The zombies are coming! The zombies are coming! Ruuuunnn… oh, wait, never mind, those are just sleep deprived humans.
It seems that more and more we’re becoming a society that doesn’t get enough sleep. According to sleepeducation.org 30 to 35% of people have brief symptoms of insomnia, 15 to 20% have short-term insomnia lasting less than three months, and 10% have chronic insomnia, occurring at least three times per week for at least three months.
That means many of your fellow beings are out there walking, driving, and attempting to function in other capacities while not entirely alert.
Or perhaps it is you moving through life on autopilot. Symptoms of insomnia include fatigue, difficulty focusing, poor memory, mood disturbance, low motivation or energy, and increased errors or accidents. It can also lead to other health issues including weight gain, heart problems, and myriad of other issues typically caused by excess stress on the body.
There are numerous causes of insomnia and a variety of ways to treat it, including professional help, but for those who desire to go it on your own here are ten ways to curb insomnia without therapy or medication:
All the fun stuff. Caffeine, nicotine, alcohol.
Wait, isn’t alcohol a depressant? Initially yes, which is why many people have a bit to help them fall asleep. However, after several hours it starts to act as stimulant, which leads to waking up and overall decreases your quality of sleep.
Limit these substances in general and avoid having them 4-6 hours before bed.
Watch What You Eat and Drink Overall
Avoid any food or drink that makes you feel heavy or uncomfortable. If you’re lying in bed dealing with indigestion sleep will be more challenging.
Also, make sure you drink enough liquids so that you don’t wake up thirsty but not too much that you have to pee all throughout the night.
The goal is to stay asleep folks!
Ditch the Screens
Remove electronics from the bedroom and avoid contact with screens at least 30 minutes before bedtime.
I’m sure I’m getting a huge boo on this one but the blue light emitted by screens suppresses our natural melatonin, which is the hormone that regulates our sleep/wake cycle.
They also don’t allow your mind to unwind since they require such a high engagement from our brains.
If you need something to wind down read an actual real life paper filled book, meditate, do yoga, or engage in a breathing exercise.
Just do it earlier in the day, never shortly before bedtime as that can stimulate your body and make winding down more difficult. However, a regular exercise routine will assist in burning off the excess energy that often keeps you awake.
Make sure your place of rest is a soothing environment for you.
Now that the electronics are out, make sure your bed, pillows, and sheets feel good against your body. You should look forward to the comfort of climbing into your bed.
Keep the area free of debris. It can be difficult for the mind to wind down when there’s a mass of clean and dirty clothes tangoing at the foot of your bed.
Also, keep it as dark and quiet as possible since both are stimulants to the brain.
Have a Sleep Routine
This might sound super cheesy but ritual is amazing at calming the mind.
Avoid stressful, stimulating activities but rather engage in activities that are calming to you (i.e., the meditation, reading of a book, bath, etc.) and do it consistently. This will calm your brain as well as signal the transition to the sleep cycle that is about to occur.
Go to Sleep When You’re Tired
But this can actually be difficult; if you have to be up by a certain time you usually plan to be asleep by a certain time. However, if you’re lying awake in bed for more than 20 minutes get up and go do one of those calming activities.
There’s nothing more frustrating than lying awake counting the minutes until you have to be awake for the next day. Sure, you might get less sleep than you really want to but at least when you finally do sleep it will be higher quality and eventually with enough practice of these tips you should fall asleep more easily.
Keep a Consistent Sleep Schedule
Weekdays: 9-5. Weekends: Rave til dawn!
Nuh uh party animal!
As much fun as that is, it’s likely screwing with your sleep overall. As much as possible go to bed and wake up at the same time every day. Of course, there will be times you go to bed later or have to wake up earlier than normal but overall consistency is your friend here.
Ditch the Nap
Or significantly shorten it and make sure it occurs before 5:00pm.
A lot of people can’t fall asleep because they’ve already slept throughout the day. This pattern of staying up late, waking up for work/school early, being exhausted, powering through until you can pass out, and then napping repeats itself over and over, creating zombie dudes and dudettes for much of the day.
Try skipping that nap for one day so you can fall asleep at a reasonable hour for your schedule and allow your body to catch up naturally.
Do What Works for You
Of course everyone’s different. Some of you can drink a case of beer or run a marathon before bed (or both) and be just fine. But if you can’t and feeling rested is a priority for you then you have to try something different. Experiment to see what works for you and what doesn’t and then incorporate what works into your regular schedule so good sleep becomes a healthy habit. The world's safety depends upon it!