Check how your schedule has been for the last few nights (and days). Have you been sleeping at different times everyday? Have you been eating out (and drinking) late at night? Do you use your sleep-time to meet your deadlines at work? All these could trigger a random response in the ‘Circadian Cycle’ or sleep-cycle and may eventually cause insomnia or sleeplessness.
Most people do not know this but some of the medicines like those for the heart and blood pressure, antidepressants, steroids, weight loss medications etc can also cause insomnia. If you have been taking sleeping pills for a while, withdrawal symptoms may cause rebound insomnia and make things worse for you.
Tips to sleep better:
Stick to your sleep time : Each one of one is unique, even with our sleep patterns. Some people feel refreshed with only 6 hours of sleep; others might need 9 – 10 hours. Know what your body needs. Fix up your sleep time accordingly. Always maintain regular sleep and waking up times to regularize your sleep patterns.
Take a hot bath: Taking a hot bath before bed can help induce sleep. This is because your body temperature has a strong influence on how fast you fall asleep. A night’s sleep is normally proceeded by a slight drop in body temperature and scientists have established that this drop in temperature tells your body to go to sleep.The theory behind taking a hot bath is to raise your body temperature artificially before allowing it to drop again as it adjusts to the cooler environment of your room. The trick is to take a bath one to two hours before bedtime and keep your bath temperature warm, rather than hot.
Treat yourself to a hot, milky drink: It may sound like an old wives’ tale but taking a hot milky drink can encourage drowsiness because milk (ideally low fat milk) contains sleep-enhancing properties. This is thanks to its calcium content, which sleep experts claim can help you relax. It is also rich in tryptophan, which the body converts into serotonin – a natural hormone in the body that can make you sleepy.
Watch what you eat before you sleep: Skip coffee or other caffeine containing drinks atleast 3-4 hours before bedtime. Do not have very heavy meals close to bedtime.
Lifestyle management :Maintain a routine that is not extreme. If your work demands it, balance it by other factors like a good diet and a healthy mental state. Meditation, creative visualization may help you be calmer and restful.
Daytime sleepiness: Stop those afternoon naps. Indulge in some physical activity that requires you to move about during that time.
Avoid drinking too much alcohol: Although a couple of glasses of alcohol may make you go to sleep faster because it works on the receptors of the brain that induces sleep, any more than that can lead to broken sleep. This is because alcohol disturbs chemicals in the brain that help with deeper patterns of sleep. Brain waves increase from small undulations in Stage One to deep slow waves in Stage Four – the deepest level of sleep that makes us refreshed the next day. But as alcohol starts to wear off during the night, we experience more Stage Five of sleep – known as Rapid Eye Movement (REM). During this period, there is a high level of brain activity.
Physical activity: Physical exercise or a walk before bed time is ideal for chronic insomnia. Team up with someone or even with soothing music to help you maintain it as a habit. However, do not perform strenuous exercises just before bed time. The hormonal surge might keep you awake.
Diet: Have a healthy dinner with proteins, drink warm milk or herbal tea with camomile. Avoid caffeine, alcohol and tobacco to help you sleep quickly.
Pamper yourself to sleep: Warm bath with bath salts, massages, soothing music or chants, stomach rub or a hot water bottle can help. Create a ‘sleep environment’ in the bedroom. Close the curtains, dim down the lights, do not switch on the TV. If people do not respect your bedtime and are talking loudly in your bedroom, ask them to step out. All these help produce melatonin, the sleep chemical in your brain and help you sleep better.
Avoid any engaging activity :Watching TV or reading a book just because you cannot sleep may often work against letting you sleep. Do something monotonous. Count sheep or try to chant the alphabet backwards. Keep at it till you sleep out of sheer boredom.
Check your mattress and pillow: Are they comfortable? Are they supporting your body and neck well? Are they very old and need to be replaced? If you’ve been unable to sleep due to itching, sneezing etc at night, your mattress may be the problem. Bed bugs, dust mites, mold may grow over the mattress over time if not maintained well.
If you’re still having trouble sleeping, don’t hesitate to speak with your doctor or to find a sleep professional. You may also benefit from recording your sleep in a Sleep Diary to help you better evaluate common patterns or issues you may see with your sleep or sleeping habits.