I have suffered with insomnia on and off since my late teens. I’ve decided to compile a list of techniques I use now or have used in the past that has managed to take my insomnia from life debilitating to occasionally inconvenient.
First though a couple of caveats – my insomnia is probably hereditary as several other members of my family seem to have similar issues. If you are suffering from acute insomnia you should consult a doctor.
When I have spoken to medical professionals in the past they essentially only had one possible solution which is a course of very powerful antihistamines which send you artificially to sleep. Having tried this approach for a while I decided it wasn’t for me – although you do sleep you do not wake up properly during the day time. This means I still ended up spending my days feeling knackered!
I am assuming this is blatantly obvious to most people but caffeine keeps you awake. I am a member of the coffee lovers’ society and quite frankly can’t imagine not having several cups a day of my favourite life hack but I have my last sweet cup of magic juice around 4pm in the afternoon assuming I’m aiming to hit the sack around 10pm. If you can’t sleep and you’re having caffeine late in the day – start here. Cutting the caffeine may be all you need to restore your sleep.
Eating a healthy diet (more veggies, less refined carbohydrate) will help you sleep. It will also give you a myriad of other positive effects.
One of the major factors in increasing sleep quality is convincing your body that its actually night time. Modern technology allows us to keep daytime (heat and light) going long after the sun sets. I personally dim the lights or turn them off all together around 1-2 hours before I go to bed. If I watch TV I will do it in the dark and If I’m reading I do it under a dim lamp. This allows your body to adjust itself to the fact that night time is coming and it will soon need to sleep. If you are going to use a lamp I also recommend using a red bulb, the lack of blue light is another signal of the evening. This is possibly the one adjustment that has made the most difference to my sleep quality.
Once I get to the bedroom I have it lit only by a Himalayan salt lamp. These lamps have many claimed benefits, some scientifically grounded others less so. The primary reason I use it is because of the red hue of its light. It also looks pretty cool.
Another cue for your body that night is arrived is the temperature. Your body is expecting a temperature drop in the surrounding environment before it flips on the sleep switch, for this reason I like to keep my room icy cold. I have plenty of covers to keep me warm in the bed but find it’s much easier to drop off like this.
It’s been shown that mindfulness practise may help sleep quality. More about this in future posts but if you don’t already know about mindfulness check out Andy Puddicombe’s TED Talk on youtube.
What to do if you haven’t slept
We’ve all been there, the alarm goes off just as you fall asleep. Theres no option to stay in bed too much longer because you have to be at work. In this situation I have a set routine:
- Get up, make coffee.
- Get back into bed and drink coffee.
- Set alarm for 40 mins time
- Get up again and have vitamin D and magnesium supplements
Hope this helps guys, comments welcomed.