Many people who experience episodes of insomnia turn to prescription sleeping pills to solve the problem—and often this is just fine; there’s typically no harm in taking sleeping pills for a few nights, or on the occasional night when sleep won’t come.
For some people, however, medications just aren’t a good option. There are many reasons why this might be the case; some people find that sleeping pills don’t provide them with the restful sleep they need, while for others it’s more about trying to avoid using pills altogether. This is of particular concern for people in recovery from substance addiction, who must be careful to avoid the use of potentially habit-forming medications.
Luckily, there are lots of effective non-pharmaceutical options for treating insomnia and other sleep disorders. For example, dietary supplements such as magnesium and melatonin, taken before bedtime, can help make it easier to get to sleep. And improving your sleep “hygiene” by going to bed and getting up at the same times, and avoiding things like working or watching TV while in bed, can help too.
For more great information about non-pharmaceutical options for improving your sleeping habits, check out this article, aimed at people who are recovering from substance addiction, but full of useful information that might help others too.
You may not have considered the possibility of using acupuncture for insomnia, but this alternative therapy could be a big help. Most people who have insomnia for more than a few days quickly turn to medications, but many sleep drugs come with serious side effects.
They’re also usually only temporarily effective and can even result in dependencies. Acupuncture is much safer and produces few to no side effects. Plus, it’s impossible to become dependent on it.
Acupuncture is a common practice in Chinese traditional medicine. It works by redirecting the flow of energy, known as qi, in the human body. This redirection is accomplished by inserting long needles at specific points, known as meridians. Since acupuncture often produces calming effects, it makes an excellent treatment for insomnia.
How Acupuncture Works for Insomnia
Standard acupuncture practice divides insomnia up into several different categories. The acupuncturist can only provide correct treatment when he or she knows which qi flows need to be redirected.
Difficulty falling asleep – Yang qi has been blocked from yin portions of the body, preventing complete relaxation.
Waking up during the night – This problem occurs when your body traps internal “heat.” When this energy can’t dissipate, insomnia occurs.
Waking too early – This is associated with poor yin energy from the kidneys. It’s often associated with lifestyle problems.
Vivid and disturbing dreams – This is attributed to “heart fire” or “liver deficiency heat,” problems that prevent you from relaxing and keep your brain too active.
Complete inability to sleep – Acupuncturists say that this problem is caused by problems in the spleen or liver, which reduce the quantity and quality of blood in the body.
Each different type of insomnia receives different acupuncture treatment, but the overall goal is the same. Your acupuncturist will work to unravel stress and put your internal energies back into balance, helping you calm down.
Some people even fall asleep during treatment!
In many cases, the best sleep occurs right after receiving a treatment. You may continue to sleep soundly after that, or you may experience symptoms again just a few days or weeks later.
In these instances, you have a more serious imbalance that will need multiple treatments. In either case, using acupuncture for insomnia provides an effective alternative to potentially-addicting drugs.
Pregnancy insomnia can occur at any point during pregnancy, but it’s more common during the last few months, when changes to the body are at their most extreme. As much as 80 percent of patients suffer from this problem at some point during their pregnancies.
While doctors don’t distinguish this form of insomnia from conventional sleeplessness, pregnant insomnia sufferers tend to have a number of causes in common. They can also use many of the same treatments to get relief.
All insomnia is characterized by an inability to get good quality sleep or enough hours of sleep total. The specifics vary from person to person, however, even in pregnancy.
Some people have trouble falling asleep, while others find themselves waking up regularly during the night.
It may be hard to get back to sleep if noise, light, or the need to go to the bathroom wake patients up during the night. The sleep that they do get may be of poor quality and leave them feeling tired and moody.
Insomnia during pregnancy is caused by a wide range of common factors. These are all based on physical and hormonal changes that occur during the pregnancy, so insomnia tends to be at its worst when patients are nearing term and those changes are most severe.
Here are a few of the potential causes for this kind of insomnia:
Abdominal discomfort – Changes in the size and shape of the abdomen may be uncomfortable enough to keep patients awake or cause them to sleep poorly.
Back pain – Many people suffer from back pain due to the difference in weight distribution and posture that occurs during pregnancy. This can cause unrestful sleep, difficulty getting to sleep, or frequent wakeups.
Heartburn – During pregnancy, the uterus expands and compresses the stomach and esophagus, making painful acid reflux more common. This is especially likely when patients lie flat on their backs.
Anxiety – The hormonal changes that occur during pregnancy can cause a significant increase in the brain chemicals responsible for anxiety and depression.
Frequent, vivid dreams – Many pregnant patients find that changes in their hormones also cause them to dream vividly. These dreams may wake them up throughout the night.
Frequent urination – Uterine expansion can also compress the bladder and kidneys, causing pregnant patients to wake repeatedly in the night to use the bathroom.
Anticipation – With a baby on the way, many new parents experience excitement, worry and other strong emotions that may cause nighttime wakeups and poor sleep quality.
Leg cramps – Painful cramps caused by hormonal and nutritional changes often occur at night.
Treatment for this form of insomnia usually focuses on easing discomfort and targeting the symptoms, since the causes are difficult to treat. Some of the commonly-used options include:
Pre-bed calming rituals such as tea, soft music or meditation
A dark, quiet sleeping environment
Changes in sleeping positions
Daily physical exercise
Changes in eating habits to prevent heartburn
Reducing caffeine consumption
Reducing fluid intake close to bedtime
Mild sedatives when behavioral and environmental methods fail
Pregnancy insomnia is fundamentally a short-term disorder. Most patients recover within a relatively short period after birth, though new babies may also complicate sleep.
