It is highly likely that everyone will suffer from insomnia at some point in their lifetime.
In fact, chronic insomnia is thought to affect 1 in every 3 people at any given time and comes with a slew of side effects ranging from fatigue and lack of concentration to depression and an increased risk of early death.
But, there is hope for those affected as there are techniques that we can use to help us fall asleep.
Here are 5 bedtime rituals we should practice nightly to give ourselves the best chance of dozing off peacefully.
1. Regular Bedtime
Swings in the timing of your sleep can be the culprit for keeping you in a constant state of jetlag.
If you have problems falling asleep, go to bed when you’re tired and try to wake up around the same time every day. CONSISTENCY is key.
Try to keep this routine every day — even on the weekends!
2. Limit Nicotine, Caffeine, Alcohol and Food Intake
Consumption of caffeine, nicotine, alcohol, and food can stimulate our brains and keep us awake at night, so be sure to limit these activities to earlier in the day.
While alcohol may help you fall asleep, it may also be the culprit associated with waking you up multiple times throughout the night.
Sometimes thoughts of worry can keep us awake at night, contributing to a feeling of being restless even though we’re tired. This made worse by the fact that poor sleep is linked with poor mood, which may leave you feeling more anxious and easily frustrated the next day.
Increases in the stress hormone cortisol make it harder to fall asleep. Relaxation techniques such as deep breathing and progressive muscle relaxation can help release tension and decrease the stress that has built up during the day.
Mindfulness meditation techniques have been found to be effective in helping people drift off to sleep peacefully.
These involve meditation, relaxation, and awareness exercises to help focus your attention to be ‘in the moment’, acknowledge different sensations, and ‘let go’.
By learning how to manage your physical sensations, thoughts, and emotions in a non-critical way, you can move from a stressed to a calm state during the day and at night. Join a class or download a mindfulness app with guided meditation you can listen to at bedtime.
4. Shutdown Screens
Bright lights and screens just before bed can stimulate our brains and contribute to keeping us awake.
Many people don’t realize that the light emitted by these devices (particularly blue wavelengths) suppress melatonin, the hormone that encourages sleep, making it harder to fall asleep.
Bed should be for two activities: sleep and intimacy. This encourages your brain to think of your bed as a place of rest.
5. Wind down
Your sleep may also benefit from a wind-down routine and a calm environment. This might involve lighting candles, dimming the lights, and drawing a warm bath.
Your circadian rhythms, or ‘body clock’, sync many of your bodily functions, including hormone release. Maintaining a routine will keep rhythms regular.
But, What If I Still Can’t Sleep?
If you can’t fall asleep after about 30 minutes, don’t stay in bed counting sheep. It won’t help. Instead, get up, go to another room and do something quiet and restful in dim light like reading a book.
Remember to avoid your computer, mobile or TV, because the light they emit can stimulate your mind and keep you awake. When you start feeling tired, go back to bed. If you still can’t fall asleep, get up again. Don’t worry if you have to repeat this several times. Remember to get up at your regular wake time.
Our ‘body clock’ is wired to sunlight. If you have trouble getting up in morning, try opening your blinds to let the sunlight in. The dawn light will help you wake up naturally.
Things to remember
The amount of sleep our body requires changes with age.
Newborns need around 16 hours of sleep per day, adults about seven to eight hours, and geriatric people generally sleep less. There are individual differences too – the main thing is that you feel refreshed the next day.
Our bodies cycle through different sleep stages every 90 minutes ending with a short period of wakefulness. Remember, short awakenings during the night are normal.
If you have a night of poor sleep, try not to put too much emphasis on it during the day. Know that breaking bad habits and creating good ones takes time. Don’t give up, stick to your healthy sleep routine.
If you continue to have problems or suspect you have an underlying sleep disorder, see your doctor or a sleep specialist. Sleep medications can help in some cases in the short term and should always be monitored by a medical practitioner.
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