Everybody needs a good night’s sleep. Apart from giving you the chance to rest from the day’s activities, it is when we are in deep slumber that the body mends itself and prepares you for another day. So what happens then when you spend the night wide awake? You don’t get sufficient rest and your body won’t be able to make the necessary repairs.
This inability to get enough sleep is known as insomnia. If you have had one too many sleepless nights lately and you’re starting to wonder how to sleep better, then it’s time to evaluate the situation.
Here’s a quick checklist that can help you assess whether or not you are suffering from insomnia:
Do you toss and turn in bed for hours wondering how to sleep?
Do you find it hard to relax and slip into slumber even if you’re very tired?
Do you wake up in the middle of the night and then lie awake thinking how to go to sleep?
Do you have to resort to taking sleeping pills or alcohol just to catch some Zs?
Do you spend a good part of the day feeling tired, irritable, and sleepy?
Are you unable to function properly because of lack of sleep?
If you answered yes to any of these questions, then it’s likely that you are among the millions who lie in bed at night thinking, “How can I sleep?” Indeed, insomnia is the culprit behind many a sleepless night. But the good news is that there are many ways to get rid of it.
So if you are constantly wondering how to get more sleep, worry not. You may be suffering from insomnia now, but by taking the right steps, you can have sweet dreams instead.
In today’s fast paced world we’re always looking for a quick fix. Got a headache? You can get a pill for that. Need some energy? Knock back an energy drink. The same is true for when you’re wondering how to get to sleep.
Reaching for sleeping pills is the first resort for many. In fact, an article in The Guardian on Britain’s hidden addiction to sleeping pills has highlighted some shocking statistics. Ten percent of people now take medication for insomnia, which amounts to 15.3 million prescriptions every year costing the NHS £50 million per year in sleeping pills. What’s worse is that there has been a ten percent rise in people asking their doctor to ‘help me sleep’ and then knocking back some tablets.
Addressing anxious thoughts can help sooth the soul and help the brain drift to sleep
While beneficial for people with chronic insomnia, a genetic condition or struggling through a brief period (such as a bereavement), sleeping pills can have some worrying side effects. People can form a dependency, believing they can’t sleep without them, they can have more accidents from feeling drowsy the next day and they certainly arent cheap.
It’s been suggested by a leading sleep specialist – Kevin Morgan, professor of gerontology at the University of Loughborough – that cognitive behavioural therapy (CBT) might be a more practical solution for many people suffering from insomnia and wondering how to get to sleep at night. CBT is a form of psychotherapy that teaches people to challenge the irrational and negative thought processes that are causing problems in their life, and is a highly effective method of treating mental disorders, such as anxiety and depression.
With many people’s insomnia caused by anxiety or stress it makes sense that teaching people to address the underlying problems or thoughts causing their insomnia can be a more practical approach than simply popping a pill to paper over the cracks. The Department of Health in the UK is due to assign £400 million over the next four years to this type of talking theory, so it’s clear that the benefits are real and proven.
Combined with sleep hygiene practices
As always, the first step in tackling insomnia is to assess whether your habits are getting in the way of getting a good night’s sleep. This means adopting sleep hygiene practices to eliminate all the stimuli that could be keeping you awake at night wondering ‘how can I get to sleep?’
This includes avoiding stimulants, such as caffeine and alcohol, before you go to bed. While alcohol can help you fall asleep in can prevent you reaching a deep rejuvenating level you need for your body to rest and recuperate. Other habits to avoid are watching TV or sitting in bed working on your laptop late at night.
To help put your mind in a relaxed mood, there are also natural remedies you can try, such as chamomile tea, bananas or a warm glass of milk to help you drift off to the land of nod without the use of medication.
A recent study has found that jogging can help you sleep at night.
Insomnia is often caused by troubling thoughts. Worrying is one of the main reasons people have trouble sleeping. So it makes sense that going for a jog in the local park or forest can be beneficial to release the tension.