Insomnia is an extremely common sleep disorder. In fact, during the course of any given year, 20 to 40 percent of people have some difficulty sleeping.
Most people will suffer from this problem at some point during the course of their lives, with insomnia afflicting almost twice as many women as it does men.
This condition is also significantly more common in people who have unusual work schedules, depression sufferers, and people who abuse drugs or alcohol.
There are several types of insomnia, which are categorized according to cause and duration.
Primary Insomnia Primary insomnia refers to difficulty sleeping when there is no other health problem or condition present. This condition is sometimes diagnosed when a patient actually suffers from delayed sleep phase syndrome, in which the person stays asleep through the night but has trouble falling asleep initially.
Patients who have primary insomnia may have other illnesses that do not directly contribute to the sleep problem. These unrelated issues are called “comorbid conditions.
Secondary Insomnia Secondary insomnia is a sleep condition caused by another medical problem or habit. Some of the most common sources of secondary insomnia include depression, restless leg syndrome, sleep apnea and hormone imbalances.
Medical treatments and some medications can also induce secondary insomnia, as can heartburn and asthma. Patients who use alcohol, caffeine or other drugs may eventually have problems sleeping as well.
TYPES OF INSOMNIA BY DURATION
Doctors also organize the types of insomnia by how long the problem lasts. This can help medical professionals decide the best course and type of treatment, as well as possibly helping patients to identify the underlying cause of the problem.
This condition is extremely short-lived, with most patients having problems for only a few days. Transient insomnia is often caused by mental or emotional problems, changes in sleep environment or timing, or by another disorder. The consequences of this problem are similar to those of sleep deprivation.
Acute Insomnia Acute insomnia lasts for longer than a week but less than a month. A patient can qualify as having acute insomnia if he or she has trouble going to sleep or staying asleep, as well as if sleep occurs but is not restful.
Acute insomnia may also be called short term insomnia. It is often associated with anxiety or increased stress, so some doctors refer to it as stress-related insomnia. This condition may also be caused by an illness, some medications, and environmental factors.
Chronic Insomnia Insomnia is categorized as being chronic when it lasts for a month or more. This condition can be primary or caused by another disorder and is common in people who have imbalances of stress hormones.
It is also a common result of severe depression, ongoing pain, and chronic stress. Long term chronic insomnia can result in severe fatigue, problems thinking clearly, and even hallucinations.
People with this disorder often experience extreme daytime sleepiness and may have trouble staying awake at appropriate times.
This rare form of chronic insomnia develops at birth and and continues into adulthood. Idiopathic insomnia is believed to be caused by an underactive or overactive sleep system. But positive identification of the cause remains unknown. Either gender can be affected and the condition appears to be genetic in nature.
These types of insomnia can happen to anyone, but there are ways to prevent them. By maintaining a strict sleep schedule, avoiding stimulants and depressants, and avoiding excessive activity at night, it’s possible to reduce the symptoms of these sleep disorders.
Do you spend hours struggling to get to sleep, even if you’re exhausted? Or do you wake up during the night only to toss and turn with mounting frustration and anger as the hours tick by on the clock? You’re not alone. Insomnia is a universal problem.
Insomnia can have a major effect on your mood, energy level, and ability to accomplish your daily tasks and activities. Severe insomnia can even impact your health, causing such problems as diabetes, obesity, high blood pressure and heart disease.
Insomnia is characterized by the inability to achieve the proper amount of sleep necessary to wake up in the morning feeling refreshed and revitalized. Since everybody is different and requires varying amounts of sleep, insomnia is determined by the quality of your slumber and how you feel when you awaken—not the actual amount of sleeping hours or how fast you fall sleep. Even if you are in bed eight hours a night, if you feel sleepy and worn-out during the day, you probably have insomnia.
Insomnia, more often than not, however, it is not one individual sleep disorder. Usually, insomnia is symptomatic of some other problem. The issue that is at the root of the insomnia varies between individuals. It might be something as simple as too much daily caffeine consumption or a more complicated problem like a particular medical condition or feeling overwhelmed by life’s demands and pressures.
Many people may suffer from insomnia as a result of the following psychological causes:
Anxiety is a condition consisting of elevated levels of tension, uneasiness, agitation and worry. These emotions stem from the impact of interpersonal relationships (inside and outside of work), financial concerns, and other causes.
Stress happens as a result of a person’s physical and emotional reactions to the demanding pressures of life. A certain amount of stress in one’s life is useful to achieve goals, but too much can cause acute health problems.
Depression is mental disorder characterized by symptoms of sadness, hopelessness, and despair.
Bipolar disorder (or manic–depressive disorder) is a serious psychiatric condition in which people experience drastic mood swings between sky-high euphoria and deep depression.
Post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) is a severe affliction where a person exhibits symptoms of extreme fear and powerlessness after being exposed to a horrific event where death or grievous bodily harm was present or threatened.
Other mental disorders like schizophrenia, obsessive-compulsive disorder, or dementia.
Unfortunately, some of these psychological conditions can actually develop as a result of sleep deprivation, creating a vicious cycle. Various medical healthcare professionals such as doctors, psychotherapists and other specialists should be consulted to help with these issues.
Here are some common physical problems linked to insomnia:
Changing level of hormones in women. Women will experience fluctuating levels of hormones during PMS, menstruation, pregnancy, premenopause, perimenopause, menopause and postmenopause.
Medical problems. These include allergies, asthma, arthritis, back problems, cancer, chronic pain, gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD), heart disease, heart failure, high blood pressure, lung disease, lower abdominal pain, hyperthyroidism, Parkinson disease, stroke, and Alzheimer’s disease.
