Insomnia is often a tough thing to nail down. While you may believe that the previous night was spent staring at the ceiling, the truth is probably different from that. You see, we are notoriously bad at evaluating our own sleep – we tend to get more than we think. Often, people who say they suffer from intractable insomnia actually don’t – but it’s only when their sleepless nights are actually measured that they know for sure.
Regardless of your actual sleep situation, these tips may improve your sleep, even if you consider yourself already a good sleeper…
Here are five things that you can try without any intervention by anyone else – not a doctor, or your spouse, or a sleep lab:
- Make sure that you bedroom is actually set up for sleep. That means making sure that it’s very dark, and as silent as you can make it (maybe use ear plugs if there’s noise you just can’t avoid). Remove the TV from your bedroom (see the next step). Take your alarm clock and face it away from you (so you can’t stare at the clock all night). The bed itself needs to be comfortable, and the blankets can’t make you too warm or too cold.
- The bed needs to be reserved exclusively for sleep or for sex. Nothing else. No reading, no TV watching (oh, that’s right, we tossed the TV). What we’re trying to do here is simple rewire your brain so it associates the bed with only sleep and sex, nothing else. Over time, this pattern will start to accumulate and the brain will recognize the signal – bed means sleep (mostly).
- Exercise every day, for at least a half hour a day. You’ll need to exercise earlier versus later, as your body relies on a temperature drop to initiate the sleep process (melatonin release). If you exercise within a few hours of going to bed, your body temperature will still be quite high. I know that I really notice if I’ve not exercised that day – I almost certainly will have a problem falling asleep.
- Turn off the TV and computer at least one hour before hitting the sack. These devices produce blue light, and it tells your brain that it’s “time to wake up – it’s light outside”. TV and back-lit light from a computer screen (or your mobile phone) is bad for sleep.
- Make sure that you’re exposed to bright sunlight (or it’s equivalent – a lightbox) first thing when you get up in the morning. Twenty minutes should do. This is also to retrain your brain that it’s morning time – and the best way to do that is with sunshine.
How to Overcome Insomnia
Overcoming insomnia can be a daunting process. The stuff mentioned above is at the basic part of the continuum – there’s a lot more you can try if it turns out these don’t work. Measuring the sleep you get through the night (using some of the newly available sleep monitors) may be the only way to know for sure.
Regardless, if you do ever end up with a doctor or at a sleep lab, these will be among the things they “check off” to make sure you’re doing.
Good sleep tonight!