Insomnia has the power to quickly turn a happy life into one clouded by exhaustion and misery. Insomnia interferes with your judgement, and can wreck your work or school performance. And sadly, it’s common. Today many Australians struggle to fall or stay asleep. While the problem can feel intractable and overwhelming, the good news is that you can often treat it on your own.
Get Into a Routine
In our fast-paced, high-speed world, few people maintain regular schedules. You might get up before the sun during the week, only to crash and sleep half of the day during the weekends. This can wreak utter havoc on your sleep patterns. It’s not easy to get up early, particularly when you’re already exhausted, but the payoff over time is massive. Commit to going to bed at the same time each night and getting up at the same time each morning, regardless of your schedule and exhaustion. Over time, your body will catch up to your newfound commitment to good sleep.
Look at Your Diet
Caffeine is a major culprit in insomnia, so cut out caffeine—including chocolate, soda, and other unlikely sources—at least six hours before bed. Very spicy foods can also keep you up, especially if they cause stomach discomfort. And for some, it’s hunger that keeps them awake at night, so consider doing a nightly protein shake to ensure you have a healthy, balanced source of nutrition before you drift into slumber.
Practice Healthy Sleep Hygiene
“Sleep hygiene” refers to the habits that help you sleep more effectively. It’s easy to cultivate better habits by following these tips:
- Use your bed only for sleep or sex; otherwise, your body begins to associate being in bed with being active.
- If you can’t fall asleep after 15 minutes or so, get up. Otherwise you will get used to tossing and turning, increasing the likelihood of continuing to do it.
- Sleep in a dark, cool room. Your body temperature has to slightly drop for you to fall asleep, so a slightly cooler room can help.
- Invest in a good mattress, sheets that feel comfortable, and a pillow you love.
- Don’t sleep next to your phone. Instead, use an alarm clock. People awaken more when they sleep next to a phone, and checking your phone throughout the night can be psychologically harmful.
Try Herbal Supplements
The literature on herbal supplements is mixed, but many people have good luck with them. As long as you purchase your supplements from a mainstream source and get your doctor’s go-ahead, you should be safe. Some to try include:
- Valerian root
- Chamomile, especially in tea
For many insomnia sufferers, it’s not high energy, but the stress of everyday life, that keeps them awake. If you can’t seem to slow your thoughts and quiet your mind, consider meditating for 10 minutes each day, and an additional 10 minutes as you try to sleep. Meditation improves physical and mental health, and helps you practice the fine art of quieting your thoughts. Don’t expect it to work right away; meditation is challenging, and even frustrating, at first, but with persistence you may just find yourself finally getting a night of relaxing and undisturbed rest.
When home treatments fail, consider counselling first. Though sleep medications may work in the short-term, they tend to lose efficacy over time and can become addictive. The skills you learn in therapy, by contrast, help you learn to manage your anxiety for the rest of your life.