Age related health problems. Men over the age of 50 may develop an enlarged prostate gland (benign prostatic hyperplasia), which often interrupts their sleep as a result of frequent urination. Older women may experience equally disruptive conditions in the form of hot flashes and night sweats due to the onset of menopause.
Pain. Pain and tenderness due to an injury or medical ailment often make sleeping a challenge.
Increased medication usage. Many medications prescribed to aid the above mentioned ailments can in themselves cause insomnia. Plus, as people become older, they generally use more prescription drugs, which increases their odds of having insomnia.
Genetics. Certain families can share insomnia issues, even though researchers cannot yet explain why genetics is a factor.
Physical exercise. Although exercise generally aids in fighting insomnia, if done too close too bedtime, the body will be too stimulated to fall asleep. Also, due to their rigorous exercise routines and schedules, athletes can acquire a condition known as sleep onset latency.
Short-term insomnia may be connected to situations and events that will eventually pass, such as:
Adjustment sleep disorder. This particular sleep problem is brought about by stress or some horrible experience such as the loss of a loved one, or a seemingly insignificant event like a change of seasons or having a quarrel with someone.
Jet lag. People often experience spells of insomnia after traveling across time zones.
Night shifts and overtime. People working late and early shifts or working long hours can experience difficulty modifying their sleep habits due to a disruption in their circadian rhythms (sleep-wake cycle).
Caffeine, nicotine and alcohol. Coffee, tea, soft drinks, energy drinks, chocolate and various medications all contain the stimulant, caffeine. Too much caffeine too close to bedtime can prevent you from getting to sleep at night. Nicotine is another stimulant that can also keep you awake. Although alcohol may help you relax and fall asleep faster, it can lead to disjointed sleep that causes you to wake up during the night. Alcohol also prevents you from entering into the deeper phases of sleep that provide the most health benefits.
Medications. Insomnia can be caused by various prescription and over-the-counter medications. Overuse of over-the-counter or prescription sleep medications (sedative or depressant drugs) can result in rebound insomnia.
Environmental noise and severe temperatures. Constant or intermittent noise and extreme heat or cold present challenges to healthy sleep.
Poor sleep hygiene. Poor sleep hygiene is a result of bad habits like an inconsistent sleep schedule, amped-up activities too close bedtime, or using your bed for activities that aren’t either sleep or sex.
‘Learned’ insomnia. This condition appears as a result of constant anxiety and apprehension about not being able to get to sleep. These individuals sleep better when their sleep environment is changed or when they don’t focus on trying to get sleep. Light reading or some other relaxing activity helps remedy this predicament.
Late night snacking. A small nosh before bedtime is fine, but eating large amounts of food can make you feel bloated and uncomfortable when you lie down to go to sleep. This activity may also cause you heartburn, or acid reflux which will more than likely keep you awake.
Insomnia and getting older
Unfortunately, insomnia becomes more of a problem as one advances in age. An older person may experience the following changes that impact your sleep:
Changing sleep patterns. As a person ages, it’s common to become more sensitive to noises and environmental changes, which results in frequent awakenings and sleep that isn’t as restful. As you grow older, your body’s internal clock often readjusts to an earlier schedule, causing you to become sleepy earlier after dark and to wake up earlier when morning comes. This doesn’t mean however, that older people require less sleep than younger people do. 7-8 hours of sleep is still the optimum amount for most people, young or old.
Diminishing melatonin levels. Melatonin is the hormone that regulates sleep. As a person becomes older, melatonin levels begin to decrease. By the time one reaches 60, there is very little melatonin being produced by the body.
Changes in activity. Older people’s lifestyles often become less physically and socially active. Less activities means less energy being expended which means more difficulty getting to sleep. A daily nap routine can also cause problems when trying to fall asleep at night.
Health changes. Pain from infirmities like arthritis and back pain as well as anxiety, depression and stress can create sleeping difficulties. Aging men commonly develop enlarged prostate glands, causing frequent urination, which in turn interrupts sleep. With women, menopause generated hot flashes and night sweats can be equally bothersome. Other conditions which cause sleep complications, like restless legs syndrome and sleep apnea affect more people as they age.
Increased medication usage. As people become older, they generally use more prescription drugs, which increases their odds of getting insomnia.
So, there are the depressing facts. But don’t worry, in many cases, minor adjustments to your lifestyle and daily routine can help your sleeping problems, and maybe get rid of insomnia for good!
Fear not! You can banish your insomnia with these terrific tips and learn how to go to sleep without taking potentially harmful pills or drugs.
‘Chillax” before you hit the sack. Start by taking a short walk after dinner, if possible, and then just before bedtime, do some reading or listen to mellow tunes. Also, some light stretching, meditation, yoga, or mantra will put your body and mind in the ideal state to welcome sleep. Try one or all of these things and you’ll see what difference it makes!
Do all your unpleasant tasks and work stuff early in the evening. You definitely don’t want to be thinking about annoying, stressful bills or your boss before you go to bed. That’s the perfect recipe for insomnia!
Your bedroom should be a quiet and peaceful place. If your bedroom is noisy due to external factors that you can’t control, put on a fan for white noise, use a sound machine or wear earplugs.
The air in your bedroom should be cool. Set your bedroom temperature at 60 to 64 degrees F. You’ll know what the most comfortable temperature is for you, but the point is, you’ll sleep better when the air is cool as opposed to too warm. Your brain interprets a drop in body temperature around bedtime as a signal that it’s time to go to sleep. Following these internal instructions will help you get to sleep faster and provide more restful sleep.
Make sure you’re warm enough but don’t use too many blankets. You don’t want to overheat your body causing yourself to perspire, which might cause rash or pimples, especially if your skin is sensitive. And, do I need to remind menopausal women about warming up too much in the middle of the night?
