Have you ever struggled to get to sleep or sleep well at night, to the point that no matter how exhausted you are, a stop to the frustration of insomnia still seems impossible?
In the United States, insomnia is something of an epidemic, with over 20 percent of the population being affected by it.
The first sign of insomnia is the inability to fall asleep when you feel tired, which is known as sleep-onset insomnia; or failing to stay asleep throughout the night, in another word, sleep maintenance insomnia.
The second type of insomnia is a feeling of annoyance as a result of poor sleep. Some people, after a terrible night can feel so annoyed, a symptom which is indicative of insomnia.
This condition can be caused by anxiety, stress or certain medical issues.
However, no matter what, it can be overcome by learning about your sleeping routine or finding out possible triggers, so that you can identify ways to deal with them.
Sleeping is essential to every aspect of your life. Not only does it affect your general health, it also affects your weight, moods and cognitive functions.
The good news is that fixing your sleep doesn't incur expensive medications - which can usually backfire.
Below I'll share with you a few simple adjustments at your disposal to optimise your sleeping quality.
1. Don't Rely on Sleeping Pills
People tend to take sleeping pills as a quick fix to poor sleep. These pills are usually seen as instant solution, but most studies cast doubt on this type of medication.
In fact, medical research finds that sleeping pills can marginally decrease the amount of time it takes to fall asleep and minimally increase the length of a night's sleep though; those pills actually reduce the amount of deep sleep needed to feel refreshed.
On some occasions, such pills are undeniably beneficial for short-term and sporadic use. Say the bereaved might experience a lot of stress and need the pills to have a sleep.
However, when taking sleeping pills, it’s important to have a plan in place, and you should consult your doctor beforehand. You will need to know when to take the pills, for how long, when to stop and when it's unsafe to take them.
A better solution than sleeping pills is establishing a consistent sleeping schedule to which you can adhere.
2. Embrace the Darkness.
As light keeps you awake, your bedroom should be submerged in complete darkness. This is because your eyes sense when it’s dark and send signals to your brain, which in turn makes your pineal gland produce melatonin – the chemical responsible for making you feel sleepy.
Even if you’re exposed to the smallest amount of light, this process can still be disrupted. This explains why it’s a good idea to turn off your phone or put it in another room when going to sleep, and not watching TV in bed at least 90 minutes before bedtime to avoid overstimulation from lights.
Besides, you might put blackout blinds on your windows to avoid light pollution, if any.
3. Make Sure You Feel Comfortable in Bedroom
From firm to soft, there are hundreds of different mattresses to choose from, so you shouldn’t find it difficult to pick the ideal one for you.
Most sleepers prefer a firmness in the 5-7 out of 10 range. This is suitable for all sleeping positions and most weight / body types.
Don’t forget about bedding either.
When buying a new sheets and duvet covers, be attentive to the material, thread count and fabric construction. For the most luxurious feel, choose bedding made from 100% cotton in a thread count between 300 and 400 with a single-pick single-ply sateen weave.
If the general vibe of your bedroom – or even sleeping itself – inspires negative feelings, it might be time for a complete makeover. Try hanging up some new curtains, switching furniture around or even painting the walls a different colour.
4. Follow a Set Bedtime Routine.
When it comes to getting good sleep, healthy circadian rhythms are essential, as they manage your internal body clock.
Circadian rhythms are a system of bodily processes that operate on a 24-hour cycle, and determine when you feel sleepy and when you feel awake.
Since your body craves routines, an useful idea for better sleep is to develop a sleep routine. During your childhood, you probably had a successful bedtime schedule: dinner, bath, bedtime story, then sleep. Why not develop one in adulthood, too?
Both a fixed bedtime and a fixed time for getting up can help your body fix itself to a daily rhythm.
For the time being, it’s better for you to do some relaxing activities like stretching, listening to calming music or doing exercises of mindfulness or some leisure readings until you feel sleepy in the evenings.
Whatever you do, just make sure to keep it consistent so that your body can adjust to it.
5. Set a Wake-up Time
Having a regular wake-up time is beneficial for your overall sleep. In order to sleep well, you need to be in control of your sleep schedule; once you’ve achieved this, a bad night’s sleep will no longer have repercussions.
To get started, pick a time to wake up that works for you. Make sure it fits around your work and other duties, or simply reflects the preferences you have in the morning.
If you want to shower or enjoy a quiet breakfast, set the time you wake up a bit earlier to allow for these activities.
6. Find Out How Much Sleep You Need
When establishing your sleep schedule, it’s also a good idea to discover how much sleep you need.
The amount required varies from person to person.
To it find out, follow an exercise known as sleep restriction.
The way this works is to first set a wake-up time – let’s say 6:30 a.m. Now, count five-and-a-half hours backwards from that time, which in this case would be 1:00 a.m. This is when you’ll go to sleep without napping throughout the day allowed.
Then, start adding 15-minute intervals to the amount of sleep you’re getting, doing so by setting your bedtime earlier and earlier while your wake-up time stays the same. Keep doing this until the sleepiness you feel during the day disappears.
Once you’ve reached this point, you’ll know the amount of sleep you need. For most people, it’s between six-and-a-half and eight hours a night.
It may be difficult to have a consistent sleep schedule, but it’s one of the best ways to improve the overall quality of your sleep.
7. Nap If You Need To
When it comes to napping, everyone is different, but a few rules do apply across the board. Napping should complement a good night’s sleep, not replace it.
It’s also best to nap early in the day for a maximum of 30 minutes. Finally, it’s best to nap at the same time every day in order to benefit from the rest it gives your body.
Sleeping is a discipline that everyone can have to improve general health.