bedtime can make you fall asleep faster. Researchers found that carbs which cause a spike in blood sugar levels may hasten sleep, when eaten 4 hours before bedtime. The intake of carbs can cause an increased level in tryptophan and serotonin, two brain chemicals involved in sleep. Note that this is opposite of number #11, so try it out to find out which works for you! Eating some carbs before sleeping seems to work for me.
This can defer from individual to individual; some are noise sensitive while others are not. If you are indeed sensitive to noise and find yourself waking up to soft noises like your roommate opening a door, try putting on some earplugs to see if you end up sleeping better!
17) Deep Breathing Exercise
Dr. Andrew Weil, a Harvard trained medical doctor believes that the most effective way of getting the best sleep is as simple as breathing in and breathing out. He states:
“Breathing strongly influences physiology and thought processes, including moods. By simply focusing your attention on your breathing and without doing anything to change it, you can move in the direction of relaxation.”
18) Soothing Discomfort
Are you feeling discomfort at some of parts of your body? For instance, having an itching rash or irritated dry patch of skin can be annoying especially when you’re ready for bed. Applying moisturizing cream or medication to the affected areas during bedtime is a great way to ensure you do not experience any discomfort during your sleep. Making sure you soothe any discomforts you are experience is a must if you do not want to be woken up by such discomforts.
19) Avoid Spicy Foods
Spicy foods have been associated with affecting the quality of the sleep you get. Not only can eating food that is rich in spices cause heartburn, but also raises your core body temperature. Both of these are linked to a reduced quality in sleep.
20) Darkness Rules
In addition to affecting the production of melatonin, sleeping in a dark room is important as it prevents the infiltration of external light into your bedroom. Having light-proof blinds or curtains in your room should do the trick in making sure you sleep in a dark environment. Doing so will enable you to sleep until your alarm sets off, even if there is sunlight outside.
21) Alcohol is NOT a Sleep Aid
While some people believe that drinking alcohol at night will make you sleep better, a recent review of 27 studies show that alcohol does not improve sleep quality. According to these findings, alcohol does allow individuals to fall asleep quicker, however, it reduces the restorative rapid eye movement (REM) sleep. The medical director at The London Sleep Centre in United Kingdom, Irshaad Ebrahim states:
“Alcohol may seem to be helping you to sleep, as it helps induce sleep, but overall it is more disruptive to sleep, particularly in the second half of the night.”
22) No Large Meals Close to Bedtime!
Having a large meal just before you go to sleep can cause discomfort. Eating too close to your bedtime often results in heartburn and acid reflux, both of which results in a burning sensation feeling.
23) Counting Sheeps
In many different cultures around the world, counting sheep is a mental exercise which is believed to have a positive effect in putting oneself to sleep. The idea behind this is to induce boredom into an repetitive exercise which eventually cause sleepiness.
24) Getting Enough Rest
The daily routine for most individuals are fairly constant. Drastic changes to your sleeping schedule can negatively impact how quickly you fall asleep. As such, getting enough rest is important to make sure you don’t take any naps in the afternoon. Read point #41 to find out more about how this helps with getting rid of insomnia.
25) A Glass of Warm Milk
The age-old wisdom claims that milk is full of tryptophan which is thought to have sedative effects. Of the handful of studies conducted, researchers show that milk actually decreases the ability of tryptophan to enter the brain. While there is no scientific evidence that shows drinking warm milk before bedtime can help you fall asleep faster, many people swear by milk as a sleep aid. Whether milk does in fact have some sedative effect or if it’s all psychological, drinking a glass of milk before bed can be as soothing as having a cozy blanket.
26) A Spoon of Apple Cider Vinegar
For some, taking in a spoon of apple cider vinegar mixed with water just before bedtime does the trick. Many individuals swear by this remedy as they claim to be able to fall asleep faster and sleep much longer.
27) Make Use of Essential Oils
Many people find the use of essential oils to be helpful in falling asleep. There are two ways to use essential oils; topical use or aromatic use. Some of the essential oils that have been recommended by theprairiehomestead.com include lavender, roman chamomile, ylang ylang and bergamot.
28) Do Math Or Something Boring
This certainly works. As a college student, I have often found myself sleeping during my attempt to study on my bed. So the next time you’re having difficulty sleeping, read your history class textbook!
