If all it seems you do is stare at the ceiling at night, you’re not alone. About one in three adults have trouble falling or staying asleep at least one night per week. So before you reach for a sleeping pill, here are eight quick pointers for fighting insomnia that are worth trying.
1. Try bright light therapy
Believe it or not, bright light could be the key to getting more restful sleep. Why? According to the Mayo Clinic, researchers believe using a light therapy box affects the chemicals in your brain linked to sleep cycles and mood.
- When older people with insomnia were exposed to bright light for 45 minutes a day for two months, they fell asleep faster, slept longer and felt noticeably more energetic during the day than people who had just 20 minutes a day of light therapy.
- Study volunteers used special light-therapy lamps that deliver 10,000 lux of brightness, which is meant to mimic natural daylight. You can buy one without a prescription, but talk to your doctor first to make sure it’s right for you.
- Bright-light therapy is somes also referred to as phytotherapy.
2. Get some exercise
Recent studies have suggested that exercise is just as effective as taking sedatives, so the key to a sound night’s sleep is trying your hardest to remain active and fitting more exercise into your day.
- Activities such as walking, swimming, doing aerobics or going to the gym are a good way to rid yourself of any stress that may be keeping you awake at night.
3. Practise good “sleep hygiene”
Having good “sleep hygiene” means tweaking your sleep habits to encourage better shut-eye. Here are a few ways you can do that:
- Establish a relaxing bedtime routine.
- Go to bed and wake up at the same time each day.
- Use your bedroom for sleeping only. If you can’t fall asleep within 20 minutes, leave the bedroom and return when you feel drowsy.
- Get rid of bedroom stimuli like bills, TVs, smart phones, tablets and other screens, including bright alarm clocks. The darker and more distraction-free your bedroom, the better your sleep will be.
4. Listen to your favourite relaxing music
In a recent study, this strategy helped 60 problem sleepers fall asleep faster, sleep more soundly, and feel less tired during the day.
- Put your bedroom CD player on a timer and drift off as quiet, soothing music plays.
- There are also numerous free apps for your phone or tablet that can play an array of relaxing sounds, such as running water or a crackling fire, then turn off automatically.
- Using one of these apps to help you fall asleep should be the only reason your phone or mobile tablet is next to your bed. (See point #3 above!)
5. Learn some relaxation techniques
Whether it’s deep breathing, progressive relaxation or yoga, almost any type of relaxation therapy can help you fall asleep faster and sleep more soundly.
- Studies show that relaxation techniques can help you fall asleep 14 minutes sooner and sleep for an extra 20 minutes.
What’s more, these benefits exist even if you don’t perform the techniques right around bedtime. The solution if you’re pressed for time? Simply try to fit them in wherever you can in your day.
6. Silence a snoring bed partner
Bedding down with a chronic snorer is decidedly bad for your sleep. Researchers checked on the sleep quality and habits of 10 couples and discovered just how disruptive a snoring mate can be.
- The spouse of one snorer was awakened eight times every hour by her husband’s rasping night noises.
If your spouse’s snoring keeps you awake you could try moving to another room, wearing earplugs or asking your mate to seek medical help.
- Excessive snoring is sometimes a symptom of sleep apnea, a potentially dangerous medical condition whereby a person starts and stops breathing while asleep.
7. Cut out caffeine
Can’t sleep? Try cutting out caffeine. In a study of over 1,000 participants, those who got 240 milligrams of caffeine a day – roughly two cups of coffee – had a 40 per cent higher risk of insomnia than those who skipped it.
- It takes three to seven hours for your body to metabolize just half the caffeine in one cup of tea or coffee. If you can’t live without it, drink it only in the morning. Or else switch to decaf.
8. Reconsider warm milk
If drinking a soothing cup of warm milk is part of your bedtime ritual, there’s no reason to stop. However, the milk itself probably isn’t putting you to sleep.
- Researchers have disproved a popular theory that milk raises levels of the slumber-promoting amino acid tryptophan.
It could be that drinking the warm milk simply has a soothing and calming effect on your mood, which in turn makes getting to sleep easier.
Though sedatives and sleeping pills are readily available through prescription and over the counter, they’re a poor substitute for healthy, natural sleep. If you’re struggling to get some decent shut-eye each night, these tips could be key to helping you rediscover the wonderful feeling of being well-rested and refreshed.