By Susanna Sweeney, MSC, MBACP, CHT
This article focuses on self help for insomnia- giving you tips on simple life style changes and troubleshooting of your sleep hygiene that can help you fix your sleep issue by yourself.
Most people can at least achieve an improvement of their insomnia this way,. However, if there are underlying health issues you may need to consult a professional.
Let's face it- adequate sleep is absolutely essential if you want to maintain your health and well being. If you have been suffering from insomnia for a while, don't despair, there is a lot you can do to get things back on track.
I have broken my insomnia self help down into ten easy to implement steps that I recommend you work through. You are in with a good chance that your sleep will improve when you work through this guide.
Next comes trouble shooting your sleeping environment. Is your bedroom too noisy, too bright, too warm, or too stimulating to be able to relax? Is your mattress comfortable for your unique physique?
If you get physically uncomfortable and restless during the night you may be well advised to visit a good quality mattress shop where you can get advice on what type of mattress is right for you.
Some people are highly sensitive and react to the minute EMF's that are produced by the metal springs in mattresses and are better off with a foam mattress- or, even better with a mattress made from natural materials. other people just need to tweak the hardness/ softness of their mattress so their body can let go and relax completely.
Your subconscious mind has an inbuilt timer. You can train yourself to fall asleep at the same time each evening, and to wake up at the same time each morning.
To set or reset your sleep rhythm all you need is a couple of weeks of regularity where you diligently make sure that you go to bed at the exact same time, and set your alarm for the exact same time. Your inbuilt subconscious timer will eventually understand what you want it to do.
You can help this process along by keeping a sleep diary where you record exactly what you did before bed each night, and exactly what your sleeping pattern was like that night. You may soon see a pattern emerge that you can then use to make improvements.
As well as working on your sleep rhythm you also have to take care of all other items in this article however. Just practicing a regular rhythm on its own probably won't relieve your insomnia if you are also taking in caffeine or watching TV in your bedroom, for example.
Ideally, you should get some exercise each day. Exercise can help you sleep better- but only if it's practiced well before bedtime and in moderate measure. You could go for a walk, go swimming, or cycling some time before bedtime. The idea is not to work out hard and to push yourself. It's just to get your body moving.
On a busy day, a walk on your way home from work may be all you are able to fit in, but some movement is better than none. Do what you can and most importantly don't stress over it because stress is the antidote to relaxation and sleep.
A dedicated wind down routine can be very helpful at night time. During this time, you are preparing your physiology to gradually calm down and relax. This requires avoiding stress of any kind- be it housework or checking work emails. Set a cut off time for yourself for when to stop taking on anything stressful.
It's a good idea to include a relaxation routine in your wind down routine, just before bedtime. Gentle yoga is often recommended here, as are meditation, guided meditation, relaxation hypnosis and hypnosis for insomnia.
You can try things out and see what works best for you. What you want to achieve is a very deep level of relaxation where both your muscles and your mind wind down completely.
Your wind down routine and screen time are mutually exclusive as they would work against one another. From about an hour before you go to bed you should leave all your devices with screens aside. Screen emit blue LED light which excites the nervous system in such a way that it can interfere with relaxation and sleep.
Self help for insomnia must include dealing with worries and anxieties effectively as those are the worst perpetrators in keeping you awake or prolonging wakefulness during the night.
Any issues that require any level of emotional involvement and are potentially worrying or could lead to night time anxiety should ideally be dealt with before the wind down routine commences.
This is not always easy to achieve when life is busy.
An alternative is to commence the wind down routine with twenty minutes of writing in a notebook or diary to get worries off your chest. Writing a to-do list for the next day/ week is also useful here as it means you don't need to hold these items in your awareness overnight and can let go completely.
You should also avoid any confrontations or arguments during this time- if you have a choice at all then schedule these types of conversations for a time earlier in the day.
If you are prone to waking up during the night, it's important to have a plan in place so that you can stay as calm as possible. Worrying about losing sleep can lead to a nasty self fulfilling prophecy- the more you worry, the more sleep you will lose.
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I hope you have found this page on self help for insomnia useful. In the comments underneath, let our community know how you are getting on using the tools you have learned here.
Here's to your relaxation and well being.
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