Insomnia is a sleep disorder that affects approximately 40 million people in the US alone. That is roughly 25% of the total population, with about 20 million experiencing occasional short-term insomnia. There are numerous reasons why people have trouble falling asleep and staying asleep. Alternating sleep cycles (due to shift work), poor sleep habits, diet, and stress all contribute to sleepless nights. Here are 10 tips to prevent insomnia from keeping you up at night:

Create a bedtime schedule

You have an internal clock that tells you when to go to sleep and when to wake up. It is regulated by the amount of sunlight you’re exposed to based on a 24-hour cycle. This is referred to as “circadian rhythm”  and it helps your body regulate sleep patterns. One way to reset this biological clock is to go to bed and wake up at the same time every day.  According to The National Sleep Foundation, lying in bed awake can contribute to sleeplessness. They recommend getting up whenever you've been awake for more than 20 minutes. Do something until you begin to feel sleepy and then try again.

Cut out caffeine after 12 pm

Caffeine is a stimulant and can stay in your system for up to 7 hours.  If you have trouble sleeping, don’t drink any after noon. Besides the fact that it can inhibit sleepiness in the evening hours, a full bladder will keep you up making trips to the bathroom all night. You should also avoid alcohol. While it is known sometimes to relax you, it does not help you sleep and may actually cause you to have interrupted sleep.  Limit alcohol consumption to one or two drinks with a meal. 

Change your eating habits

Diet or the food your body uses for fuel can sometimes contribute to poor sleep. If you want to know how to prevent insomnia, it is to change what you eat before going to bed. Your meals should be light and balanced throughout the day. You should eat your biggest meal early in the day because digesting food requires a lot of energy. 

Sometimes you can hear it, it makes a grumbling noise that is different from the sound your tummy makes when you’re hungry. That is your stomach digesting the food you ate.  So you see why it’s not a good idea to eat a heavy meal before bed. Going to bed on a full stomach is uncomfortable making it hard to relax. You should avoid anything fried or greasy if you tend to get heartburn or acid reflux.

Try a natural supplement

While sleeping pills are not recommended due to the side effects that come with them, you may find that a natural supplement can help you relax and fall asleep. Many people avoid sleep aids because they don’t want to become addicted to them. But that is not a concern with supplements like Melatonin. It is actually a hormone produced by the body that helps regulate your natural sleep cycle. As we age, our melatonin levels drop, so supplementing can help regain that balance. Since it is a natural substance, there are no side effects and no risk of addiction. 

Eat cherries as a bedtime snack

If you have a love for cherries, then this one will be easy to apply. Dark red cherries are a source of L-tryptophan, an amino acid that is converted by the body into 5HTP, a precursor to melatonin. It is great for boosting your melatonin levels. A handful of cherries eaten an hour before bed can help you fall asleep faster.

Try Yoga

Doing some light yoga or meditation before bed is very relaxing and can help your body get ready for sleep. Yoga is a gentle way to wind down your day. Concentrate on your breathing, taking full breaths in and let it out slowly. Breathing is very important for blood circulation. Practice breathing techniques for 3 minutes before moving on to the next activity.

Try a little exercise

This does not mean strenuous exercise. Some people find that a brisk walk for 20 minutes on the treadmill or around the block can help tire them out and make falling asleep easier. Excess energy can keep you awake, if you’re not tired do something until you begin to feel sleepy. 

Limit electronics late at night

Laptops, TVs, and cell phones have a light emitting screen that can keep you awake. The blue screen that is used by cell phones and other electronics inhibit the production of melatonin, the body’s natural sleep hormone. Electronics stimulate the mind, keeping you entertained by watching videos so that your natural response to sleep is suppressed. Turn them off at night, about 30 minutes before you plan to go to bed. 

Keep your room cool

Take a hot shower right before bed and lower your thermostat between 65° and 75°F. You may feel sleepy after the shower because the hot water helps you relax. Plus, when your body temperature drops you produce more melatonin, so sleeping in a cool room helps you sleep better. 

If you smoke, quit

Nicotine, like caffeine is a natural stimulant, and keeps you from falling asleep when you should. If you wake up during the night to smoke, those withdrawal pangs are keeping you awake. There is no better reason to quit now to get a better night's sleep. Eliminating stimulating substances at night will help you fall asleep faster and sleep better.

Sometimes our habits can affect how we sleep at night. A busy, stressful daytime routine can make it hard to wind down and relax at the end of the day. Making small changes to your evening routine makes a big difference in the quality of sleep you get. Try these tips for preventing insomnia, and if they help you, pass them along to a friend. 

Categories: Sleep Health