Doctors tend to agree according to a Glasgow University study. In a survey of 2000 active people, it found that jogging outdoors was twice as beneficial as exercising in a gym. You can read more about the study in this Daily Telegraph article.
The study concluded that being around nature heightens our sense of well being more than being indoors. In addition, the researchers found that exercising outdoors lifts mood and relieves stress. Both of these can be highly beneficial if you are suffering from insomnia and wondering ‘how can I get to sleep?’ at night.
So if counting sheep isn’t working, maybe you should put on your trainers and pound the earth in your local park for 30 minutes to see if jogging can helps you sleep instead.
When you’re battling insomnia, you lie there for hours on end, getting agitated and worrying about being tired and crabby the next day. You may dread, yet again, missing the eight hours of sleep you need to be getting every night.
There’s a wide range of reasons why you might be suffering from the nighttime blues. It could be a reaction to medication, too many cups of coffee, troubling thoughts or a wide range of other reasons.
So the first step in battling insomnia is to try and identify what is stopping you from going to sleep at night. Introducing good sleep hygiene habits, such as going to sleep at the same time every night and avoiding stimulants late at night, is a also a wise step.
But if you’ve cut out the caffeine, haven’t been sat in bed working on your laptop and cant identify any psychological reason why you are still awake, it might be worth listening to some music a try.
How can music help me sleep?
To get to sleep, your mind and body has to be able to relax. If your mind is too active, worrying about things or being distracted, then it wont be able to go through the stages of relaxation needed to drift off to sleep.
There are a number of reasons why music can help you get to sleep at night:
1. Helps your body to relax
Along with your mind, your body has to be able to relax in order to get to sleep. This means your heart has to be able to beat at a slow, steady pace so that your muscles and body can relax.
Music can help if it is slow and matches the rhythm of a calm heart because it can subconsciously slow your breathing so that you reach a semi-meditative state and your muscles stop being tense and relax.
2. Calms down an overactive mind
Have you ever noticed how your thoughts seem to become abstract and random just as your drifting off to sleep? This is your mind becoming relaxed. It stops focusing on the here and now, but instead delves into the chaos of the subconscious mind. To help your mind get there, it needs to be able to relax.
Adopting the practices used by meditators to relax their mind and body can be an effective way of overcoming insomnia. Soft, relaxing music can enable you to calm the mind and to think in a less ‘present’ active state.
3. Blanket out background noise
If you live in a busy street, with noisy flatmates or family members watching the TV until late at night, background noise can be a real problem. Music can be helpful in providing a blanket of soft noise to replace the background sounds that might be keeping you awake.
Another option is to listen to ‘white noise’ that provides a continuous stream of sound. This can mask distracting background noise that’s disturbing you.
What sort of music can help me sleep?
Some of the music that helps people get to sleep includes Coldplay, Loreena McKennitt or even some downbeat ‘Dream’ trance music.
The best advice is to try calm instrumental music without any vocals. If there’s a singer in the song then it can distract your mind and stop it from relaxing. This could be because your brain has to subconsciously make sense of the words.
Soft, soothing music without vocals is probably the best for helping your mind and body to relax. You could try listening to panpipes, something ambient (like the sound of crashing waves or rainfall) or maybe even classical music.
A study by the University of Toronto found that music with slow rhythmic patterns created a meditative mood and slower brainwaves. It also found that classical music with this pattern helped people to get to sleep faster and for longer.
So if you’re wondering ‘what music can help me sleep? try some Bach or Beethoven to see if the scientists are right and that calming classical is great for sleep.
Like many medical conditions, insomnia isnt the same for everyone. It can vary from occasional bouts of not being able to get to sleep for an hour to a nightly battle of stress and frustration, dreading how exhausted you’ll feel the next day. Insomnia is a common problem, with it affecting up to a third of people – half of which suffer from it nightly.
There are all sorts of solutions you can try, from herbal remedies to sleep CDs and books to practicing good sleep hygiene. But if none of these have worked and you find yourself tempted to try sleeping pills, it might be worth taking a look at the Nightwave Sleep Assistant first.
What is the Nightwave Sleep Assistant?