Tuck in your sheets appropriately at the bottom of the bed to allow your feet to feel free and unrestricted. You don’t want to feel trapped or wake up in a nightmare about being rolled up in a rug!
Make sure your mattress isn’t too soft. If your mattress is not firm enough, it probably isn’t offering proper support for your spine which will cause back pain and other issues.
Get a new bed. Depending on the quality of your mattress and wear and tear, a bed can last from 5 to 20 years. But, if your mattress creaks loudly and appears to be worn out or sagging, you probably need a new one. A bad bed can cause sleep disturbances, make you feel tired after you wake up from a night’s sleep and also possibly damage your spine. I won’t even get into dust mites…
Make sure you have a good pillow. You don’t want to wake up with a crick in your neck. This can also happen by using too many pillows, which put your head and neck in a bad position. Try special head-and-neck ergonomic pillows if a crick in your neck is a frequent problem.
Your sleeping clothes should fit loosely and be warm or cool enough depending on the season. You want to make yourself as comfy as possible.
A dark room is best for sleeping. Make sure your blinds or curtains are thick and try to limit the various lights that may populate your bedroom (digital clock, laptop, mobile phone, TV, etc.). Wear a sleep mask if necessary.
Don’t sleep with your pets. Yeah, that’s a tough one, but your cuddly animal family members can trigger allergies and their movements can wake you up. It’s your call…
Pack it in at the same time every night. Give or take a half an hour – you don’t want to risk pushing your circadian rhythm off track.
Always get out of bed in the morning at the same time. Once again – give or take 30 minutes or so and you won’t screw up your inner clock. That includes the weekend and holidays!
When you wake up, get out of bed without delay. I know it’s very tempting to take your time getting out of the bed in the morning, but you want your bed to be associated with sleeping and romance only – not lying awake.
Open all your blinds or drapes first thing in the morning and let the sunshine in! This is about sending clear signals to your internal clock. The sooner your eyes register bright light, the sooner your mind and body will acknowledge the new day and become alert and awake.
Don’t nap during the day. If you must nap, make it no longer than 20-30 minutes and it should be before 3:00 in the afternoon.
Make sure you exercise daily. Hit the gym, do some aerobics or yoga, ride a bike or take a brisk 20-minute walk. Just make sure you don’t exercise too close to bedtime. Too much physical stimulation will heat up your body and make you alert and awake!
Don’t smoke or drink alcohol at least a couple hours before going to bed. Nicotine is a stimulant and alcohol may cause you to wake up during the night when it leaves your system, creating a glutamine rebound. This rebound will prevent you from entering into the more important, deeper levels of sleep, not to mention, it will make you have to get up to pee.
Don’t drink coffee or other caffeinated drinks after dinner. That means tea (not herbal), many soft drinks, energy drinks, and – you’re not going to like this – hot chocolate or anything else that contains chocolate (if you’re particularly sensitive to caffeine).
Check the medicines you’re taking to make sure they aren’t nervous system stimulants. This one seems kind of obvious, doesn’t it? However, there are many prescription and over-the-counter medications that contain caffeine.
Keep your TV viewing light before bedtime. Instead of watching a heavy drama, or late night news, opt for a sit-com or something uplifting. And, by the way, a TV causes stimulation because its backlit screen emulates sunlight. Turn it off at least an hour before bed.
The bedroom should be used exclusively for sleeping or intimacy. Nothing else – no TV, video games, telephone conversations, tablets, texting, working, reading…you get the picture.
If you’re going to read before bedtime, just like watching TV, make sure the subject matter is light. Grisly murder mysteries with serial killers on the loose, or reading masters of horror, like Stephen King, might not be the best thoughts to have in your head before entering dreamland. And it’s best not to read in bed – remember, sleep only! BUT, if you MUST read in bed, purchase an orange light bulb to dial back the light intensity.
Don’t socialize with people that may cause you to engage in intense or heated conversations in the evening. Arguments at night are lethal to an insomniac. That includes talking on the phone or texting or chatting, Facebook, Twitter, etc. All these activities will stimulate your brain and potentially get you wound up.
Don’t eat excessive salt with dinner or in your evening snacks. In addition, eating dinners that are too rich or too spicy will be difficult to digest and wake you up with heartburn, indigestion or dehydration due to all the sodium.
Don’t go to bed hungry. If you’re on a diet trying to lose a few pounds. be forewarned. Hunger can prevent you from getting to sleep. Eat a light, healthy snack about an hour or so before bed to help your body’s melatonin production. Read: Diet and Insomnia – Foods to Help You Sleep
Eat snacks that contain complex carbohydrates, protein and calcium before bedtime. Foods like nuts and cheese contain the amino acid, tryptophan, which will improve the quality of your sleep. Tryptophan helps the body produce serotonin and melatonin which both relax your mind. Whole grain crackers, turkey, yogurt, and oatmeal are more good evening snack ideas.
Take some form of calcium and magnesium regularly after dinner. A slight deficiency of calcium can cause insomnia. Magnesium is a natural tranquilizer that helps prevent muscle cramps and restless leg syndrome. Calcium citrate is the form of calcium that is most easily absorbed by the body.
Brew herbal teas such as chamomile, jasmine, and peppermint. These natural herbs can calm the nervous system and help promote sleep.
Drink warm milk before bedtime. It’s the tryptophan in the milk that will stimulate your serotonin to make you sleepy. Add some honey for flavor and additional health benefits. If you don’t like milk, drink a teaspoon of honey with a cup of hot water. Honey stabilizes blood sugar levels and also contributes to melatonin production.
