Healthy Living

How to stop insomnia

Does this sound familiar? You go to bed at the same time every night and rise at the same time every morning, roughly eight hours later, as recommended. But throughout the night, you wake up several times and can’t easily fall back asleep.

So, are you resting well? And how can you fall asleep quickly after you awake in the wee hours?

Generally, going to bed and getting up on schedule helps with restful sleep, according to Harvard Medical School.

“Keep regular hours,” says Grace Adeniji-Ilesanmi, a nurse practitioner with Unum. “Routine is good.”

But it’s not foolproof.

A few reasons you might not be sleeping through the night, according to Harvard Medical School and the National Sleep Foundation:

  • You drank alcohol. Alcohol depresses your nervous system, so it might help you fall asleep, but that effect goes away after a few hours and can cause you to wake up. Alcohol also reduces the amount of deep sleep you get.
  • You had caffeine in the afternoon or evening. Caffeine generally has a half-life of five hours. That means if you have a cup of coffee at 4 p.m., half the caffeine you slurped up is still in you at 9 p.m., and one quarter is still in you at 2 a.m.!
  • You sat around all day. When you get some physical activity, it increases your restorative deep sleep for the same night, and you awaken less often.
  • You exercised shortly before bed. Try to finish your workout several hours before sleepy-time.
  • Your mattress and pillows are uncomfortable. This one seems like a no-brainer, but I’ve been guilty of ignoring it.
  • Your bedroom is too hot. Cooler is better, though not below 54 degrees (or higher than 75 degrees), and warmth of bedding matters.

Of course, severe reasons, such as restless legs syndrome or chronic pain, make it hard to sleep. If this describes you, don’t despair. It might take some research or consulting with specialists to find a solution.

If none of the above nor obvious factors – like noise – apply, stress is probably messing with your shut-eye.

If you’re still wide-eyed 20 minutes after awakening, get out of bed. Try deep breathing and seated forward bends, which are calming.

If you can verbalize what you’re worrying about, remind yourself that worrying does no good. Of course, that  can be hard to do when worrying is exactly what woke you up.

So instead try this: Grab a piece of paper and write down what you’re stressing over. If it’s something you can tackle, put the paper in a place you’ll see after you’ve slept. If it’s not – worry usually gloms on to things you have no control over – put the paper in a designated box, and tell yourself you’re releasing your worry to that box in order to check on it in the future if you feel like it (you won’t).

The act of writing down what’s troubling you, and then giving it a home, helps boot it from the home it’s made in your head.

Journalist Mitra Malek writes about wellness, fitness and innovation. She has taught yoga regularly since 2006 and was a senior editor for Yoga Journal magazine. Learn more at www.mitramalek.com.

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