A July 23, 2009, “USA Today” article reports that nearly 30 percent of Americans experience sleeping issues. Insomnia, or the inability to fall asleep or maintain a quality sleep, affects most Americans at some point in their lives, especially during stressful moments when the mind stays more active at night. Financial worries, relationship problems and health concerns can trigger sleeplessness. But with the right attitude and a regular bedtime routine, you can achieve a healthier sleep and rid yourself of insomnia without the use of sleeping aids or drugs.
Stick to a schedule. Wake up and fall asleep at the same time every day. Your hypothalamus controls your body’s biological clock, or circadian rhythm, by regulating your heart rate, digestive activity and mental alertness according to hormones relative to your daily activity. Maintaining a regular waking and sleeping schedule will trigger your brain to induce sleepiness and wakefulness at a more consistent time.
Avoid overstimulation. Stimulants to stay away from before bedtime include nicotine, caffeine, alcohol, bright lights, sugary foods and heavy meals, all of which can keep you up at night. According to research at the Mayo Clinic, bright lights can activate brain signals of alertness and glucose from food energizes your brain. Minimize both as much as possible.
Don’t eat. Stay away from spicy foods or large beverages prior to sleep. Spicy foods can cause heartburn during sleep, triggering you to float in and out of restfulness. Likewise, liquids may interrupt sleep for bathroom breaks.
Exercise. Engage in regular exercise. Exercising utilizes leftover calories and energy, helping you to feel more tired at night. However, when done too closely to bedtime, exercise can elevate your heart rate, preventing you from falling asleep quickly. Therefore, exercise earlier in the day and not at night.
Breathe deeply. Practice relaxation techniques before bed. The key to a good night’s sleep is to relax. Inhale through your nose for five seconds, hold your breath and exhale through your mouth to slow your heart rate and relax your mind. Also, a CNN article recommends using meditative practices to calm the mind. For example, you may wish to concentrate on the image of being at the beach; hearing the ocean; feeling the warm sun; and breathing in the cool, tropical breeze. As you learn to stop wrestling with tomorrow’s problems, your mind will let go and allow you to fall asleep.
Get out of bed. Limit the amount of time you spend in bed not sleeping. The Mayo Clinic says if you struggle to fall asleep within the first 15 minutes, then get out of bed and do a light activity for an hour before trying again. Stressing over not sleeping can hurt you more than help you. Also, restricting sleep will improve sleepiness at night, helping you fall asleep faster.
About this Author
Sky Smith has been writing on psychology, electronics, health, and fitness since 2002 for various online publications. He graduated from the University of Florida with honors in 2005, earning a B.S. in psychology and statistics with a minor in math.