Clean Sleeping Series: Insomnia

When I was younger, there was a period of time where I experienced relentless insomnia.  I’m talking, falling asleep as the sun started to come up…that kind of insomnia.  Every night was a struggle where the anxiety of going to bed would start at supper time and continue through the night with the level of frustration increasing as the hours passed by.

Luckily, the insomnia ended after a series of dietary and lifestyle changes but also by creating a sleep routine and improved environment.  All of these components are referred to as sleep hygiene, and simple modifications can make all the difference in getting proper rest.

You have complete control over your dietary habits and as you can probably imagine, the first thing to watch out for is caffeine.  The University of Marlyand Medical Center suggests that alcohol, caffeine, sugary and spicy foods be avoided 4-6 hours before bedtime.

Lifestyle wise, I do my best to get exercise most days of the week which tires me out and helps alleviate stress and anxiety – though it’s suggested that avoiding intense activity 4-6 hours before bed.  Making sure I go to bed at the same time every night has helped not only the quality of sleep I get but it’s also decreased my migraine headaches.  I do my best to get to bed by 10 pm and often read before hitting the sheets for a minimum of 8 hours per night.

What about your bedroom?  The environment of your room has a huge impact on sleep quality.  Here are some things to look out for:

– temperature:  keep your room cool but not less than 12 degrees (54 F).

– noise: try a fan to create white noise if this is a concern or try earplugs.

– light:  make sure you get exposed to enough light during the day and ensure that all light is eliminated at night.  This includes alarm clocks, watches, cell phones, etc.

Most importantly, keep TV’s, computers, cellphones, and work-related material out of your room.  It should be a place you associate with peacefulness and nothing else.

If you do experience difficulty falling asleep, it’s recommended to get up after 20 minutes of restlessness and do something outside the bedroom.  Read till you are drowsy, take a bath, hang out…but don’t watch tv.

For more on insomnia check out these excellent links:

http://www.umm.edu/sleep/simp_things.htm

http://www.umm.edu/sleep/cognit_theraphy.htm

http://www.sleepfoundation.org/article/sleep-related-problems/insomnia-and-sleep

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