We grow up with the images on our TV or in books in where somebody has to resort to counting sheep in order to fall asleep. As children when we hear those things we may even find it funny but as we get older we realise that insomnia is no laughing matter and we can spend all night tossing and turning in bed without any results.
It has been estimated that one in four Americans develop insomnia every year while in the UK it is as many as one in three people. There can be any number of reasons as to why the inability to sleep but the good news is that it can be fixed.
- 1 The Different Kinds of Insomnia
- 2 Why Does Insomnia Happen?
- 3 Why Should We Deal With Insomnia?
- 4 Food and Drink That Can Cause Insomnia
- 5 Should You Take Sleep Medications?
- 6 How To Sleep Better and Cure Insomnia Naturally
The Different Kinds of Insomnia
Before we actually get into looking at what you can do to get a better nights sleep, I think it is important to understand that there are actually quite a few different types of insomnia.
The reason I think this important is that if you can pin-point the type that you have, it may make it easier to understand which method of fixing it will work best for you. These different types include:
- Adjustment Insomnia – This type of insomnia, also called acute insomnia or short-term insomnia, disturbs your sleep and usually stems from stress. To effectively combat adjustment insomnia you need to deal with the root of the stress. By stress, we do not just mean the negative.The sleep problem ends when the source of stress is gone or when you adapt to the stress. It could be something positive that makes you too excited to sleep.
- Behavioral Insomnia – This type occurs when children don’t go to bed on time unless a parent or guardian enforces a bedtime. Without strict bedtimes, they may linger awake for hours at night.
- Idiopathic Insomnia – This is a lifelong sleep disorder that starts during infancy or childhood and continues into adulthood and cannot be explained by other causes.
- Drug or Substance Insomnia – This type is directly related to the use substances such as Medications, caffeine, alcohol, or certain food items. It can also happen when you stop using the substance.
- Medical Condition Insomnia – This type is often the symptom of a mental health disorder.
- Insomnia Nonorganic, Unspecified – This type would suggest that known substances and physical causes have been ruled out but that most likely cause is an underlying mental health disorder, psychological factor, or sleep disruptive behaviors.
- Insomnia Organic, Unspecified – This is often caused by a medical disorder, physical condition, or substance exposure but the specific cause is still remains unclear so further testing needs to be done.
- Paradoxical Insomnia – People with this disorder often report little or no sleep for one or more nights. They also describe having an intense awareness of the external environment or internal processes consistent with being awake.
- Psychophysiological Insomnia – This is associated with excessive worrying. It can begin suddenly or develop over time. People that suffer with this disorder worry too much about their insomnia and in turn they become tense and anxious as bedtime approaches. The more they worry about not sleeping, the less likely it is that they will actually be able to fall asleep.
Why Does Insomnia Happen?
People will suffer with insomnia in different ways. For some it can be temporary whilst for others it can be for the long-term. The fact is, short-term or long-term, it is never fun.
If you look at the list shown above you will see that there is a wide range of different types of insomnia and I think that almost everyone has experienced at least one of those types at some point in their lives. As adults, this would usually be the result of stress or medications that they may be taking. Once you know the cause it is often fairly easy to get your sleeping pattern back to normal.
Other times however, the insomnia can be for the long-term and may be the result of a more serious health condition such as depression or sleep apnea. Sometimes it can be caused by poor sleeping habits or even eating the wrong foods before bed.
Whatever the cause, if you don’t sleep properly you are going to feel exhausted, irritable, and not really able to function properly the next day. Overtime this can impact on your health.
The good news is that no matter how long your insomnia lasts, there’s usually a way to deal with the root of the problem and start sleeping better. We are going to be looking at some of those options that you have here today.
Why Should We Deal With Insomnia?
- It can cause accidents – When drowsy, our reaction times are reduced. The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration estimates that it is a cause in 100,000 auto crashes and 1,550 crash-related deaths a year in the U.S alone. But remember accidents don’t just happen on the roads and many workplace accidents are caused because of the same thing.
- It affects our concentration – We need an adequate amount of sleep in order to think properly and learn efficiently. Also, if you don’t get enough sleep, you won’t be able to remember what you learned and experienced during the day.
- Health problems – There are many health problems that can come from sleep deprivation such as heart disease, heart attack, heart failure, irregular heartbeat, high blood pressure, and diabetes.
- Can lead to depression and anxiety – If insomnia is left untreated then over time it can lead to symptoms of depression. Insomnia is actually one of the first symptoms of depression. The problem is that depression and insomnia also feed off each other making it difficult (though not impossible) to combat either one.
- It can make you forgetful – Having a good amount of sleep can help keep your memory sharp.
- It may make you gain weight – Lack of sleep seems to be related to an increase in hunger and appetite, and possibly to obesity.
