FIGHTING INSOMNIA THE NATURAL WAY
BY HIRANMAYII AWLI MOHANAN
We’re all familiar with that silly image of the person who resorts to counting sheep when they just can’t seem to fall asleep. But when you’re the one who’s been tossing and turning all night, insomnia is no laughing matter. As many as one in four adults report suffering from mild insomnia, found a recent Harvard study. That inability to fall and stay asleep could stem from a short-term issue, or be the result of a lifetime of poor sleep habits. Either way, it can’t be fixed with something like sleeping pills.
WHY INSOMNIA HAPPENS ?
Sleep issues can be short-term or chronic. But no matter how long you have to put up with it, it’s never enjoyable. Most of us will eventually go through a brief, painful episode of sleeplessness. Stress, a change in habit (like having a newborn or a new work schedule), or drugs that interfere with sleep, such as antidepressants, blood pressure medications, allergy medications, and corticosteroids, are frequently to blame. The good news is that your sleep pattern will usually return to normal once you figure out how to handle the situation.
But other times, insomnia can become a long-term thing. Sometimes, that can happen as the result of a more serious health condition, like depression, anxiety, or sleep apnea. Other times, insomnia can stem from crappy sleep habits, like eating too many heavy snacks before bed, sleeping in an uncomfortable environment, or staying glued to your smartphone or tablet all night long. Either way, missing out on sleep leaves you feeling exhausted, irritable, and generally unable to function during the day. And over time, it can put you at risk for health issues like obesity, high blood pressure, heart disease, and diabetes. But no matter how long your insomnia lasts for, there’s usually a way to deal with the root of the problem and start sleeping better. And fortunately, there are plenty of options to consider.
MAKING TIME FOR EXERCISE
In case you missed the memo, being physically active is essential for sleeping well. Mounting evidence shows that people who exercise regularly tend to snooze better than their couch potato counterparts—especially when it comes to those with chronic insomnia. According to one study, those who exercise for 60 minutes five days a week experience more regular REM sleep than those who don’t exercise. However, you might not need to exert yourself for quite that long in order to reap the rewards. Other research indicates that insomniacs who exercise for thirty minutes merely three or four times a week sleep for nearly an hour longer and wake up less frequently than sedentary people. Staying active might also help to keep your body’s natural sleep-wake cycle in sync— particularly if you do it outside.
TAKE STEPS TO MANAGE STRESS
If you consistently find yourself lying in bed with your mind racing, stress could be stealing your ability to fall asleep. Lack of sleep leaves you exhausted during the day, which makes you feel agitated, anxious, and angry. The stress-sleep cycle can become a vicious circle over time. For this reason, managing your stress is so important if you want to get deeper, more restful sleep. There are plenty of other effective ways to ease feelings of stress and promote feelings of relaxation. A few to try are as follows:
You might think that writing stuff down would make you dwell on it. But when you focus on the things that you appreciate, you might actually sleep better. One recent study indicated that students who kept thankfulness journals for just 15 minutes each night fretted less before bed and slept better. The study was published in the journal Applied Psychology.
• Guided Imagery
According to experts, mind tricks like guided imagery can let you nod off more quickly. And it couldn’t be any easier; as you’re lying down, visualise yourself in a serene setting. Your brain eventually interprets the image as a signal that it is time to sleep.
• Progressive Muscle Relaxation
Relaxing your physical body can be just as effective as relaxing your mind. The University of Maryland Medical Centre’s Sleep Disorders Center doctors advise you to try regularly tensing and releasing your toes to the count of 10. Although it seems absurdly simple, it can genuinely release tension and put you at ease.
• Going to Bed Early
Although it seems counterintuitive, attempting to go to bed sooner can cause your problems to magically vanish. One study released late last year indicated that persons who stay up late are more prone to be overcome by repetitively negative thoughts than those who go to bed early.