Don’t drink fluids at least an hour before bedtime. Two hours is even better if you don’t want wake up during the night having to urinate. Yes, I know I just told you to drink tea and milk – just don’t drink them too close to bedtime!
If you are refreshed after getting 6 hours of sleep, then it’s not necessary to get 8 hours just because you’ve heard this is the ‘proper’ amount of sleep. Everybody is different and has different needs. As a matter of fact, there are ‘short sleepers’, who function just fine with less than 6 hours sleep per night, and ‘long sleepers’ who need more than 9 hours for optimum performance. Leonardo Da Vinci, Thomas Edison, Napoleon Bonaparte, Winston Churchill and John F. Kennedy were some famous short sleepers.
Don’t think about problems and negative things while in bed. Instead, think about happy thoughts and pleasurable moments. Make a mental list of all the things you are grateful for and everything you love about your life. Think about the people and pets that you love and your proud moments and accomplishments. Visualize the beautiful places you’ve visited, like cool verdant forests or warm tropical beaches.
Don’t sneak a peek at the clock. If you’re having trouble sleeping, checking to see how late it is creates anxiety and will just makes things worse.
If you find you’re not getting enough undisturbed and restful sleep with your spouse or partner, then try sleeping in separate beds or rooms if necessary and see if that improves your sleep. I know, it’s definitely one of the more drastic and undesirable solutions, but sometimes it’s the only way to get a good night’s rest.
Spoil yourself with a warm bath before bedtime. Don’t take a shower, that’s too energizing. When you take a warm bath, it causes your body to cool down quicker when you get out, hastening the ideal body temperature for sound sleep. You can also incorporate some aromatherapy, add some salts, baking soda or special oils to the water for an even more luxurious bathing experience that will benefit your skin as well. Add a tablespoon of dry mustard powder to your bath to open your pores and remove built up toxins.
Try a footbath before bedtime. If you don’t want to go to all the trouble of preparing a complete body bath, you can just soak your feet in warm water for 10 minutes or so for desired relaxing effects.
Schedule a full body massage. Decrease stress, increase circulation, release endorphins and gain many other benefits that will help you sleep well.
Get a relaxing foot massage from your partner or spouse or do it yourself if nobody else is around. Everybody loves a foot massage! A good foot massage can boost blood circulation and prevent or remedy things like headaches and constipation. Barter or offer to take turns with your favorite person. Go here to for instructions: http://www.wikihow.com/Give-a-Foot-Massage
Turn on a humidifier. Warm your room during the winter without drying out the air. The moist air soothes dry and itchy sinuses, throat and eyes, and skin.
Have somebody read out loud to you when you’re in bed, ready go to sleep. The comfort of listening to a loved one’s soothing voice will make you feel like a little kid again.
Lying on your back in bed, loosen up all the muscles throughout your body. Tense and release each muscle as you visualize the various parts of your body relaxing. Start with your toes and working for way up to your head.
Sleep on your back or on your sides. Sleeping on your stomach puts pressure on your internal organs and weighs on your lungs, making it difficult to breathe properly.
Practice deep breathing exercises as you lie in bed. Breathe from your diaphragm. Count to 4 while you breathe in through your nose, hold, then slowly exhale through your mouth for 4. You can add to this routine by silently saying a word like rest, peace or sleep on the exhale as a mantra. Read: Meditation to Help Cure Insomnia.
No TV, computer, cell phone, iPad, Kindle, etc. just before bed. Backlit devices mimic the effect of sunshine, making your brain become awake and alert.
If you can’t get to sleep (or back to sleep) after being awake for 30 minutes get up. Go into another room to read or to do some relaxing stretches and deep breathing or go make a cup of herbal tea. Whatever you do, don’t stress about being awake – try to chill.
Try using a cognitive behavioral therapy system like SleepTracks. This is an excellent and completely natural way to achieve deep and restful sleep. When many other sleep techniques and strategies failed to work for me, SleepTracks’ series of therapeutic mp3s and video presentations thankfully taught me how to go to sleep and put an end to my chronic insomnia! Click here to find out more about SleepTracks.
If you’re experiencing insomnia and having difficulties trying to fall asleep and/or if you’re waking up in the middle of the night, avoid eating these foods close to bedtime:
Sugar and foods with high sugar content
Sugar increases blood-sugar levels and can cause a spike of energy that disrupts your sleep. Low blood sugar is one of the major causes of nighttime waking.
For example, eating a dessert loaded with sugar in the evening will crank up blood sugar levels just before bed. You might fall asleep without a problem, but later in the night when blood sugar levels plummet, your body will wake you up, alerting you to this chemical imbalance.
Refined carbohydrates are complex carbohydrates that have gone through a process that removes the bran and germ from whole grain. This gives foods a smoother consistency and lengthens shelf life, but it also strips away important nutrients, like Vitamin B, iron and fiber which all aid in the process of sleep.
Just like sugar, these processed carbs are quickly digested causing an intense rise in blood sugar accompanied by a crash.
Look for the words “whole wheat” or “whole grain” on the label to make sure these foods are not made from refined grains (white flour).
Limit the following refined carbohydrates in your diet:
Most packaged cereals
Sweetened fruit juice
Canned or frozen fruit and vegetables containing sugar
Foods that cause gas and heartburn
Stay away from foods that can produce gas or heartburn, such as foods that are spicy or high in fat, foods with a lot of garlic (especially fresh garlic), foods with rich and heavy sauces and foods with too many ingredients. Also, avoid major gas producing foods like:
Spicy foods and foods containing tomatoes, onions and citrus fruits may wake you up at night with heartburn, acid reflux or indigestion.