The Nightwave Sleep Assistant projects a blue light onto the ceiling (or a wall) which slowly throbs in brightness. The idea is that you synchronize your breathing in time with the light. As the light’s brightness begins to fade your breathing is slows with it, enabling you to reach the relaxed mental and physical state needed for you to drift off to sleep.
The Nightwave Sleep Assistant has a 7 minute and 25 minute timer and 4 different functions: sleep mode, mood light, heartbeat stress reducer and flashlight.
Essentially, the Nightwave Sleep Assistant helps you to get to sleep in three ways:
1) If you suffer from anxious or overactive thoughts, which keep you in a state of wakeful alertness, the Nightwave Sleep Assistant can distract you from these thoughts by providing you with something else to focus on.
2) It harnesses the ancient relaxation technique of deep breathing, which helps to reduce stress levels and help you feel more relaxed
3) The light tells your brain that your eyelids are begining to droop, which subconsciously tricks you into feeling tired.
Does it work? Or it just a gimmick
The Nightwave Sleep Assistant isnt exactly cheap. So it’s wise to cynical of the claims made in the carefully worded sales pitch on their website. Whilst I haven’t used it myself, the reviews are overwhelmingly positive. In fact, it’s got 3.5 stars out of 5 from 98 reviews (at the time of writing) on Amazon which vouches for the fact that, in many cases, the Nightwave Sleep Assistant has helped people get to sleep. This includes an airline pilot, used to battling an erratic sleep schedule, and someone who hadn’t had a good night’s sleep for over four years following an accident before trying out the device.
A healthier alternative to sleeping pills?
When you’re battling insomnia night after night it can be tempting to rely in medication to resolve the problem. But this can cause problems it itself, because medication can make you feel drowsy the next day and you can come to develop a reliance on medication to help you to get to sleep. Relying on medication can also get expensive. So if the Sleep Assistant can help you to get to sleep naturally it’s going to be better for your long-term health and your wallet in the long run.
Having said that, if chronic insomnia is adversely affecting your life then you should always visit your doctor for professional advice.
Disclaimer – the links in this article are affiliate links.
It’s been reported in the news today that filming of the sci-fi show ‘Fringe’ has been brought to a halt due to one of its star actors, John Noble, suffering from a reported sleep disorder. Reports claim that his lack of sleep has been affecting his performance, and consequently filming has been halted for nine days while he gets medical treatment.
This highlights how damaging insomnia can be to your daily life. It makes you feel tired, irritable and unable to concentrate. This can obviously have negative effects on your ability to perform in your daily job, whether you’re a teacher, builder or if you sit at a desk all day.
Sleep disorders and insomnia can be caused by a variety of mental and medical triggers. So one of the first steps to curing insomnia is to identify the underlying cause, whether it’s feeling anxious about a problem (like money) or a medical condition that needs treatment, such as heartburn.
Although the temptation might be to immediately prescribe Noble with medication to help him sleep, here are some sleep hygiene tips he can try to try and get more hours of healthy, rejuvenating sleep naturally:
1) Avoid caffeine or alcohol late at night – Caffeine will simply keep you awake while alcohol might help you sleep initially but you wont reach the deep sleep your body needs to rejuvenate.
2) Don’t watch TV, play video games or sit working on a laptop in bed – these activities will hamper your subconscious link between your bed and sleep. Beds should be just for sleep…and something else that can help cure insomnia.
3) Avoid strenuous exercise a few hours before you go to bed – your body’s activity levels aren’t like a switch that can simply be turned off when it’s time to get some shuteye. Instead, you need to start slowing down gradually
4) Have a regular sleeping routine – this might be difficult for Noble to achieve with a fluctuating film schedule to contend with, but you will find it easier to go to sleep if you have a regular routine. Try and go to bed at the same time every night, and get up at the same time (of course, late nights and late rises are allowed on weekends).
5) Avoid napping during the day – while political leaders and high powered business men like to boast of their ability to keep rolling with only a few hours sleep and a power nap in the afternoon. The problem with napping during the day is it knocks you out of your regular sleeping pattern and can leave you feeling wide awake until late into the night.
