Are sleeping pills and antidepressants the only way out when suffering from lack of sleep? No. Here are some practical tips for avoiding or remedying insomnia.
Insomnia: Staying awake at the expense of tomorrow
Statistics show that insomnia — the inability to fall asleep and to stay asleep — is a major problem in the Western societies. As much as 25% of adults in our part of the world are reporting regular occurrences of sleep deprivation.
Does it matter? Perhaps one can just get away with a few less hours of sleep each night?
According to research, insomnia can make one’s health and quality of life seriously worse. Several recent studies have linked sleep deficits with poor work performance, driving accidents, relationship problems, and mood problems like anger and depression.[i] When someone suffers from insomnia, their children, partners and colleagues tend to suffer as well.
A growing list of health risks has been documented, too. Heart disease, diabetes, obesity and even cancer have all been linked with chronic sleep loss.
Insomnia, in short, is no joking matter.
Five practical tips for sleeping like a baby
Avoid anything stimulating close to bedtime: caffeine (coffee, tea, cola), alcohol, nicotine, vigorous exercise, social media and The Huffington Post. Yep, you read that right — steer clear from “sticky” content that will keep running through your head even after you hit the sack!
Be smart with light! Open the curtains right after awakening to help you get going; in contrast, turn down the lights — especially the kind emitted by your laptop, smart phone, tablet or TV! — at least 2 hours before bedtime. The blue light emitted by gadgets makes your brain too hyper to get proper rest.
Check your bedroom for hidden bogeymen! Your brain and your computer generally cannot both be on sleep mode at the same time and place. The light emitted by devices on standby can still be enough to keep your brain from “switching off”.
In fact, the closer you can get to pitch black the more sleep hormones you’ll produce. Also, eliminate distracting sounds as much as possible and turn down the thermostat to keep the room nice and cool.
Working out vigorously in the morning or afternoon results in so many benefits — including improving your sleep quality.
Peace of mind
Too stressed out to fall asleep? Don’t get caught up in the vicious cycle of “too little sleep — more stress — even less sleep — even more stress,” which is bound to happen if you do nothing about it. So what could one do about daily stress?
Sitting quietly, then hitting the sack
According to Neil B. Kavey from National Sleep Foundation, one of the most common root causes for sleeplessness is daily stress. Anxiety and stress make it both difficult to fall asleep and to stay asleep. By making one toss and turn restlessly in the bed, a stressed-out mind also affects the quality of sleep.
This is because stress causes hyperarousal — an overly stimulated mental state which upsets the rhythm of day and night.
That’s exactly why so many people suffering from insomnia have found great relief when starting to practice meditation. With its relaxing daily sessions, a technique like Transcendental Meditation is one of the most effective methods of stress relief.
“Practicing Transcendental Meditation can help you drift away from your internal critic, which is the voice in your head that leaves you anxious and stressed. Moreover, freedom from constant inner-chatter and ramblings can have a profound healing influence on your mind, leaving you deeply rested and relaxed.” — Bridget Webber, helpmetosleep.org
“Meditation helps one to discard negative thoughts and stress levels by reducing the activation of stress hormones such as adrenaline, noradrenaline and cortisol. Regular practice of Transcendental Meditation improves the psychological well-being and thereby wipes out the problem of sleep deprivation.” — Health portal LadyCare Health, listing home remedies to fight insomnia
“I notice that when I am meditating regularly I sleep more deeply than when I’m not. The twenty minutes twice a day that I spend meditating result in lasting effects of inner peace, less stress, and truly restful sleep.” — Rennie, former teacher suffering from Multiple Sclerosis induced insomnia
What you get when you get good night’s sleep
1. You will feel great!
Your brain is wired to feel good ONLY when it’s well rested. Studies show that lack of sleep leads you to feel irritable, angry, and, in some cases, even depressed. If everything seems to be getting on your nerves, assess your possible sleep debt and start paying it off!
2. You will have better relationships, and right away
Not enough rest at night makes you more likely to get into a fight and to have less empathy, poorer problem solving skills and more negativity. In fact, just ONE night of insufficient sleep increases the likelihood of conflict with your significant other.[ii] So, what happens between the sheets indeed determines the quality of the relationship. 😉
3. You will look irresistibly good
The benefits of ‘beauty sleep’ are now confirmed in the laboratory. Rigorous tests have shown that sleep-deprived people are assessed by others as less attractive, sadder and less healthy.[iii]
4. You will ace it at work
Sleep deprivation makes you forgetful and harms your ability to pay attention and make decisions. Add to this the above-mentioned difficulties in communication, and you have a recipe for professional disaster. So whatever line of work you’re in, sufficient sleep is a must in order for you to be great at what you do.[iv]
[i] “Effects of one night of induced night-wakings versus sleep restriction on sustained attention and mood: a pilot study”
[ii] “The Role of Sleep in Interpersonal Conflict. Do Sleepless Nights Mean Worse Fights?” See also: “Sleep deprivation adversely affects interpersonal responses to frustration”
[iii] “Cues of Fatigue: Effects of Sleep Deprivation on Facial Appearance”