Insomnia: Tips on Prevention

At one time or another, we’ve all had trouble sleeping. For some of us, this isn’t a terrible problem; they get up and drink tea, read a book, or work on that project they have in progress until they feel tired again. Those people...

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At one time or another, we’ve all had trouble sleeping. For some of us, this isn’t a terrible problem; they get up and drink tea, read a book, or work on that project they have in progress until they feel tired again. Those people have the right idea.

Even if your bout of insomnia lasts several days or even weeks, the last thing you want to do is panic. Studies have shown that worry and frustration can actually prolong insomnia, which in turn can bring on hormonal imbalances because of the lack of sleep, which then lead to depression. What a vicious cycle!

But it is easy to become worried and frustrated when you can’t sleep, especially if you work or are on a specific schedule. You want to be alert. You want to wake up on time, and how can you do that when you aren’t sleeping at night?

Here are some ways that may help prevent or ease insomnia. However, let me note that these may not cure chronic insomnia. If you suffer from chronic insomnia and none of these or similar remedies seem to help, consult your doctor.

Keep to a specific sleep schedule; go to bed and wake up at the same times each day. This helps your body clock stay on track. Also try limiting what you do in bed or your bedroom to things that have to do with sleep; don’t work in there or get up if you’ve been awake for twenty minutes or so. This trains the brain to associate bed with sleep.

Sometimes if you work or study at night, your brain has difficulty shutting down. Try setting a cutoff time for such activities so you have at least half an hour to wind down. Spend that time doing some light reading or learn and practice some relaxation techniques.

Relaxation techniques can be anything from breathing exercises to yoga. This is particularly helpful if you spend most of your day in one position. When I was in college, my hip flexors would cramp up in the middle of the night because I sat at my desk most of the day. The best thing I did for the resultant insomnia was to start regularly stretching and doing Pilates.

Your bedroom’s environment may also contribute to insomnia. The light from your computer, clock, or phone may cause your brain to stay alert. Completely shutting down or covering these devices will help. Blackout curtains are also a good investment if your bedroom windows are near streetlights. If you are easily awakened by random noises, something like a fan or a white noisemaker may help as well.

Foods we eat can also contribute to our sleep patterns. Though alcohol is a sedative, it may disturb sleep. Caffeine and nicotine are both stimulants and should be avoided after noon. Eating heavy meals or acidic and spicy foods can also affect sleep patterns. Where do you think we got the idea of pizza dreams?

On the flip side, there are some foods traditionally associated with helping people sleep. For example, warm milk and honey. This may be simply a placebo, but it doesn’t hurt to try. Herbal supplements such as chamomile and lavender are also relaxing, especially in the form of tea. Some people also take melatonin as a supplement, which is believed to be a key factor in regulating sleep cycles. However, especially if you are taking other medications, it is advisable to consult your doctor before use.

And there you have it! With these remedies under your belt, insomnia need never be a night terror.

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