Do you have trouble falling asleep and staying asleep? You are not alone in this. In the U.S. alone, 40% of adults have trouble falling asleep and staying asleep. Not getting enough sleep can end up messing with your mental health and wellbeing.
Insomnia/sleep deprivation can lead to serious health concerns. According to the National Institute for Health, insomnia can lead to mental health problems and overall health concerns.
Physical health conditions: stroke, asthma attacks, seizures, weak immune system, inflammation, diabetes, high blood pressure, and heart disease.
Mental health conditions: depression, anxiety, stress.
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What causes Insomnia/sleep deprivation?
There are several factors that can cause Insomnia. Some of them can be:
- Stress from work, school, and life in general
- Not having a regular wake-sleep schedule
- Night jobs
- Losing your job or a loved one
- Jet lag (travel between different time zones)
- Mental health disorders – like depression and anxiety
- Medications – such as antidepressants or pain medications
- Cancer, heart diseases, asthma
- Chronic pain – fibromyalgia
Signs of Insomnia/sleep deprivation
- Do you find yourself constantly snacking?
- Have you forgotten things lately?
- Do you feel more tired, easily irritated and like you want to cry all the time?
- Are you more clumsy than usual?
- Do you have trouble concentrating?
- Are you sick with the flu more often?
- Do you have dark circles under your eyes?
If you can answer yes to most of these questions, there is a good chance that you are experiencing sleep deprivation and I would advise you to book an appointment with your doctor as soon as possible.
What can you do to improve your sleep?
If you feel that you don’t get enough sleep, I would advise you to first get an appointment with your doctor. There might be another reason for your sleeping problems than you think.
Keeping a regular wake-sleep schedule
First of all, I have mentioned that having a regular wake-sleep schedule is one of the most important steps in order to improve your mental health. This is also known as your Circadian Rhythm, which is basically a 24-hour internal clock. It cycles between sleepiness and alertness at regular intervals.
To most adults, this means that our energy levels are at the lowest in the middle of the night, when we are usually fast asleep, and then again just after lunchtime. If you sleep soundly through the night and are caught up on your sleep, then you typically won’t feel this cycle between sleepiness and alertness too much.
Do you experience seasonal affective disorder or winter depression and feel more tired during this time? Well, there’s a reason for that. Did you know that a part of our brain controls the circadian rhythm?
When it becomes dark at night, your eyes automatically send a signal to the brain that it’s time to feel tired. Your brain then sends a signal to your body to release melatonin, which will make your body feel tired as well.
This means that during winter when it becomes dark around 3 or 4 pm, your brain and body will feel tired. Some are more prone to this than others and that is one of the reasons why the experience seasonal affective disorder.
For this reason alone, it is extremely important that you keep a regular wake-sleep schedule. This means that you need to wake up and go to sleep at the same time every morning and night.
I also mean on the weekends, even if you want to sleep in. If you do this, you will keep messing with your schedule, which is not good for your mental health.
You have probably heard it before. Using tablets, laptop and TV before bed is bad for your sleep schedule because of the blue light. It’s true.
The blue light tells your brain that it’s light outside and that your brain needs to be awake. Even if it is dark outside, the blue lights are tricking your brain into staying alert and awake.
To avoid the bright light from lamps, you can put a nightlight in your bathroom, when you are getting ready for bed. If you have to get up during the night, avoid turning the light on.
You should also make sure that your bedroom is completely dark. Using a light-blocking shade is a great investment or you can use a sleep mask.
You can learn more about the effects of blue light on your sleep in this article: “sleep 101: how sleep affects your mental health“
Exercising is another thing you can do and it will help tire you out and also relieves stress symptoms, which will help make your body relax before bed. The more you exercise, the more you benefit from it during the night.
However, it is best if you work out in the morning, as your core temperature will stay elevated for up to 4 or 5 hours later.
As I have mentioned before, it is not good for your sleep schedule to eat a heavy meal right before bed. Avoid eating a lot, and instead, eat a small snack high in protein.
You also need to limit the amount of sugar you eat before bed, as sugar tricks your brain to be alert and hence staying awake. Don’t eat spicy food, as spices can be hard to digest.
In order to maintain a proper sleep routine, you need the following supplements:
- Vitamin D
- Complex carbohydrates
Some of these supplements you can get naturally from the following foods:
- Sweet Potatoes (complex carbohydrates and potassium)
- Almonds (Magnesium)
- Bananas (Potassium, Magnesium, and Tryptophan)
- Turkey (Tryptophan)
- Fatty fish (Omega 3, Vitamin D)
- Kiwi (Serotonin)
- Passionflower tea
- Chamomile tea Walnuts
Your bedroom setting is important
For an optimal sleep schedule, your bedroom needs to be completely dark. If you don’t believe it is dark enough I recommend buying some blackout curtains. You can also use a sleep mask.
Earplugs will be your new best friend. Studies suggest that sounds from outside disturbs your sleep.
If you want to learn what my favorite sleep tools for 2019 is, you can read all about them here.
Yes, you can also use journaling for your sleep schedule. How you ask? You can use a journal to track your sleeping pattern. Write down the following criteria:
- When did you get into bed?
- How long did it take you to fall asleep?
- Did you wake up during the night? If yes, how many times?
- How did you feel when you woke up?
- The amount of caffeine you got during the day and when
- What was your level of stress during work, school, etc?
- Did you remember to stay off blue lights from your laptop, tv, phone at least 1 hour before bed?
- Did you take any naps during the day?
- What was the temperature of your bedroom?
- Could there have been anything else that would affect your sleep?
Doing this for a few weeks will help you analyze your sleep pattern and figure out where it goes wrong.
Do you have trouble falling asleep and staying asleep? Have you tried any of these tips? Let me know below…
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