Can’t Sleep? Here are 5 Ways to Combat Insomnia

Alright guys, it’s no secret that my schedule’s crazy.  I’m usually up until 2-3AM working, but I’ve been trying to improve my sleep schedule because health trumps all.  So, this post’s dedicated to those of you who have trouble falling asleep on the regular.  Personally, I’ve had issues with insomnia in the past because I’m very anxious.  I’m a strong person mentally, but the second I jump into bed, it’s like all my worries attack my brain at once.  I’ve done a lot of experimentation though, which brings me to the following.  Here are 5 tips that have helped me change my life for the better:

1. Skip caffeine in the PM.

Caffeine blocks adenosine receptors so your brain doesn’t realize your body’s tired.  Even if you manage to fall asleep, it can still affect your zzz’s so it’s important to avoid it in the evening.  Researchers at Michigan’s Henry Ford Hospital’s Sleep Disorders & Research Center discovered that caffeine consumed 6 hours – yes, you read that right – before bedtime greatly diminished sleep quality AND quantity.

I stopped drinking coffee altogether, but I know that’s drastic.  I was relying on it so heavily (think 5-7 cups per day) that it became a health hazard.  Now, I only drink tea, and I have a strict cut off time.  I don’t drink caffeine after 3PM, and I urge you to do the same.  Three 8 oz. cups of coffee (around 250 milligrams of caffeine) is considered moderate, while 6+ is excessive.  If possible, try to drink less of it as your day progresses so you taper your intake before cut off.

2. Don’t exercise right before bed.

Regular exercise is crucial to a good night’s rest, just don’t get your sweat on right before bedtime.  Physical activity is stimulating so it’ll most likely keep you awake rather than lull you to sleep.  Avoid intense exercise (aka cardio work and HIIT) 2-3 hours before you turn in.  If you want to do some light stretching, that’s obviously fine, but don’t go overboard.  With that said, this particular point varies from person to person so if you find that heavy exercise does indeed help you fall asleep faster, then by all means.  Personally, I only exercise in the PM if I know I have a long night ahead of me because the endorphin rush helps me recharge.

3. Put your electronics away at least an hour beforehand.

I can’t even begin to stress how important this is.  In fact, I’m so strict about it that electronics aren’t even allowed in my bedroom.  Cell phones, computers, and other devices emit blue light, which suppress the production of melatonin.  Reducing said hormone makes it harder to fall asleep and stay asleep.  You may think electronics are harmless, but they keep your brain engaged when it should be relaxing.  This Norwegian study linked computer and mobile phone use with increased insomnia.  Instead of surfing the web or watching Netflix, try reading a book or meditating before you turn in for the night.

4. Get your brain dump on.

The ADAA claims that 7 out of 10 adults in the US experience stress or anxiety daily, and it affects their ability to sleep.  On average, they sleep about 6.6 hours per night and half have trouble falling asleep.  I was one of those people for years, but I found an effective way to deal with the issue.

I keep a journal next to my bed and brain dump every night before I turn the lights off.  I use three pages in my notebook: one for my worries, one to outline everything I need to do the next day, and one for my accomplishments so I can finish the evening on a positive note.  Once everything’s written down on paper, I empty my mind and meditate for 10 minutes to quiet my inner voice before dosing off.  I’m a big advocate of journaling.  If you find yourself worrying at night, write it all down.  It sounds very new age, but I swear it works – just promise yourself that as soon as it’s written out, you’ll let it go.

5. Stick with an evening routine.

It helps to stick with a regimen because consistency is key.  Also, remember that your routine starts way before bedtime, and it should include everything we’ve talked about thus far, ie. don’t exercise 2-3 hours before bedtime, no caffeine after 3PM (or 6 hours before), and so on and so forth.  Be strict about your schedule, and try to go to bed at the same time every night to reinforce your body’s sleep-wake cycle.

Still not convinced?  Here’s proof.  A team at Brigham and Women’s Hospital recently conducted a study on 61 Harvard College students to see how their sleep routines affected their performance, and they discovered that the inconsistent had lower GPAs, were more likely to hit the snooze button, and had trouble getting tired in the PM.  What I found especially interesting was the fact that both (students with routines vs students without) slept the same amount of time, except they released melatonin 2.6 hours later than their peers.  From their study, they concluded that going to sleep and waking up at the same time each day was as important as the number of hours one sleeps per night.

Alright guys, that’s a wrap for today!  Out of curiosity, how many of you have issues sleeping at night?  Definitely let me know by leaving a comment below, and if you found this post helpful, please give it a share so others can benefit as well.  If you have any tips you’d like to add, please do so in the comment section.  Until next time, friends!  I post new content every Monday and Thursday so make sure you check back soon.  For more health related content, click here.

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