Wednesday, 27 November 2013
Beating insomnia naturally
Today's post concludes the series by Corey Walden here.
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Corey Walden writes...
65% of us will have some kind of sleeping problem tonight. Insomnia, be it on an occasional or chronic, is pandemic in the modern world, which leads to short and long term health problems.
Aside from feeling exhausted and being uninterested and unmotivated in most of your obligations, mental performance is very similar to someone who is legally drunk after a certain point.
If sleep continues to be elusive, the health effects are serious and manifold, from increasing risk of heart attacks, strokes, diabetes, and even cancer, as well as an unsurprisingly shorter life span. For those who love to sleep in on the weekends or when you get a chance, this is no solution for the health complications; the sleep debt you accumulate simply does not get paid off with extra sleep later. Luckily, there is a lot you can do to fix your sleep problems!
Avoid Naps: Naps more than 15-20 minutes will actually make it harder to sleep at night, disrupting your circadian rhythm. Sleeping 6 hours straight is better than sleeping 8 hours at different times.
Avoid Caffeine: If you are a caffeine drinker, definitely avoid any anytime within 5 hours of when you intend to try to sleep. If you are having chronic insomnia, you should avoid caffeine entirely, as any stimulant will disrupt the balance of your own body’s energy systems and hormones, increasing the chance of sleep disturbance.
Exercise: Many people who experience chronic sleep problems experience this issue because their bodies are sending all the food they eat to adipose (fat) storage, and don’t let much get to muscles, organs, and sometimes even the brain, leading to exhaustion. To try to relieve the exhaustion, the adrenal glands release chemicals that try to liberate fat stores for energy, but one of the side effects is to make you somewhat jittery, feeling like your mind is jumping all over the place like caffeine might. The mechanism is too complicated to explain in this particular text, but exercising helps restore the balance and function of your hormones and stop the adrenal glands from having to go so nuts. Exercise will also help exhaust you enough to sleep easily! Lastly, ensure to include weight bearing activities like weight lifting or sprinting to achieve these effects.
Avoid Alcohol: While a night cap may be tempting, and may help you fall to sleep at first, but will destroy the quality of the sleep and increase the chances that you will wake up during the night as well. Avoid alcohol for at least three hours before bed.
Keep Cool: Keep your sleeping area cool, though not necessarily cold. Your body temperature naturally rises during the night, and keeping a cool bedroom temperature will help keep you asleep, not to mention being able to pile on some blankets helps most people find restful slumber.
Dim And Then Dark: Our brain releases a hormone called melatonin to help prepare for sleep and then let us make the transition. This hormone is in large part regulated by light, so when the sun goes down we start getting sleepy and ready for bed, but if you keep your lights on watch TV, check your phone or computer right before sleep, your brain doesn’t get to deploy this all important sleep hormone. Dim the lights at LEAST one hour before you try to sleep and then when you expect to sleep make sure the area is as completely dark as possible. Black out curtains and tape over any alarm clocks is the best solution.
Unwinding: A big cause for any kind of insomnia is worry, preoccupation, and a mind that jumps all over the place. Just like light concerns, at least an hour before bed you should find a way to finish whatever you have on your mind so that you don’t feel drawn to get up and keep working on something, and then find a way to put the concern away. Reading a book is one of the most popular, and effective way for putting your mind into a better place where it can relax. Reading metaphysics or theoretical physics may not be the best idea, but whatever you find relaxing will work just fine as long as your mind isn’t too engaged.
Unplug: Along the same line, still, is at least an hour before bed you should be turning off your TV, computer, and phone (or at least not looking at it!). As someone who works online, I know this can get quite hard, but it stimulates the mind and combats the chemicals that let you sleep. This is an absolute must!
Cuddle: Believe it or not, curling up with a loved one (at least one who doesn’t move around a lot of this bugs you, and children are seldom helpful!) has been clinically shown to help the mind calm down and fall asleep.
Herbal Assistance: There are a few different herbs that have been help to sleep, many of which can be taken as a tea, and as such many wellness tea companies will still a sleepy time combination that can be quite effective. Sweeten minimally and enjoy in the hour before bed. Melatonin in particular, which was mentioned earlier, is actually available in supplement form and can be quite helpful, but may or may not take a few days of taking it each night to become effective.
Supper: A light snack later at night with a small amount of carbohydrates will increase serotonin levels and keep blood sugar stable, which will both be calming on the body. A cup of warm milk and honey will do the trick, among other options such as a bit of fruit.
All of these different methods together, over time, will help steer you away from chronic insomnia, and may also help quite a bit on those nights of interspersed acute insomnia. Not all of these options will help everyone, but most will, and collectively with discipline you can end this severely unpleasant and unhealthy trend. I spent 13 years with severe insomnia and these are the things I used to beat it for good, so I know they work!
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