One of life’s more frustrating opportunities is having the time and a place to sleep, but not being able to. Hello insomnia, it’s time to put you to bed.
Insomnia for a night or two is common and maddening, but manageable. Long term sleep deprivation has very real ill effects on our health. Poor sleep is not a way of life. In many cases, it can be improved. If you’ve fatigue is your foe, it’s time for you to investigate some ways to put insomnia to bed.
“Fatigue is a factor in up to a third of serious traffic accidents in Victoria, killing about 50 people and seriously injuring about 300 more each year.” – Brigid O’Connell | Herald Sun | Feb 12 2017
When did your insomnia start?
There are many causes of insomnia including physical and mental health conditions, medications, stimulants and depressants, chronic pain, life events and lifestyle. You need to understand what might be contributing to your lack of sleep before you can take steps to try and resolve it.
Think back to when your insomnia started. What was going on in your life at that time?
If your insomnia started around the same time as a health concern, it is time to seek professional advice from your medical practitioner or allied health professional. Insomnia is a common side effect of many medications. Neurological health conditions can also cause sleep issues. A qualified medical professional is an important first step to getting more sleep.
If you’re facing into a major life event or under more stress than is the norm, the promise of reviving sleep can escape you. Consider reaching out to a qualified counsellor experienced in working through the life event or stressors that you are facing. Chamomile tea or a warm, candle lit bath simply won’t help when your life has taken a downturn.
If it’s your lifestyle that is keeping you awake at night, here are some tips to help you regain some decent hours of restful, rejuvenating sleep.
Help combat insomnia by reviewing your diet
Surprise, surprise – you don’t need a whole lot of energy to sleep! If you eat within a couple of hours before you try to sleep, try eating dinner earlier if your lifestyle allows.
Stimulants such as refined sugars, refined carbohydrates and caffeine will throw your desire to sleep into havoc. Consider a full review of your diet and start reducing stimulants. While alcohol is classed as a depressant, in small or moderate doses it can act as a stimulant, loosening you up and making you feel more energetic thanks to the sugar.
Interestingly, an academic research project showed that adherence to a Mediterranean Diet was associated with better sleep quality in adults. For more information on the benefits of a Mediterranean Diet, take a look at this article from the ABC – 10 commandments of the real Mediterranean Diet. The key features include very limited simple or refined sugars, and lots of vegetables, fruits, small portions of red meats, inclusion of fish at least a couple of times a week and extra virgin olive oil as the main fat component.
Help combat insomnia by avoiding bright light close to sleep time
Melatonin is our sleepy hormone. It helps regulate our body clock. We need sunlight first thing in the morning to help set our body clock. That’s why it’s important to try and catch winter’s sun rays in the cooler months regardless of how cold it is outside. But as we approach our restful hours, our body’s production of sleepy melatonin is reduced in the presence of bright, artificial light.
Learn more about melatonin by reading up on the Sleep Health Foundation’s factsheet – Melatonin.
That’s why it is important to limit your screen time if you plan to wind down to catch some sleep. Keep the lights in your home suitably ambient and dim as you prepare the household for sleep.
Help combat insomnia by introducing daily routine
Children are not alone in benefiting from a routine before bedtime. Introducing some regularity around your wind daily routine, can help. If your lack of sleep is impacting your life in negative ways, it’s time to shake things up a bit.
Make a commitment from today to start waking up each morning at the same time, regardless of whether it’s the weekend, a work day or holidays. Even if you’ve had a horrid night of tossing and turning, get up at the same time. Please be wary of driving or taking on any risky activity when you’re sleep deprived.
Over a few weeks of sticking with this, your body clock should start shifting positively. At the end of your day, apply the same principle – start preparing for sleep at the same time each day. Avoid bright lights or screens, caffeine, alcohol, rich foods and simple sugars a couple of hours before you plan to try and sleep.
Make sure that where you sleep is a restful space, and not cluttered with reminders of work!
If you’re a shift worker, maintaining a healthy amount of sleep can be particularly challenging. Seek advice from your medical practitioner or an allied health professional.
…hopefully over the coming days or weeks, you’ll start experiencing a welcome state of drowsiness that transitions into a restful, restorative sleep each night.