Insomnia for many people has become a frustrating
fact of life. 30% of the population suffers from it,
and more than half of Americans lose significant
amounts of sleep due to stress and anxiety.
If insomnia visits you more than once every
few months, it’s time to take a look at the things
you can do to get more Zzzzz’s.
You Don’t Need a Sleeping Pill
Americans in particular like to solve their
problems by popping pills, but getting good sleep
is one area where you’re better off doing things
the old-fashioned way. The common side effects
list of prescription sleeping pills is long, you can be
allergic to them, develop a tolerance to them or
become addicted to taking them, and there
can be unusual side effects, like parasomnias
(doing things in your sleep you won’t remember
like eating, driving, or having sex).
The More Effective Alternative
The healthy alternative to taking a pill is to change
your environment to promote restful sleep and
see a therapist for cognitive therapy, which has been
found to be more effective than taking sleeping pills.
Your therapist will go over sleep education, sleep
restriction, relaxation training, and sleep hygiene.
Your sleep hygiene consists of the steps you take
to ensure you will be able to sleep when tired.
Good Sleep Hygiene
1. Lower the light in your home one hour before
your intended bedtime. This decrease in light
stimulation tells your brain to begin to shut down.
2. Get a “white noise” machine or one that plays
ocean waves or a rainstorm. The use of white
noise has been found especially helpful for those
who suffer from both insomnia and PTSD.
3. Make sure your room is cool, but take a
warm bath or shower right before bedtime. The
result of your body cooling down is also a signal
to the brain to begin the process of going to sleep.
4. Eliminate exposure to sources of flickering light
one hour before bedtime…that means no TV, iPad,
cell phone, or computer. No exposure to emails or
evening news helps with stress management, and you
can further enhance your letting go of stress at bedtime
5. Set a limit of 20 minutes to fall asleep after lights
are out. If you’re tossing and turning after 20 minutes,
get up, get comfortable and stay warm, read or listen
to relaxing music or a stress management CD. Being
deeply relaxed, even if you can’t sleep, will help you
immensely the next day!
6. Don’t worry if you’re not sleeping. Anxiety about
not being able to fall asleep will prolong your ability
to fall asleep. Just use this time to relax and practice
good stress management and chill in your nice, warm
bathrobe with a glass of warm milk. Treat yourself
nicely and you’ll eventually go to sleep.
Insomnia Is Normal Sometimes
Insomnia is normal and expected during times of
increased stress, change and transition, after a
traumatic event, or with some hormonal changes.
Keep up with your sleep hygiene, get help from a
cognitive therapist if you need it, and remember
that this time, too, shall pass.