If you struggle with insomnia or have difficulty staying asleep, you know all too well the toll it can take on your mental health. In fact the framework for good mental health starts with sleep as this is the time when the brain and body repair itself. The American Academy of Sleep Medicine states that 10% of adults struggle with chronic insomnia disorder. This condition is defined as having trouble falling asleep or staying asleep more than three nights a week for three months or more. Even more common are those who go through periods of sleeplessness due to life situations that result in increased stress. This on-going lack of sleep can manifest in a variety of ways including:
- Inability to focus or concentrate
- Poor memory
- Mood disturbance
- Daytime sleepiness
- Low motivation or energy
- Increased errors or accident
Getting quality sleep is essential! For those with insomnia or other sleep disorders, the evening hours can bring about a sense of dread in anticipation of another sleepless night. If you struggle to get a good night’s rest here are 4 tips that can help improve your chances of falling and staying asleep:
Set up a bed-time routine
Create a ritual of activities that signal to your body it is time to start preparing for sleep. Begin going through the ritual about an hour before you plan to go to bed. Some examples can be brushing your teeth, washing your face, listening to soothing music, preparing for the next day by choosing clothes, making lunch, light stretching, reading, or any other activity that winds down the body. It is important that technology is not a part of this routine as screens produce a blue light that excites and activates the brain. You want to send a strong signal to the brain that it is time to relax and go to sleep.
Avoid watching the clock
If you have lain awake at night desperate for sleep, you know the temptation to continue checking the clock. Knowing how much time has passed or how much sleep you are missing only adds to your anxiety. Thus signaling the brain to go into a more activated mode. Instead put clocks away and remind yourself that whatever amount of sleep you get that night, watching the clock will not help. Then begin visualizing pleasant memories or places and allow yourself to gently fall asleep.
Keep wake-up time consistent
Regardless of when you go to bed or fall asleep, make sure to get up at the same time each morning. This includes weekends or days with no schedule. Having a consistent wake-up time will help to reset your circadian rhythm which is responsible for the body’s wake/sleep cycle. When the body is required to wake up at inconsistent times throughout the week, this can lead to sleep problems and resulting health issues.
As you work to set behaviors that will increase sleep, it may be helpful to incorporate medication. This can assist the body and brain to more quickly adapt to your routine of sleep and make falling asleep easier. There are a variety of herbal supplements, over-the-counter medications, and prescribed medications that are designed to help assist with sleep. Always consult with your doctor to determine which supplement/medication and dosage would be helpful in your particular situation. Also, consult with your doctor to make sure that other medications are not contributing to the problem.
Remember that training the brain and body to improve sleep will take time. Working with a therapist that specializes in cognitive behavioral therapy for insomnia can provide evidence-based mental health support as well as accountability to stick with the process. Addressing sleep deficit can make a huge impact on your overall health and happiness!