29) Getting Your Own Blanket
If you’re sharing the bed with a partner, getting your own blanket can significantly help especially if your partner often times “dictate” who gets more of the blanket. Having separate blankets eliminates the possibility that you’ll be too hot or too cold in bed and instead, have control of when you need or don’t need a blanket.
30) Dim the Lights
Melatonin, a hormone produced in the brain’s pineal gland plays a significant role in setting the body’s biological clock. In a study conducted over 100 young adults, researchers showed that the brightness of lighting in the subjects’ surroundings had a direct correlation with the times in which melatonin was produced. The researchers found that compared to dim light, exposure to bright light before going to bed suppressed melatonin levels which results in a shortening of the body’s internal representation of night duration. Consequently, this delays your biological clock, negatively impacting your sleep.
31) Use White Noise
White noise is a type of noise that is produced through the combination of different sound frequencies together. In other words, white noise can be thought of having 20,000 tones playing at the same time. The way playing white noise when you’re sleeping works is that by bombarding your sense of hearing with thousands of different tones, you’re very unlikely to be able to pick any sound out. This means the next time your dog barks or a door slams in your house while you’re asleep with white noise, you won’t even notice these noises.
32) The Clock Needs to Go Away
Is there a clock on your bedside table? If you’re an insomniac, one of the most useful things you can do is take your clock away from your sight! Trust me, you don’t want to feel worse by watching the minutes pass by while you struggle to fall asleep – it’ll make it even harder to fall asleep. Besides, if you have a mechanical clock on your bedside table, you’ll almost certainly hear the ticks of the clock’s second hand which can be a distraction.
33) Wear Yourself Out
Are you not feeling tired when you try to get some sleep? Wearing yourself out during the day often works out. Making changes to your daily routine such that you slot in activities that are physically and mentally draining can do you good in terms of overcoming insomnia. The next time you have trouble falling asleep, hit the gym the following day and monitor if it’s easier to fall asleep.
34) A Short Walk At Night
Taking a short stroll around the neighborhood at night, right after dinner can not only help with digestion but also helps clear your mind so that you can fall sleep more easily.
35) Drink Herbal Tea an Hour Before You Sleep
Drinking herbal tea just before getting to bed can not only help you unwind and relax, but can also help you to fall asleep. Some of these plants and herbs are chamomile, valerian, lavender, lemon balm and peppermint. While there is little scientific proof that drinking herbal tea helps in sleeping, many people have incorporated this just before going to sleep and have reported positive experiences.
36) Putting Your Smartphone As Far Away From You
Are you someone who likes to check your social media apps on your bed? Or do you like to visit sites like BuzzFeed? If yes, you probably already spend a lot of time during your bedtime to check out these sites. Since one viral post can lead to a viral video and another, you’ll end up not sleeping and potentially overloading your brain with information, making it even harder to fall asleep when you do decide to put down your smartphone. The solution? Set your alarm and put your smartphone as far as you can from your bed.
37) Put that Stress and Anxiety Away
Have you ever noticed how you can’t seem to fall asleep the day before an important exam or a job interview? That’s because you’re tensed up and not in a relaxed state. Perhaps the best way to get rid of insomnia is to first manage your anxiety and stress levels.
38) No Electronics An Hour Before sleeping
Experts have suggested that individuals should have a “screen-free” hour before bedtime. In a study of 10,000 teenagers, researchers in Norway discovered that there is a correlation between the duration individuals spent looking at the screen and the quality of their sleep. The longer teenagers used their smartphones, computers or tablets, the worse the quality of their sleep. Dr. Mari Hysing of the Norwegian research centre Uni Research Health states:
“At a minimum, keep the night-time screen-free in the bedroom, and ideally be logged off an hour or so before they go to sleep.”
See numbers #6 and #36 for additional benefits for keeping electronics away.
39) Your Bed is a Sanctuary for Sleep
More often than not, there is a lack of distinction of the function of your bedroom and other parts of your home. Understanding that the bedroom is the place where you rest and rejuvenate is an important first step. Ideally, you’ll want to make sure you do everything that is not related to resting and relaxing outside of your bedroom. In other words, your bedroom should only be a place where you sleep, relax and unwind. Making this distinction can psychologically help individuals sleep faster once they’re on their bed.
