Insomnia is something that most adults have experienced to some degree or another. For some people, laying awake at night is a daily occurrence, for others it happens for a couple weeks at a time, and for some a sleepless night comes just once in awhile. Bur for everyone who faces insomnia, it is a frustrating experience, and difficult to overcome. We are left trying to get through the day, more exhausted, more prone to stress, and wondering if we will be able to drift off to a peaceful rest the next evening.
Insomnia is not an illness in itself, but a symptom. Although in some cases it is due to something easily remedied, such as room temperature or jet lag, it is more often due to a chronic problem, such as stress, anxiety, even depression. And insomnia is something that when left unattended, only gets worse. Often those who are without adequate rest, are less likely to be able to sleep well. There are ways to alleviate insomnia, aside from taking medication, which can often times be addicting or come with unwanted side effects.
The pathway to ending insomnia begins at the beginning of the day, not the end. Starting the day restless and agitated only sets off a series of stressful situations; but, to begin relaxed and calm does the opposite. Taking five minutes for mindful thought first thing in the morning is step number one in beating insomnia. Sit, take a deep breath, and clear your thoughts off all the leftover ideas and concerns from the day before, then focus on your breathing.
The next step is nutrition. Start your day with a healthy breakfast, focusing on foods high in B vitamins, bananas and oatmeal, or eggs with whole grain bread. B vitamins are crucial in combating stress and depression, as well as supporting a healthy metabolism, promoting healthy skin and muscle tone, and improving the nervous system. During the day, snack on foods containing tryptophan, an amino acid that promotes relaxation. Try some dates or figs and yogurt, a turkey or tuna sandwich for lunch. If you’re looking for a late night snack, try a handful of almonds, a great source of magnesium which assists the nervous system and is an essential mineral to fight depression. Also, calcium helps combat insomnia, so a glass of warm milk is very soothing at the end of the day.
The third step is to control your caffeine and sugar intake. Drinking caffeinated beverages is going to be directly related to restlessness and inability to sleep. But if you have to have your cup of coffee, drink it in the morning. Never drink colas, coffee, or caffeinated tea less than six hours before you are planning on going to sleep as the caffeine will still be in your blood stream.
The fourth step to battling insomnia is exercise. Getting thirty minutes to a full hour of activity during the day will help you sleep at night. Taking a long walk, doing yoga, or even playing your favorite sport will help your body get rid of excess energy, metabolize the food that might be the culprit for keeping you awake, and will help your mind process through nagging thoughts.
Finally, there are many ways to help relax both your mind and body at the end of the day. Listening to relaxing music, taking a hot bath, drinking a cup of herbal tea with relaxing herbs, such as chamomile, lavender, or valerian, are all ways to calm the body down. If you still can’t sleep, take out a book and read yourself to sleep. Then try again the next day. Don’t be discouraged if it takes a few days or even a week to reach a peaceful sleep. Remember insomnia wasn’t something that happened overnight – it’s also something that won’t go away overnight.
EMedicine Health, Insomnia Overview