Techniques for dealing with insomnia and sleeplessness (full sample)

Techniques for dealing with insomnia and sleeplessness (full sample)

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Insomnia and sleeplessness are chronic conditions that affect a large number of people. There are several simple steps that we can take to deal with insomnia before we need to turn to sleep medications. This article explores simple, effective techniques that people can use to help them get to sleep and stay asleep more easily. It covers areas including: what you can do during the day, developing an effective evening routine, and how to deal with insomnia and waking up at night.

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Simple, effective techniques for dealing with insomnia and sleeplessness

Insomnia is a major problem for many people, with up to a third of adults reporting problems with sleeping at some point in their lives. Not being able to sleep at night can have a profound effect on our ability to function, our mood, and our long-term health. Fortunately, there are several simple techniques that insomniacs can try to get a better night's sleep.

Techniques to use during the day

  • Set an alarm at the same time each morning - An important part of dealing with insomnia is training your body when to go to sleep and when to wake up. This means that you should set an alarm for around 8 hours after you go to bed. Set the alarm for the same time each day and get out of bed when it goes off, even if you are tired.

  • Don't stay in bed or go back to sleep in the morning - Even if you had a bad night's sleep, don't be tempted to stay in bed and go back to sleep. Taking naps during the day will significantly affect your ability to get to sleep at night and will impact on your sleeping schedule.

  • Schedule 'worry' or 'thinking' time during the day - This may sound a little unusual, but one of the most common causes of insomnia is anxiety and turning things over in your mind. Because of this, having time each day that you can think about and try to solve your problems can help your brain to relax at night.

  • Increase your light exposure during the day - Exposure to natural daylight helps regulate your sleeping and waking cycles, so try to get outside for at least half an hour a day.

  • Take regular exercise - As well as being good for your general state of health, exercise is a great way to help your sleep problems. Try to take at least half an hour of moderate exercise a day.

What to do in the evening to help you sleep

  • Avoid caffeine after 6 PM - Because caffeine is a stimulant, it can be difficult to sleep if you have too much in your system. Because of this, you should avoid any food or drink containing caffeine after 6 PM.

  • Create a relaxing evening routine - This means winding down properly before sleep. You might enjoy a cup of herbal tea, have a relaxing bath, spend time sitting quietly and generally being restful.

  • Avoid alcohol directly before bedtime - The quality of sleep that you have if you have been drinking alcohol is not as good as other types of sleep. Additionally, if you have to get up during the night to go to the toilet or because you are dehydrated, this can make it more difficult to get back to sleep.

  • Go to bed at the same time every day - It's very important to train your body and establish a rhythm for sleeping. Just like getting up at the same time each morning, it's important to go to bed at the same time each day. This will help your subconscious mind and your body realize that it is time for sleep.

  • Go to bed and read - Reading can be a good way to calm the mind just before you sleep. Try to focus on books that are gentle and not too exciting!

  • Have a pen and paper next to the bed in case you wake up - If you wake up with thoughts during the night, having a pen and paper where you can capture them means that you won't have them going over and over in your head and hopefully will help you get back to sleep.

How to deal with sleeplessness or waking up at night

  • Try to get back to sleep - Don't assume that you are just going to stay awake, instead spend a few minutes trying to get back to sleep.

  • Hide the clock - Laying in bed and clock-watching can be very frustrating and simply reminds us of how long we've been awake. Turn your alarm clock away from you so that you can't see the time if you wake up.

  • Meditate and relax individual groups of muscles - Slow down your breathing, clear your mind, and focus on your breath. As you do so, tense and release individual groups of muscles in your body to help you relax.

  • Try deep abdominal breathing - Taking slow breaths deep into your abdomen can instill deep relaxation and help you get back to sleep.

If you can't sleep after a few minutes, get out of bed - staying in bed and not being able to sleep will just add to your frustration. If you can't sleep, don't watch the clock, get up and go somewhere and do something restful such as reading.

Medications for insomnia

There are three main types of medications that you can try:

  • 'Natural' supplements and medications - This includes medications such as melatonin or valerian. You would be well advised to read up on the effects of these medications before trying them, and if you do so, try a small dose first. You should also consult your doctor before starting any new medications.

  • Over the counter sleeping pills - These are medications available from your pharmacy without a prescription. These pills can be very effective for some people and not as good for others. Speak to your pharmacist about which ones might be best for you.

  • Prescribed sleeping pills - Drugs such as Zolpidem, Zopiclone, and Ambien will need to be prescribed by your doctor. If you are still having significant issues with sleeping despite trying all these techniques, speak to your doctor about what solutions are available to you.

It's important to know that it's easy to become dependent on sleeping pills, and once you've been taking them for a while, you could find it very difficult to sleep without them.

Try these techniques throughout your day, in the evening, and if you wake up during the night. Build them into your routine as positive habits, and they'll help you get a full, restful night's sleep.

Content originally written by Paul Maplesden, a freelance writer, and edited by me.

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