40) Have a Sleep Journal
Unable to fall asleep? Reach for your sleep journal and write down your thoughts. Writing what’s on your mind can help you pinpoint what is causing you to have difficulties in sleeping at night. Once you have a list of items that are troubling, it’s time to find resolutions to them in the morning. Through this exercise, you’ll also be able to realize things that you can control and things that you can’t. For items that are out of your control, train yourself to free your mind from thinking about it.
41) Do Not Take Naps
Taking naps, especially in the afternoon or evening can obviously make it hard to sleep at night since you’ll probably feel more refreshed than tired. How do I know? On numerous occasions, taking a nap after I get back from work at about 6 pm makes it a drag trying to fall asleep at night.
42) Relaxation Activities
One of the things that is common among individuals with insomnia is having a racing mind or a preoccupied mind at night. Meditation and yoga can help calm your nerves and put you in a relaxed state of mind. A study conducted recently showed evidence that individuals who meditate had less insomnia, fatigue and depression. As Dr. Herbert Benson of the Benson-Henry Institute for Mind Body Medicine states:
“The idea is to create a reflex to more easily bring forth a sense of relaxation.”
Interested in this? Harvard’s health website has a simplified two step guide to help you get started.
43) Forget About the Passing Minutes
If you’re like me, the difficulty of going to sleep is compounded by the fact that you keep thinking about how much time you’ve “wasted” tossing and turning on your bed. You’ll probably also feel bad that time is passing and you have to wake in “x” hours. This thought process not only makes it more difficult to fall asleep, but also stresses you out. If you’re experiencing insomnia, be sure to forget about the passing minutes!
44) Don’t Obsess About Sleeping
This one’s a personal favorite. Thoughts of “I better get some sleep” flood your mind and the next thing you know, an hour or two just passed. Ironically, the more effort you put into trying to get some sleep, the wider awake you’ll stay. Moral of the story: Stop obsessing about sleeping and you’ll fall right asleep.
45) Think Happy and Positive
This one’s pretty self-explanatory; as stress and anxiety can make it extremely difficult for you to sleep, thinking happy thoughts is one of the things you can do to reduce these negative feelings. More specifically, try to focus on good memories and happy events.
46) Set Up Goals for Tomorrow
Sometimes, we can’t sleep because we keep thinking about what needs to be done tomorrow. For example, some parents tend to keep thinking about what they need to do before they get to work in the morning – make breakfast and prepare lunchboxes for their kids. Writing these to do tasks down in a journal or a piece of paper just before you sleep can help clear your mind.
47) Getting Up Early – No Sleeping In
Here’s a fairly common scenario on a Saturday morning. You wake up to find out its only 6:30 am which is the time you set your alarm for on weekdays. You’re thinking “I don’t have to get to work today.” As a result, you get back to sleep and find yourself sleeping for the rest of the morning. Ideally, getting up the first time you wake up can help you establish a sleep schedule to prevent difficulty in sleeping on following nights.
Requires External Help
48) Cognitive Behavioral Therapy for Insomnia (CBT-I)
CBT-I or cognitive behavioral therapy for insomnia is method for treating insomnia by changing sleeping habits and scheduling factors as well as learning about the misconceptions about sleep and insomnia. There are many different sections or “modules” of CBT, including Stimulus Control Instructions, Sleep Hygiene Education and Relapse Prevention. As someone who has gone through CBT-I puts it:
“I went with an open mind, but I didn’t expect it (CBT-I) to work as well as it did. Now I can go to bed and sleep on my own, which many people take for granted – but for me it is the biggest gift of all.”
49) Sleep Medications
If you’ve tried most of the methods in this article but have found that none really works out for you, you may resort to getting prescribed drugs for the treatment of insomnia. Some of these drugs include Lunesta, Rozerem and Sonata. Be sure to keep in mind that you shouldn’t plan to do anything other than sleeping after taking such medications as you’ll start feeling drowsy. Also be sure to seek advice from your doctor.
50) Getting a Massage
Research gathered by the American Massage Therapy Association shows that massage can improve sleep in individuals, regardless of their age. In particular, massage helps people spend more time in deep sleep which makes them feel more rested. In addition, massage also increases the body’s production of serotonin, which is essential for the production of melatonin – a hormone that makes you feel less alert and sleepy.
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