It’s late at night, your eyelids are heavy, and your alarm clock is set. And once again, you find yourself lying awake, staring at the ceiling. You probably already know that insomnia has serious effects on your health and well-being, and you might already know how common it is. According to the National Institute of Health, 1 in 3 Americans experiences occasional insomnia, while 1 in 10 has a serious problem with it. And of those millions of people, only around 30 percent discuss it with their doctor. If your problems getting to sleep are seriously disrupting your day, you may need medical assistance. But if you’re simply practicing faulty bedtime habits, you could see an improvement through these practical ideas putting your dreams a little more in reach.
1. Regulate the Temperature
Most experts believe that the best temperature for sleep is in the 60s, so if your bedroom is too freezing or sweltering, if could be making you restless at night. A room that is too hot might be the worse culprit, because people who suffer from insomnia typically had a higher average body temperature at bedtime.
And yet you’ve probably read recommendations that you take a hot bath, drink hot tea, or even warm up some milk before you try to turn in for the night. This is because a decrease in body temperature is what triggers the feeling of sleepiness. So if you warm yourself up before bed, your body will naturally start to cool itself off, and it’s that process which will help you fall asleep.
2. Avoid Mental Distractions
In this age of the internet, when everyone is under stress and inundated with gadgets all day long, it’s not so surprising that insomnia is so widespread. If you work at home at least part of the time, make sure you’re stopping at least a couple hours before bed. And try not to work in bed.
Staring at your laptop until right before bed can fill your mind with anxieties, deadlines, and complicated problems. It’s also generally a good idea to not watch too much TV at night, although a relaxing DVD without loud commercials may work for you. Relaxation CDs or light reading can also help you unwind mentally at the end of the day. And try getting a quieter alarm clock. Worrying about your problems sleeping combined with the knowledge that a grating alarm will wake you up is a recipe for mental stress.
3. Consider Chemical Problems
Sometimes vitamin deficiencies, hormonal imbalances, or even gas can be responsible for insomnia. A number of people suffering from sleep disorders lack melatonin, which you can get naturally from sunlight or through supplements. Women who are going through menopause or have other hormonal issues can find their sleep severely disrupted.
Eating foods you are sensitive or allergic to before bed can also be a factor in reducing the quality of sleep, especially sugary snacks that will raise your blood glucose level, only to have it crash in the middle of the night. The last thing you eat before bed should be high in protein, which stimulates your body’s melatonin production.
Adults who get less than 5 hours of sleep a night have an increased risk for heart disease and early death, so insomnia is not an issue to be taken lightly. If you have tried to improve your sleeping habits and still have trouble, you should talk to your doctor. But figuring out changes to your lifestyle that make your nights more restful can be the first step in improving your health for the rest of your life.
Sara Lewis is an avid blogger for http://fallingasleep.net/.