Are you someone that goes to bed and just can’t fall asleep? Do you spend countless hours scrolling your phone, watching TV or playing on your computer until you get sleepy? So many Americans are suffering from insomnia and need help finding ways to prevent it. I’ve put together 9 practical ways to prevent insomnia and they are simple lifestyle changes you can make today.
As always, if you are suffering and need help, make sure you reach out to your Doctor for advice. My tips are just things you can try at home and are not a diagnoses, or a prescription of any kind.
Why do we need sleep?
It is always best to get the whole picture when you are wanting to improve your health. So, I wanted to share a quick Ted Talk that provides a great explanation on why we need to sleep. It’s a quick video with high impact, and an easy explanation.
What is insomnia and do I even have it?
Now, most of us know why we need to sleep and how much sleep we need, its important to understand insomnia. Let’s go back to the basics. What is insomnia? According to the Mayo Clinic, “insomnia can make it hard to fall asleep, stay asleep, cause you to wake up too early and not be able to get back to sleep”. Does that sound like you? Odds are you are reading this article looking for some great solutions to this condition, keep reading!
Signs and symptoms of insomnia
Learn the signs and symptoms of insomnia according to the Mayo Clinic:
- Difficulty falling asleep at night
- Waking up during the night
- Waking up too early
- Not feeling well-rested after a night’s sleep
- Daytime tiredness or sleepiness
- Irritability, depression or anxiety
- Difficulty paying attention, focusing on tasks or remembering
- Increased errors or accidents
- Ongoing worries about sleep
One or all of these why you are here? Lets dive into some practical ways to prevent and reduce your insomnia.
9 practical ways to prevent and reduce your insomnia
All of these 9 tips are based on the book by Shawn Stevenson, Sleep Smarter. I read this book and it changed my life and viewpoint on sleep, he provides even more solutions in his book, I highly recommend! Of these tips, numbers 4, 5 and 8 have made the most improvement with my sleep. I had no idea the impact caffeine was having on my bodies ability to sleep even though I wasn’t necessarily perking up when I had some. Take a look to see if any of these could be causing your insomnia.
- Turn off your screens (TVs, phones, tablets, laptops)
- If you are going to be on a screen 1-2 hours before bedtime, get blue light blocking glasses
- Make a routine and stick to it
- Create the right environment
- Don’t eat before bed
- Improve your melatonin production
- Get morning sunlight
- Do not drink caffeine after 12pm
- Avoid alcohol consumption late at night
- Avoid exercising at night
#1 Turn off your screens
You may be thinking, how on earth does my phone, tablet or TV cause me to have insomnia? According to Sleep.org It can actually suppress your bodies natural melatonin production. We need melatonin to sleep well at night and if we are staring at screens all day and night, our bodies will not produce enough for us to be able to get rest.
#2 Get blue blocking glasses for nighttime or daytime
This is a quick solution to preparing your body for sleep. Blue blocking glasses during the day or some to wear at night before bed can be an easy fix for some. A great product is from Truedark. They offer tons of products so you can find the right solution for you. You can also read about the science behind the glasses.
If you sit at a computer all day, I highly recommend getting these glasses and also turning on your screens “night vision” settings or getting a blue light filter for your screen.
#3 Make a routine and stick to it!
Consistency is key when it comes to sleep. Take kids for instance. They need to get A LOT of sleep as they grow and develop so if you are like me, you sleep train them. This means setting times for bed and wake time. Keeping it the same everyday. It not only helps them get quality sleep but it create a schedule for future sleep habits as they grow older. This routine can also give your body the signal it needs each night it is time for sleep, making an easier transition from wake time to sleep time.
#4 Create the right environment
What do I mean by creating the right environment? It means a few things. Having your room be a certain temperature that is perfect for sleep (usually cooler than you think), making it dark, quiet, no screens, etc. All of these things added together make it a great place for your body to get the rest it needs and wake up refreshed each morning. Its all about preparing your body for some deep rest by giving the best opportunity and environment to do that in.
#5 Do not eat before bed
There is a lot of back and forth on this subject and I will say this is just my opinion, do what is best for your body and as always speak with your doctor before making any big changes. Logically it makes sense to not eat before bed and here is why. Your body will be digesting and working hard when it should be relaxing and preparing for a deep rest. If you ate sugar, that can spike your insulin, does that sound restful? If you eat something heavy, that could cause heartburn or indigestion….does that sound restful? Lets say you eat a salad….could that fiber cause some gas? That DOES NOT sound restful to me. Just really think about trying to stop eating at least two hours before bed to give your body time to settle down for sleep.
#6 Get morning sunlight
Another great and easy tip from Shawn Stevenson, ”Maximize sunlight exposure, particularly between the hours of 6:00 and 8:30 am. If you work in an office, get out during the day and go for a walk to get some natural sunlight (Sleep Smarter).” Getting morning sun signals to your body its morning time, which can help set your circadian rhythm for the day. It can be hard in the winter months, but just do your best. Some sunlight is better than no sunlight on a consistent basis.
#7 Do not drink caffeine after 12pm
This may be different for each person, but I think we can all understand caffeine is made to help us wake up and get some energy right? So, you should try to avoid it after 12pm. Why 12pm? Experts who’ve studied the issue believe (unless you go to bed really early) that a cut off time this early allows the caffeine leave your system helping prepare your body for sleep at night. Some people handle caffeine differently but if you are suffering from insomnia, it is worth trying to see if it helps!
#8 Avoid alcohol consumption late at night
Did you know alcohol actually disturbs your sleep cycle? I know its sad to hear, especially since its nice to have a drink at night before bed after dealing with the kids. However, if you are tired of not being able to sleep and wake up in the middle of the night, it might be the alcohol. The Sleep Foundation says, “alcohol can reduce REM sleep and cause sleep disruptions”. Just a suggestion but cutting out the alcohol before bed might be your easy solution!
#9 Avoid exercising late at night
Some more bad news for you night owls. If you workout within two-three hours of bed, that could be why you have trouble falling asleep. Remember how alcohol can cause sleep disturbances and caffeine can cause you to not fall asleep? Well, exercise is very similar. If you are exercising close to bedtime, your body will be in a state of inflammation and recovery. You are using your muscles, causing inflammation (in a good way), you are getting your heart rate up, sweating, causing some stress on your body (again, in a good way)….but, the opposite of rest for your body. Unfortunately as good as it is for your body, exercising before bed won’t help you fall asleep?
A lot of these tips are easy to adjust and may seem simple but can have a big impact. Try one or mix and match a couple and share your results!
I do want to mention again that if you are suffering from poor sleep, you can always find a local doctor to get some help and make sure you do not have something more serious. These are just some practical solutions you can do on your own.
- Why we Sleep by Matthew Walker
- Sleep Smarter by Shawn Stevenson
- Blue light filter for computer screen
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