When you go to bed after eating a spicy meal, you are especially prone to experience one or all of these conditions since lying down can cause the food or liquid in your stomach to flow backwards into your esophagus (the tube that leads from your mouth to your stomach). This reaction can aggravate the esophagus, creating heartburn and other symptoms.
High fat foods
High fat foods take a long time to digest, can feel heavy in your stomach and potentially cause heartburn.
Here are some of the more common high fat offenders:
Beef and pork ribs
Potato and macaroni salad
Potatoes Au Gratin
Processed Meats (Sausage and Pâté)
It should come as no surprise that most fast foods are high in fat. As a matter of fact, one third of the USDA’s 100 top ranking high fat foods are fast foods.
From burgers, corn dogs, fries, onion rings and milk shakes to tacos, nachos, chicken and even fish sandwiches – they’re all a festival of high fat, refined carbs and sugar! If you’re going to eat this stuff, try not to eat it too late in the evening.
High protein foods
Beef, pork, lamb and certain other high protein foods are difficult to digest and can prevent sleep by inhibiting the production of serotonin, therefore causing you to feel alert.
Monosodium glutamate (MSG)
MSG is often found in most fast food, condiments, processed food, lunch meats, soup mixes, soy sauce, worcestershire sauce, flavored chips, and chinese food. MSG can create a stimulant reaction and headaches in many individuals.
Tobacco and nicotine
Yes, not really a food, but I’ve included it in this article anyway. All tobacco products are neurostimulants. Even though smoking might seem to calm you down, nicotine is a stimulant that can cause insomnia.
Alcohol Alcohol is responsible for many sleep related problems. Shallow sleep, frequent awakenings and dehydration are a few of the related symptoms caused by the release of adrenaline and disrupted serotonin levels.
Everybody has a different level of sensitivity to caffeine’s stimulant effects. This is due to the varying rate at which the body eliminates this compound. If you’re having difficulties getting to sleep, stay away from these products containing caffeine (or at least cease consumption before the evening):
Cola and some other soft drinks
Certain prescription and over the counter medications
Processed foods like bacon, sausage and ham contain additives and preservatives, which can promote sleep difficulties in sensitive individuals.
Too Much Liquid
Drinking too much fluid in the evening can cause you to repeatedly wake up because of a full bladder, resulting in numerous trips to the bathroom during the night.
Avoid drinking liquids at least 90 minutes before bedtime.
I know this article seems like a real buzzkill, but it may only be one substance that is creating your insomnia. By looking at your eating and drinking habits with a critical eye, you’ll be the best judge to figure out where the problem lies and be on your way to getting peaceful and rejuvenating sleep.
Like any machine, our bodies require fuel in order to operate to full capacity. Sugar, for instance, is immediately absorbed and converted into energy. Protein, however, metabolizes in our bodies at a much slower rate. The foods we consume not only give us nourishment, but also create different chemical reactions.
A person who has just started a low-carbohydrate diet will usually experience insomnia. They think the reason they can’t get to sleep is because they’re hungry. That’s not necessarily true – it’s the deprivation of carbohydrates that’s the culprit.
If our bodies are not receiving the proper amount of complex carbohydrates we can’t produce serotonin, a sleep-inducing hormone. We require the presence of serotonin to enable us to not only fall asleep, but stay asleep as well. Raising serotonin levels also benefits people who are suffering from anxiety or depression. You’ll find carbohydrates in fruit, vegetables, rice, whole grains, pasta, bread, potatoes, and cereals.
Too much food before bedtime
As our digestive processes slow down at night, it gets more difficult to digest food. Make sure you don’t eat heavy meals within 4 hours of going to bed. This way you will avoid the potential discomfort of bloating and heartburn when you lie down to go to sleep. Also, if you eat the wrong type of food too close to bedtime, you’re probably going to have problems getting to sleep and staying asleep during the night.
A light snack rich in complex carbohydrates, protein, fiber and minerals eaten approximately 90 minutes before bed, however, can aid in the sleeping process and prevent you from waking up in the middle of the night due to low blood sugar.
Another sleep-inducing agent is Tryptophan, which is an amino acid found in dairy products, poultry, fish, certain fruits, nuts and seeds. Incidentally, people who like to drink a warm glass of milk to help them get to sleep but are watching their fat intake will be happy to know that there is just as much tryptophan in skim milk as whole milk.
Foods rich in tryptophan
Sunflower and pumpkin seeds
Whole grain crackers
Eat foods rich in magnesium
Magnesium has a tranquilizing effect. A lack of magnesium can cause insomnia, anxiety, muscle cramps, constipation and pain. This natural sedative is also used as a remedy for regulating blood pressure, reducing risk of type II diabetes, heart attack and osteoporosis, and alleviating PMS, migraines and restless leg syndrome.
The following foods are loaded with magnesium:
Microalgae (chlorella and spirulina)
Whole grains (bread and cereal)
Eat foods rich in calcium
It’s a fact that 99% of the calcium that comes into our bodies is stored in our teeth and bones to keep them strong and healthy. The remaining percentage goes towards maintaining our muscles, blood and fluids. Calcium is one of the most important and plentiful minerals that reside in our bodies, totaling about 1.5% of our entire body weight.
Calcium is crucial for helping and regulating blood pressure, blood clotting and blood vessel and muscle contraction and expansion. Calcium also aids in preventing and curing insomnia, PMS, obesity, colon cancer, osteoporosis, rickets, and stroke.
Here are some foods that are rich in calcium:
Turnip, mustard, dandelion and collard greens
Fortified orange juice
Enriched breads and grains
The following foods fall into their own individual categories:
Cherries. Cherries contain high amounts of melatonin, which is yet another sleep-inducing compound. If you don’t want to drink the 8 ounces of juice too close to bedtime because of the having-to-get-up-in-the-middle-of-the-night-to-pee factor, you can eat a cup of cherries instead. Tart cherry tablet supplements are also an option.
