How to Get Back to Sleep: The Struggle of Insomnia

Trouble falling back asleep in the middle of the night? You’re not alone. According to the National Institutes of Health, anywhere from 10 to as many as 60 percent of people experience insomnia. We often think of insomnia as difficulty falling asleep in the first place, but it also encompasses frequent wakings or even drastically early morning awakenings on a regular basis. And since waking up in the middle of the night might be unavoidable at times, it’s smart to have a get-back-to-sleep strategy in place – one that’s better thought out than closing your eyes and hoping for the best.

Assess your sleep environment. 

The first step in overcoming this sleep disorder is to know the most common causes of insomnia. Sometimes, the cause is environmental, like a street light shining through your window or sharing a bed with a partner who’s snoring. In other cases, the root cause is a health condition like sleep apnea, and using a CPAP – also known as a sleep apnea machine – can improve your sleeping. From temperature issues to major stress, analyzing what’s keeping you up at night is crucial to correcting the problem.

Out of sight, out of mind. 

As you stare at the ceiling, it’s tempting to keep checking the time. Unfortunately, the only purpose this serves is increasing your stress and making you aware of how much sleep you’ve lost. Ensure that time won’t be a distraction by facing clocks away from you and avoiding looking at your phone.

Say no to screen time.

Not only does the light from your screen tell your brain that it’s time to wake up, it can end up being a huge time drain. In fact, we recommend winding down for bed and staying away from screens for a full hour before going to bed each night.

Get a change of scenery.

It may sound counterintuitive, but if you’ve been lying in bed for longer than 20 minutes, getting out of bed could help. Resist the urge to turn on any bright lights or start watching TV, however. Instead, listen to some soothing sleeping music, perform breathing exercises or read a calming book. Once you understand how to form the best habits for sleep, you’ll see that small changes like going to bed when you’re drowsy, but not tired, make a big difference.

Relax your muscles.

For a better chance of slipping into REM sleep, do your best to release any tension you’re holding onto. Deep, slow breaths are a good place to start. You can also try meditation or progressive relaxation: a technique where you flex then release the muscles in your toes, legs, backside, belly, chest, arms and face one at a time. If you’re having sleep problems because of the COVID-19 pandemic, sometimes referred to as Coronasomnia, these relaxation techniques can be particularly effective in easing your stress and inviting more restful sleep.

Cut the caffeine. 

Although the caffeinated effects of your go-to coffee or after-dinner chocolate begin within an hour of consumption, they linger in your system as long as three to five hours afterwards, too. So, after lunchtime, limit the amount of caffeine you’re having to ensure it won’t affect your sleep.

Don’t try to catch up on sleep.

It might sound strange, but it’s actually not in your best interest to sleep in or rely on naps to make up for lost sleep at night. When you stick to a regular routine, you’re training your body to recognize awake times vs. sleep times. For the best results, try to stay close to your usual wake-up time and bedtime each day. By understanding the science behind what causes insomnia, like schedule disruptions and inconsistencies, you’ll be better prepared to address it.

Before you reach for a melatonin supplement, try these techniques to see if you can improve your sleep with some easy changes. If you notice that your insomnia is becoming more frequent, or if nothing seems to help you get back to sleep, it might be time to chat with a doctor. The Avail Hospital team can help you identify the root of your insomnia or refer you to a quality sleep specialist. Stop in 24/7/365 for help with any of your ongoing sleep troubles or other ailments – we’re always happy to assist however we can! 

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