Although we may not like to admit it, many of the sleep problems we experience are the result of bad habits and behaviors. Habits can be changed by becoming aware of the underlying problems that may be causing insomnia. Here are the common sleep “mistakes” and their solutions.
1. Having an Inconsistent Sleep Schedule – Getting up and going to bed around the same time, even on weekends, is the most important thing you can do to establish good sleep habits as our bodies thrive on regularity and a consistent sleep schedule is the best reinforcement for the body’s internal clock.
2. Using Long Naps To Counter Sleep Loss – If naps are absolutely necessary, make sure you only nap once a day and keep it under 1/2 hour and before 4 pm.
3. Not Preparing For Sleep – Expecting the body to go from full speed to a standstill without slowing down first is unrealistic. Ease your body into sleep switching off electronic devices by 8 pm, take a warm bath, do gentle, restorative yoga or listen to calming music to move the body towards relaxation before bedtime.
4. Eating Bedtime Snacks Of Refined Grains Or Sugars
Processed foods are metabolic disruptors which raise blood sugar and stress the organs involved in hormone regulation throughout the body. It’s better to refrain from eating anything before bed. If you are hungry, then eat a high protein snack like turkey, which prevents the hormone roller coaster and may provide L-tryptophan, an amino acid needed to produce melatonin.
5. Using Pharmaceutical Sleep Remedies
Sleeping pills mask sleep problems and do not resolve the underlying cause of insomnia. Look for a calming natural formulas that has some of the following: amino acids, L theanine, taurine, 5 HTP and GABA, melatonin and herbs like lemon balm, passion flower, chamomile and valerian root. Taking minerals, calcium and magnesium at night is also helpful.
6. Drinking Alcoholic Beverages to Induce Sleep
Because of alcohol’s sedating effect, many people drink alcohol to promote sleep. Alcohol does have an initial sleep inducing effect, but as it gets broken down by the body, it usually impairs sleep during the second half of the night leading to a reduction in overall sleep time.
7. Falling Asleep in Front of the TV
Because we have no trouble falling asleep in the living room in front of the TV, many of us watch TV in bed to fall asleep to promote sleep. But when we fall asleep in this way, we invariably wake up later on. This sets up a cycle or conditioning that reinforces poor sleep at night. Try reading pleasant material before bed for entertainment and relaxation.
8. Staying in Bed
If you can’t fall asleep within 45 minutes, chances are you won’t for at least another hour, and perhaps even longer. You may have missed the “sleep gate” which is the open window of time your body will allow you to fall asleep. Researchers have found that our brain goes through several sleep cycles, lasting from 90 minutes to 2 hours, where all sleep phases are repeated. Get up and do restorative yoga or other calming activities for another hour before trying to sleep again to move into the next sleep phase more easily.
9. Making Sleep an Issue
A vicious cycle of worrying about sleep difficulties can increase insomnia. Like so many things in life, it’s about letting go of anxiety. Sleep needs to become a natural rhythm that comes automatically without overthinking. If you can’t sleep, use the time to breath, meditate, relax tense areas in the body and build faith that the problem will get resolved.