Mushrooms. (all varieties)
Herbs. (dill and basil)
Lettuce. Lettuce contains an opium-related compound which is known to promote healthy sleep. If you’re having difficulty sleeping, make lettuce a regular item on your evening menu.
Here’s some nighttime snack suggestions that will help you get to sleep and stay asleep:
A small serving of white cheese with whole grain crackers
Yogurt, fruit and granola
Any type of nut butter on whole grain toast
An egg with whole grain toast
A small piece of fish with brown rice
Fruit with cottage cheese
A bowl of oatmeal with a little milk and fruit
A fruit smoothie made with yogurt
High fiber fortified cereal and milk
A handful of nuts
Some avocado and tortilla chips
One half sandwich with turkey or chicken breast on whole grain bread
Rice cakes with nut butter
Almonds with slices of fruit
So, experiment with these foods to help you sleep and see what works the best for you!
There are many different types of allergies that cause various levels of discomfort and problems. Symptoms can vary from having a runny or stuffy nose, sore or scratchy throat, watery eyes, itchiness, rash and hives to stomach pain, cramps, vomiting, diarrhea, and having difficulty swallowing or even breathing (in the case of anaphylaxis). Lovely, huh? It’s no surprise that allergies can cause insomnia. Let’s take a closer look.
A food allergy can be a likely culprit to create sleep problems. Lactose intolerance from dairy products, wheat allergies or various other food allergies will make your body react with symptoms of itching, swelling, upset stomach and other types of discomfort. Of course, if you’re uncomfortable, it makes it extremely difficult to get to sleep.
Recent studies have shown a connection between hay fever and insomnia. In the US alone, some 50 million people suffer from allergies as a result of changing seasons.
Research indicates that hay fever victims suffer from insomnia twice as much as people without allergies. Experts say people with allergic rhinitis on average take a longer time to get to sleep and they wake up more easily during the night. They also have to take more naps during the day and they get tired more easily.
During springtime our immune systems work to repel tree pollen from oak, elm, ash, birch, hickory, maple, cypress, walnut…and the list goes on. As a result, you will sneeze, cough, drip and blow and wipe your nose until it’s red as a stop sign!
In summer, you can look forward to spores coming from weeds, grasses and outdoor mold.
Come fall, there’s ragweed, sagebrush, and thistle to clog your nose.
During winter, you figure you’ll be indoors most of the time, so no worries, right? Wrong! Welcome to dust mites, animal dander and indoor molds. Now, you can add colossal headaches to your nasal congestion!
NOTE: Be careful not to get fooled by symptoms that copy allergies as a result of taking certain medications for conditions like, high blood pressure, erectile dysfunction, or oral contraceptives. These medications can cause the same symptoms as airborne allergies.
When you acquire these wretched symptoms, it’s a result of an allergen triggering an inflammation of the mucous membrane lining the nasal passages. The lining swells and closes off the normal flow of oxygen into your lungs. So, you sneeze, cough and gasp for air which keeps you and anybody around you from getting to sleep.
Here are some invaluable tips to bring you relief and keep those nasty allergens at bay so you can sleep at night.
Make a plan. If home remedies aren’t working and you can’t figure out the source(s) of your allergies, go to the doctor. Your health care professional should be able to help you find out which allergens are affecting you and recommend avoidance measures and medication. If your regular doctor’s efforts prove ineffective, find an allergist who will run a series of blood and skin tests to expose the specific allergens.
Nasal irrigation. No, you’re not going to starts growing crops in your nose! When allergens, dust and mold get stuck in your nasal passages membrane, your nose becomes swollen and clogged and a nasty sinus congestion can develop. Nasal irrigation to the rescue! Buy a neti pot, plastic bulb syringe or squeeze bottle from your local drug store and follow the directions. Using warm water and 1/2 teaspoon of non-iodized salt or specially formulated packets that come with your product (and also can be purchased separately in boxes of 50 – 100), follow the procedure at least once a day. Wash the receptacle well after each use. NOTE: In general, ceramic can be better sanitized than plastic. Nasal irrigation may take some getting used to, but it is an effective solution for clearing out allergens and preventing painful sinus infections.
Saline nasal spray. Thisis another option for washing and providing relief to your suffering sinuses.
OTC decongestants. Avoid use of nasal vasoconstriction nose spays such as Afrin for more than 3 days, or you will become addicted – and then soon after develop a tolerance with even worse “rebound congestion” when you try to stop usage. Use OTC decongestants for an extended period at your own risk!
Prevent inflammation. If you’re going to use nasal decongestants, a much better choice is to get a prescription from your doctor for anti-inflammatory sprays like Flonase, Nasonex, Veramyst, and Nasacort.
Use newer antihistamines. New products like Claritin, Allegra, Zyrtec and Clarinex don’t cause dry mouth and sinuses, and foggy head. They also won’t interfere with sleep like these first generation older antihistamines: Benadryl Allergy, Nytol, Sominex, Vicks NyQuil, and Alka-Seltzer Plus Night-Time Cold Medicine.
Steam inhalation. Here’s an old school solution for clogged sinuses. Add herbs and essential oils to steaming water, throw a towel over your head to form a tent and then keeping your face a good eight inches from the water, breathe in for approximately ten minutes.
Hot wet towels. Or use a hot, wet washcloth placed over your nose and sinuses. It can bring blessed relief.
