Tossing and turning with insomnia can make for a miserable night, and the day that follows it usually isn't too much fun either. Luckily, there are several steps you can take to get back to a more regular sleep schedule.
1. Sleep in a quiet, comfortable environment. The bed should be soft without heavy-duty lumps - remember the fairy tale of The Princess and the Pea - and the room should be free of loud music, television, or conversation. If the house where you are trying to sleep is noisy, you might want to try ear plugs.
2. Try a bedtime snack with tryptophan. Tryptophan is a substance that promotes sleepiness. You can find it in foods such as cottage cheese, chicken, turkey, tuna, and soybeans. Just be careful to keep your bedtime snacks light. You may find it difficult to sleep well after a heavy meal.
3. Avoid lights in the bedroom. This includes overhead lights, the light from the television set, and backlit devices like Kindles and iPads.
4. Increase exposure to light during the day. Light during the day lets your body know that it's time to be awake and moving. When the light goes away, the body realizes that the time has come to sleep. If you live in a climate with a lot of cloudy days, you may want to consider purchasing a light box and spending half an hour or so in front of that each day.
5. Easy does it before bedtime. Heavy exercise like running or lifting weights can get your heart pumping and keep you awake. Quieter forms of exercise such as yoga are fine, however, and may even help you relax enough to rest.
6. Get out of bed when you can't sleep. Tossing and turning will only keep you awake longer. Read a few pages of a non-electronic book, try 10 to 15 minutes of meditation, or drink some warm milk or warm decaffeinated tea. By the time you hit the mattress again, you should be feeling more tired.
7. Try progressive muscle relaxation. Starting with your toes, clench each muscle group tightly and then release it. Work your way up your legs, your buttocks, your abdomen and chest, your arms, shoulders, neck, and face. This should ease your tension and help you get ready to drift off to sleep.
8. Take a warm bath or shower. If you have aches and pains, add some Epsom salts. A hint of lavender can also provide a relaxing scent that encourages sleep.
9. Avoid caffeine, nicotine, and alcohol before bed. Even though you might think a drug like alcohol would make you pass out, the truth is that all of these substances can be guilty of disrupting the sleep cycle.
10. Don't nap during the day. Napping during the daylight hours can lead to getting your days and nights confused and making your insomnia worse. No matter how tired you are, hold out until the evening hours before getting into bed.
Not being able to sleep at night is enough to make anyone miserable, but following these ten simple instructions should soon have you back on a regular, healthy sleep schedule. If you've tried these methods and your sleep pattern hasn't resolved itself, it may be time for a trip to the doctor to see if you have a medical condition such as an infection or sleep apnea that makes sleep difficult.
Some doctors are also willing to prescribe a few days' worth of sedatives to see if that restores a more normal sleep cycle, but most doctors see sedatives as a short-term fix and not a long-term solution to the problem of insomnia.
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