Do you have trouble falling asleep? You roll over from side to side without success, and the vision of counting sheep only frustrates you?
If you do, you might suffer from insomnia. Before you visit a doctor and get some sleeping pills, try these 6 natural ways:
Demand for sleep is different for different people and usually ranges from 7 to 9 hours. Some need less, others need more sleep.
You might need only 5-6 hours of sleep and if you do not have lack of concentration, memory loss, weakened immunity or mood swings after 5 hours of sleep you may not need more sleep at all.
American nonprofit organization, National Sleep Foundation in cooperation with pediatricians, geriatricians, neurologists, and psychiatrists, has determined how much sleep we optimally need in different age ranges.
Experts have also calculated the lower and upper hooks. For people between 18 and 25 years of age, at least 6 hours, maximum 10 – 11 hours. For adults between 26 and 64 years: minimum 6 hours, maximum 10. For people over 65: minimum 5 – 6, maximum 9.
It is worth remembering that, apart from the length of sleep, its quality also matters. What your body really needs is the so-called “deep sleep.” In this case, the report does not work in our favor. The study published in the Journal of the American Medical Association shows that thirty years old and forty-year-olds spend 82% in deep sleep phases. Less time than twenty-year-old and teens.
The intensity of light is responsible for the regulation of the sleep-wake cycle. Specifically, a hormone called melatonin is responsible for regulating how sleepy you are.
Melatonin is released by the pineal gland when it gets dark. Its level drops when it is bright and with it your drowsiness. Before we had lighting and technology, the circadian rhythm was regulated by nature: sunrise and sunset. Today, electricity and our lifestyle have complicated things a bit.
According to experts, what inhibits melatonin secretion to a large extent is the blue light emitted by electronic devices, such as a TV, a computer or a smartphone. Where does this effect come from? Blue light is information for the brain telling it that it’s the beginning of the day, and at the same time, it is a signal to arouse, not to put the body to sleep. If you want to make your sleep easier, turn off the electrical devices for at least one hour before going to bed and don’t use your smartphone while you are in bed.
Melatonin deficiencies may also occur in people working at night, working in shifts or frequently changing time zones. The weather or the season is also important: during short, cloudy days, melatonin production may be unstable. The body can start producing it in the afternoon, causing drowsiness in the second half of the day and often leading to problems with sleeping at night or early awakening.
If you spend all day in rooms where access to daylight is limited, and in the evenings you are sitting in front of a laptop or other equipment that emits blue light, your brain may become confused and start to confuse day and night. During the day, especially in autumn and winter, when the amount of light is the lowest, try to spend some time outdoors, just take a walk. In rooms, choose places near the window with good natural light.
In the evening, when you are not going to sleep, the least invasive light for the body is warm, yellowish light similar to that during the sunset. Before going to sleep, try to darken the room completely. And, if you go to the bathroom at night, do not turn on the main light. We often do it instinctively, but it is an effective way to get out of sleep mode in the blink of an eye. A small lamp giving a delicate light will definitely work better.
Where you sleep does matter. It matters on what, under what conditions, and at what temperature you sleep. The optimal temperature in the bedroom should be around 64.4 – 69.8 Fahrenheit.
Also, even though it seems obvious: a comfortable bed that gives you the freedom to stretch out, not too soft and not a very hard mattress, bedding you like, etc. are very important factors affecting your sleep quality.
Regularity and repeatability are your allies when it comes to healthy sleep.
Getting up and going to sleep at the same time each day (including weekends) programs the body better than anything else. It also helps to determine the habits before going to sleep. They will allow you to gradually calm down, with time they will be associated by the brain with preparation for falling asleep.
How to put it into practice? Take as an example the order and regularity of the children’s evening rituals: a bath, a fairy tale, a kiss, a good night. Just put evening relaxation in your schedule. For example, dinner, conversation with loved ones, and time for yourself to relax. Determine the time when, after a day of work, you read a light book, listen to calming music or take a bath with aromatic oils.
It is important that the activities performed are not stimulating, but rather silencing. In the evening, especially 2 hours before bedtime, you should not work, think about work or everyday problems, do physical exercises (activity will help you fall asleep if it is done during the day).
A good way to prepare your mind and body for rest is meditation or relaxation techniques. It can be even conscious breathing, tightening and loosening muscles or pleasant visualizations.
Browsing Facebook, reading emails, watching action movies, playing games on the iPad are activities that provide the brain with a very large number of stimuli. Applied before bedtime can knock you out of the rhythm of going into a rest cycle.
The last meal is best eaten 2 hours before bedtime. Remember that something is filling, but light works the best. For example, a whole-wheat sandwich or a salad with pasta. At night, the digestive functions are dormant, and with a full stomach, you may find it hard to fall asleep.
On the other hand, if your stomach is empty, you will also have problems with falling asleep. Eating dinner at 18, when you go to bed at 22 – 23 or eating very small portions of food, is also not a good idea, because you’ll be hungry. Use the golden rule principle.
Attention, contrary to what some dietitians say, dinner should contain carbohydrates, i.e., a bit of dark bread, pasta or potatoes. Thanks to carbohydrates, the body can absorb tryptophan from food. The lack of this amino acid can lead to disturbances in the sleep rhythm, and the body can’t create it on its own.
Under tryptophan influence, serotonin, called the “happiness hormone” is produced, followed by the melatonin mentioned earlier.
Watch out for any products containing caffeine. Avoid not only coffee or energy drinks but also cocoa or chocolate, which also contain it. Alcohol, likewise, isn’t a friend of deep sleep. Although it may appear to be easier to fall asleep if you are drunk, it negatively affects the quality of sleep, reduces it, and can cause you to wake up in the middle of the night.
Also, nicotine isn’t helping you fall asleep, so if you have insomnia and you are smoking, it might be time to drop that habit.
Are you lying in bed and forcing yourself to sleep for hours? With every sheep counted in your mind, are you more and more frustrated? Stop these tortures!
When you can’t fall asleep for 30 minutes or more, it’s best to get out of bed, go to another room and do something that will not be very stimulating, such as reading a light book. Wait for drowsiness to come at your own pace. Alternatively, if you are not frustrated lying down, you can do something silent without leaving the bed (e.g., meditate).
Experts, however, argue: that it’s best for the bedroom and bed to be mainly associated with sleep and sexual activity, not turning from side to side. If we use them only for these purposes, the brain will learn to include appropriate responses and falling asleep will be easier.
If you still have insomnia, although you are trying to stick to the above principles, you should go for a medical consultation. Sleep problems can be a sign of the development of various diseases, both emotional and somatic. The diseases that may be accompanied by insomnia include, among others, hyperthyroidism, diabetes, rheumatic diseases, sleep apnea, cancer, depression or neurosis.
And remember, it is worthwhile to sleep well. Lack of sleep is killing your immune system and concentration. It slows down the speed of reaction or the ability to absorb information, and in the long-term can lead to persistent headaches, obesity, depression, and hallucinations. We wish you a good night!