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Insomnia: How to treat sleep issues without medication

Do you struggle to get to sleep no matter how tired you are? Or do you wake up in the middle of the night and lie awake for hours, anxiously watching the clock?

 

Although insomnia is the most common sleep complaint, it is not a singular sleep disorder. What’s more, insomnia can lead to feelings of anxiety, frustration, hopelessness, exhaustion and an inability to concentrate.

 

It’s more accurate to think of insomnia as a symptom of other problems. The causes of insomnia differ from person to person, and it could be something as simple as drinking too much caffeine during the day.  However, it might be a more complex issue resulting from an underlying medical condition or from being overloaded with responsibilities.

 

The good news is that most cases of insomnia can be cured with changes you can make on your own; without having to rely on sleep specialists or over-the-counter sleeping pills.

 

The more we look for sleep, the less we find it. Therefore you should let go of the pursuit and focus on doing what you can to improve the situation yourself. Here are a few ways you can start:

 

1. Disconnect from work before bedtime

The last thing you need is to be lying in bed thinking about an email you just read. Give yourself a buffer period between the time you read your last email and the time you go to bed. The idea is to get your head out of work before you lie down to go to sleep.

It can be very hard not to do or think about, work before bed. But developing this habit can pay off big time. It will give you a clearer mind and help you go to bed feeling less stressed so that you get a better night’s sleep.

 

2. Unplug completely

You shouldn’t just disconnect from work. You should unplug completely.

Researchers agree that any screen time before bed does you more harm than good.

The blue light from your phone mimics the brightness of the sun, which tells your brain to stop producing melatonin, an essential hormone that regulates your circadian rhythm and tells your body when it’s time to wake and when it’s time to sleep. So, stop checking your emails, scanning your social media apps, and playing games on your phone just before going to sleep.

As hard as it might be to give up your phone before bed right now, it will pay off in the long run.

 

3. Reflect on the positive moments of the day:

Take the time, just before bed, to reflect on or write down three things that happened that day, for which you feel grateful. Taking a few moments to think about what went right over the course of the day can put you in a more positive and grateful mood.

Benjamin Franklin famously asked himself this same self-improvement question every night: “What good have I done today?”

 

4. Avoid caffeine and alcohol:

Caffeine is a brain stimulant that interferes with good sleep. Alcohol may seem to help you fall asleep more rapidly initially, however, it causes you to awaken early and makes it more difficult to get back to sleep.

Caffeine and alcohol are also both diuretics which can cause an urge to urinate in the middle of the night.

 

5. Use the bedroom for what it’s meant to be used for: Don’t get into the habit of watching TV, eating, or performing any other activities in your bed. You want to train your brain into thinking that once you are in bed, it is time to go to sleep. If you routinely engage in other activities in bed, your brain will be more difficult to shut down when you want it to.

 

6. Avoid bedtime high carb snacking: Avoid sugar or carbohydrates within two hours of sleep. If you are hungry, eat small portions of foods that promote sleep such as one glass of warm milk, turkey, or nuts.

 

7. Adopt a routine schedule: Try to maintain a regular, routine sleep/wake schedule. That is, go to bed at the same time every night and wake up at the same time each morning, no matter how sleepy you are. This may be difficult for the first few nights, but eventually, your body will get used to maintaining the same schedule.

Do not vary your weekend schedule by more than one hour from your weekday schedule.

 

8. Get regular exercise: Routine exercise releases endorphins that decrease stress and, as a result, increase deep sleep. Get at least thirty minutes of cardiovascular exercise daily, such as walking, running, or cycling. Try to avoid doing this in the evenings, however, as the endorphins can cause brain stimulation if performed within three hours of sleep.

 

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