What is Insomnia?
Along with stress & anxiety, insomnia is one of the most common lifestyle problems. Almost 60 million Americans suffer from insomnia. That’s a staggering number for one of the most vital life processes everyone goes through each day.
Insomnia simply means you can’t go to sleep even though the opportunity is there; your body is willing but your mind says “not now”!
There are two types of insomnia: Acute, which is short-term and is usually caused by some unexpected circumstance such as the death of a loved one, or an upcoming exam; this will usually go away within a matter of few days or weeks, once the life circumstance causing it returns to normal.
Chronic insomnia is when you cannot sleep for at least 3 nights per week and it lasts for about 3 weeks. This type of insomnia could be caused by changes in your environment, unhealthy sleep habits, shift work, or certain medications.
Good quality sleep is a must because it helps us to relax, refresh, and revitalize our mind and body. Sleep is also necessary for repair and maintenance of vital body functions. Lack of adequate amount of sleep can have adverse effects on our normal daily functioning.
Although insomnia affects different people in different ways, there are several things to look for in particular. Here are some common symptoms & effects of insomnia.
Can’t get to sleep
Mind working on overload
Waking up too early
Don’t feel refreshed in the morning
Worry about not sleeping
Waking up during the night
Tired during the day
how to sleep better?
Here are some ways to sleep better:
1) Avoid consuming caffeine, smoking cigarettes, or drinking alcohol before bedtime. Caffeine and nicotine are stimulants and should be avoided for at least an hour before bedtime. Alcohol, although it makes you sleepy at first, causes you to wake up after a few hours of sleep and you can’t get back to sleep.
2) Avoid playing exciting video games or watching intense movies just before bedtime.
3) Avoid eating a large dinner at a late time. Going to bed on a full stomach is a sure way to not get to sleep very quickly. Carbohydrates in particular will keep you awake. Try to eat at least 2 hours before bedtime.
4) Some medications cause insomnia. If you must take them, ask your doctor if you can alter the timing of taking the medication to avoid sleep interruption or take a medication that doesn’t affect your sleep.
5) Anxiety and worrying about not getting enough sleep will keep you awake. Visit our Anxiety page for tips and techniques on how to go beyond anxiety.
6) Change in environment or schedule. If you travel a lot, take your own pillow with you. If you work night shift, invest in light-blocking curtains to have a dark place to sleep. Set up a schedule for sleeping and stick to it.
7) Traumatic life events can cause insomnia. Time heals wounds, and it may take time to get back in the routine of sleeping well. Sitting quietly, listening to pleasant music, and allowing your mind to relax will work wonders in healing as well.
9) There is a deep connection between stress, awareness and sleep. The more stressed you are during the day, the less aware you are, and this directly affects your quality of sleep. Similarly, the more aware you are, the less stressed you will be during the day and this helps you to sleep better. One direct way of improving your quality of sleep is by increasing your level of awareness throughout the day. Practicing simple mindfulness exercises throughout the day can make a significant difference.
10) When we try to simply shut down our mind at night after being stressed and anxious throughout the day, it simply doesn’t work. If we are generating more than necessary thoughts during the day, being disturbed and stressed, that disturbance will continue into the sleep state. The secret to sleeping well is actually in learning how to handle our thoughts, desires and emotions during the day. The way we live during the day is the way we sleep at night.
If you do find yourself lying awake in bed trying your best to get to sleep, here are a few things you might try:
1) Do a controlled breathing exercise: exhale slowly and fully, then inhale fully and hold the breath for a few seconds. Exhale fully. You can establish a count of seconds for the exhales and inhales. This focused breathing exercise will take your mind off the fact that you can’t go to sleep. There’s just something amazing about oxygenating the body when you can’t go to sleep–it really helps!
2) Try to stay awake. (reverse psychology here)
4) Listen to pleasant music
5) Meditate – This will help to calm your thought processes. Sit in a comfortable position, close your eyes, and simply watch your breath. If a thought crosses your mind, just observe it; don’t get involved with it. Do this for as long as it takes for you to relax your mind before you lay back down to sleep.
Herbal Remedies for insomnia
There are several herbs that are great to help you relax and go to sleep. Prepare a cup of tea using chamomile, peppermint, lemon balm, lavender, hops, or passionflower (or a mixture of them). Valerian is also an excellent herb to help induce sleep but it has a rather unique smell; somewhat related to previously-worn gym socks, so a tincture would be recommended if you wish to try valerian!
There are also several ready-made herbal “sleep” tea mixtures on the market. How you prepare and consume the tea is just as important as the herbs you use. Heat the water and prepare the herbs with awareness; that means pay attention to what you are doing! You have no idea how important keeping your mind in the present moment is–it’s everything! Drink the tea from a pretty cup (not styrofoam) and sit in a comfortable space while you’re enjoying the tea.
An herbal bath is also a marvelous way to get ready for a good night’s sleep. Toss a handful of lavender, lemon balm, or chamomile flowers into a warm bath and sink into the fragrance of peace.
Short term relief / long term cure
Dealing with immediate symptoms of insomnia will only provide short-term relief. To be able to increase your ability to fall asleep at night over the long run, you need to take a more serious and organized approach to train your mind to be aware and mindful throughout the day. Mindfulness and awareness are keys to everything in our lives!
To help you go beyond insomnia on a long-term basis, we’ve designed a comprehensive online program with all the necessary resources, tools and guidance. “Inside-Out” is a program that has been specifically designed to help you deal with all kinds of problems related to the mind. We’ve never been taught how to deal with our minds and they’ve gotten out of control. This program, in common sense terms, explains how our minds work and then explains in detail how to work your mind instead of your mind working you.
*Disclaimer: This page offers suggestions for handling insomnia. We do not guarantee specific results and the results can vary.