6) Try natural remedies – chamonille tea, milk and bananas are just three natural cures for insomnia that can help your mind and body to relax and to calm you down ready for 7 hours or more of peaceful slumber.
The first response to curing Noble’s insomnia might be to prescribe him sleeping tablets, which can be effective but can be addictive and can make you feel drowsy the next day. So it would be more sensible (and healthier) if Noble follows these simple sleep hygiene techniques so that he can be back on set and able to deliver fans of ‘Fringe’ the series ending they’ve been looking forward to all these years.
If you are still widely awake at past your bed time. You might be thinking of ways on how to get yourself fall asleep. Maybe you have a lot of things in your mind that’s keeping you awake. It is said that a hormone called “melatonin” is the one responsible to help you sleep. To be able to induce more melatonin into our system we need to relax our mind and body. The 2 effective ways that I know of is Deep Breathing exercise and changing those troubling thoughts with happy and positive ones. But if these doesn’t help you sleep yet, don’t be tempted to open your computer, smart phones and television. Because these electronic gadgets emits blue light that can hinder the production of melatonin in your body.
I have insomnia for years now and it has been so hard to undo everything and re-program my sleeping pattern back to its normal routine. I hate waking up the next morning feeling tired because of lack of sleep. What I did was I did not sleep for 36 hours, I fought the urge of taking naps on day time. I would either pinch myself or play some video games just to avoid sleeping. At 6 pm the following day I was really tired and exhausted that after taking a long bath I slammed my body on my bed and took the longest sleep I’ve ever had in my life!
The day after that, I feel like I was rejuvenated. I don’t feel weak anymore. My mind was functioning really well. Now, I am still trying to sleep on my bed time. Although, there are times that I could not help but break my bedtime rules every once in a while because I had to do some overtime work. I just read my favorite book and within minutes I’m already snoring. I don’t know if this is the same with everyone else but if you intend to sleep early and you like to doze off by reading something. Go for the hardcopy and avoid wattpad.
On average we all need six to eight hours of sleep every night. Any less than this may effect you the next day, with symptoms like low energy, mood swings and concentration problems. However, from a medical perspective, these mere interferences may already be considered as signs and symptoms of a sleep disorder.
Sleep disorders are classified into:
2) parasomnia or undesirable motor or autonomic activity during sleep
3) sleep disorders associated with medical disorders
They are affected by one’s amount and quality of sleep. Among them, the most common among children and adults is insomnia.
Insomnia is broadly defined as a condition where the person experiences inadequate or poor quality of sleep, difficulty in initiating and/or maintaining sleep, and sleep that is not restorative and/or refreshing.
It may be attributed to primary or secondary causes. The former refers to that which is unrelated to any unidentifiable medical or psychiatric disorder while the latter includes conditions where another disorder which contributes or aggravates the dilemma can be diagnosed.
A good example of a primary cause is adjustment disorder. One who experienced job loss, hospitalization and other stressful life events may encounter difficulty in sleeping. On the other hand, secondary causes include medical illnesses (e.g., respiratory disorders) and psychiatric disorders (e.g., anxiety).
Aside from its causes, insomnia may also be classified according to its severity. It may be mild, moderate or severe. As the degree of severity increases, the impairment to one’s social or occupational functioning increases (The International Classification, 2001).
Furthermore, the same classification may also refer to the frequency of one’s sleeplessness ‘episodes’. A person with a mild sleeping disorder encounters ‘episodes’ only for a few nights; whereas a person with a severe form of the condition encounters the same for more than a month.
Regardless of its cause or severity, a person must immediately consult a physician if he/she thinks he/she has insomnia. For one, it is considered as a medical condition; hence, it must be treated. Second, more than it being a medical condition, the condition may lead to devastating consequences.
What started out as lack of sleep may end with a person not living his/her full potential due to exhaustion, fatigue and even depression. Therefore, insomnia must be treated and not taken for granted.