Shower with eucalyptus. Turn on the shower and fill the bathroom with steam. Sprinkle a few drops of oil of eucalyptus on your bath mitt or washcloth with unscented soap and wash your entire body. Make sure you keep it out of your eyes. The oil will clear your sinuses, and soothe and moisturize your throat. Also, keep pollen out of bedroom by showering before bed and using a dryer-dried towel and bedclothes.
Gimme shelter. Hot, dry windy weather can blow dust, pollen and mold in your windows, at work, in your car, anywhere! Stay indoors with windows closed when those conditions are present during allergy season. If you can, schedule your outdoor activities when it’s windless, cloudy or even raining – there’s less pollen in the air.
Check the pollen count. Go to www.aaaai.org and click on “patients and consumers,” then click on “pollen count” to check how heavy the pollen levels are in your area. Plan outdoor activities when the counts are low and indoor activities when the counts are high.
Close windows in the early morning. Prime time for pollen distribution is between 5-10am. Make sure your windows are closed at this time or better yet close the widows the night before.
Exercise after 10am. You’ll breathe better and get a better workout if you exercise after the 5-10am blast of pollen.
Schedule vacations during allergy season. How about skipping the allergy season altogether? Try vacationing in another part of the world while your allergens are blooming at home.
Hire a lawn person. Mowing the lawn and raking the leaves is just asking for trouble (pollens and molds). Hire a professional. ‘Nuff said.
Scald the wash and rinse well. To remove the 3 most common allergens from your sheets – dust mites, dog dander and tree pollen – use hot water and rinse one or more times.
Wash and wash again. Wash clothes and bedding weekly.
Use the dryer. Hanging laundry on a line allows a gazillion pollens and molds to collect on sheets, clothes and towels.
Reduce the load. To help reduce dust mites which are everywhere in every home and aggravate every allergy, vacuum rugs and blinds often. Use a vacuum with a HEPA filter.
Double bag it. You’re more likely to make a clean sweep of dust mites if you double bag your vacuum.
Reduce humidity. Dust mites love moist areas. Use a dehumidifier to keep humidity below 50 percent. And don’t forget to run an exhaust fan in the bathroom when you shower and in the kitchen when you cook.
Install air-conditioning. If you can afford it, air-conditioning will keep pollen out of your home and keep the humidity low to discourage dust mites. If you can’t afford to AC your whole space, try a room-size window unit in your bedroom. Still out of your price range? Buy a HEPA filter and shape it to fit your bedroom window screen.
Change filters. Do it for both cooling and heating systems. Those filters will trap allergens, but they’ll get clogged unless they’re changed every three months. HEPA filters are a bit pricey but are clearly the most effective filters.
Relocate your pets. Don’t get excited, just from your bedroom. A lot of people are allergic to dog and cat dander without even being aware of it. They think their itchy nose and sneezing is due to something else. Play it on the safe side and let Rover and Simba sleep in their own bed a few rooms away from yours. Hey, don’t shoot the messenger!
Cover the mattress. Especially cover the pillows. “Allergy-proof” mattress and pillow covers are not cheap, but they’re worth it. Zipping up the mattress and pillows in a mite-proofed cover assures that the little varmints can’t interfere with your sleep.
Buy leather. Okay, maybe it’s not PC, but leather doesn’t collect dust mites the way fabric covered furniture does. After leather, vinyl is your next best bet.
Leave your floors bare. Wall-to-wall carpet harbors dust mites, while hardwoods, tile and vinyl don’t. If you must, throw a couple rugs down but make sure you wash them every week.
Keep air fresh. Beware of common household pollutants, such as household cleaning products, cigarette smoke, perfume and aftershave.
Monitor bathroom, kitchen and basement. These three areas tend to be more humid than the rest of the home. To eliminate allergy-triggering mold, use a cleaning solution containing 5% bleach and a small amount of detergent. Ditch the moldy wallpaper or carpeting.
Following as many of these tips as you can will most assuredly help with your allergy and insomnia issues and place you on the path to getting that quality sleep you so richly deserve. Good luck and good sleep!
Antihistamines can make you feel drowsy, and therefore help you get to sleep for two to three nights — but regular use of this medication as a sleep aid can actually make your insomnia worse.
Antihistamines make you drowsy by preventing histamines from attaching to cells in your body and causing swelling, itching, runny nose and tearing eyes.
Antihistamines can be found as the main ingredient in many over-the-counter sleep aids. But, these products are only meant to be used for a few nights at the most, like when you can’t get to sleep due to travel circumstances or stress.
Diphenhydramine, which is the primary ingredient in non-prescription sleep aids such as Sominex, Sleep-Eez and Nytol, is the most commonly used antihistamine for over-the-counter sleep medications. Diphenhydramine can also be found in pain relief medication like Anacin P.M., Excedrin P.M. and Tylenol P.M..
Resistance to the tranquilizing effects of antihistamines develops quickly — so if you keep taking them, they’ll start to lose their sleepy effect. Side effects may include:
Dryness of mouth, throat and nose
If you have chronic insomnia and you’re searching for a solution to getting a good night’s sleep, don’t depend on antihistamines or other over-the-counter sleep products.
Making changes to your lifestyle and modifying your daily habits and routines will yield much better and healthier results. Start with these helpful tips:
Set up a regular sleep schedule
Stay away from caffeine and avoid daytime naps
If your insomnia problems continue, talk to your doctor. In addition to the changes listed above, your doctor may suggest a behavior therapy program to teach you new sleep habits and other methods for making an effective sleeping environment.
Caution: Individuals with glaucoma, angina, heart arrhythmias or people who have difficulty urinating should stay away from antihistamines. Also, antihistamines should not be taken with nausea or motion sickness medications. Sufferers of chronic lung disease should avoid sleep aids containing doxylamine.