Related – Military Methods For Falling Asleep FAST
Food and Drink That Can Cause Insomnia
One of the first steps is to understand which foods can contribute to sleepless nights. While there are actually many foods and drinks that don’t help, we are going to look at the biggest here below.
- Oats – These contain melatonin which would usually prepare the body for rest but the high soluble fiber content can have adverse effects because when we have oats before bedtime, it doesn’t have enough time to digest properly.
- Vegetables – Most leafy greens are natural diuretics that can cause a person to experience frequent urination. Items such as broccoli, cabbage, beans, cucumbers and garlic are hard to digest and can result in gas.
- Ice-Cream – Eat ice-cream before bed and you will be up for hours due to the high levels of sugars and carbohydrates.
- Spicy Foods – There are actually a lot of benefits to eating spicy foods but not when eaten late at night. They can cause an upset stomach and the chemicals can activate your senses and keep you up at night.
- Sugary/High-Carb Foods – foods such as chocolate, cookies and deserts can raise your blood-sugar levels. Single sugars like fructose, found in fruits, and galactose, found in milk products, along with double sugars like lactose, maltose, and sucrose all contribute to irregular sleeping patterns if consumed late at night.
- Proteins – Eating red meat at night will sit in your stomach all night as it won’t be digested properly.
- Pizza – I love pizza but if you eat it at night your stomach will work overtime. It has high levels of acidity due to the toppings and tomato sauce that can increase heartburn.
- Alcohol – Alcohol is known to interfere with sleep and can cause random awakenings at night.
- Caffeine – Caffeine is a great boost for the day but as it is a stimulant that provokes neurological movement and gives an extra energy boost, you don’t want to be consuming it before bed. It is advised to steer clear of caffeinate beverages in the afternoon or early evening.
Should You Take Sleep Medications?
In the short-term, sleeping pills can offer a temporary solution and many people use them but the problem with these is the side effects. These effects can be anything from headaches, sore muscles, constipation, dry mouth, daytime fatigue, trouble concentrating, dizziness, and more. All together, these can add up to much worse than your average sleep deprivation.
Now not everyone will experience any side effects but even so, they are only a short-term solution. Over time you just won’t benefit from them. Sleeping pills are very easy to build a tolerance to.
How To Sleep Better and Cure Insomnia Naturally
When it comes to actually studying the relationship between exercise and insomnia, very little has actually been done. However, in the few studies that have been done, they seem to suggest that exercise greatly improves the ability to sleep in those with insomnia. In these studies it showed that whilst walking improved sleep, exercise such as lifting weights or running did not.
It has been suggested that it could be the increase in body temperature that the exercise triggers, followed by the post-exercise drop in temperature that may promote falling asleep.
Getting outside and being active is probably one of the best ways of dealing with not just insomnia but many other health benefits too.
Did you know that you can actually use the sunlight to promote healthy melatonin production which in turn can help you get a better nights sleep. This is because our natural body clock uses the daylight in order to know when we should feel awake and when we should feel tired. When your hypothalamus—the gland responsible for regulating sleep and energy levels—senses a change in light, it tells your body to ramp up or ramp down its production of the sleep hormone melatonin.
In order to get a better understanding as to how/why this works, check out this article over at Tuck.com.
Manage Your Stress
We have already looked briefly earlier in the article at how stress can impact your sleep but if you have skipped to the methods then I will quickly mention it here also. A big problem is that when stress is the reason for the lack of sleep, we often get more stressed because of it and it becomes a big cycle. This is why it is critical that you start to manage your stress as soon as possible. The good news is that there are many ways in which this can be done.
Check out this article by Healthline for some great examples of things that you can do today to help combat your stress.
Eating the Right Foods
While we mentioned earlier that there are certain foods and drinks that you should avoid if you want a better nights sleep, there are also those that can help you sleep better. Some good food items that you should be including in your diet include the following:
- Cheese – You need to forget what you have heard about not eating dairy before bed, you can, and you should. I am sure that you have heard that cheese before bed will give you nightmares but that is pure myth. The truth is, eating cheese before bed is great for sleep due to the levels of calcium. Dairy contains something called trytophan, which is like a sleep-inducing nutrient.
- Almonds – Like cheese, almonds also contain plenty of trytophan. They are also a great source of calcium and magnesium.
- Salmon – I can’t personally eat salmon but having good levels of the the omega-3 fatty acid DHA can really give you a better sleep. For obvious reasons, there are also other kinds of fish that will also work.
- Whole Grain Crackers – When we eat a high-carb meal we feel the need to take a nap. This is because the carbs cause your body’s blood sugar levels to spike. Of course, you probably don’t want to be eating a whole meal before bed so try eating a handful of whole grain crackers instead.
- Cherries – Cherries are the only edible source of melatonin which we discussed the importance of earlier.
- Low-fat Milk – If your reason for not sleeping is heartburn then try a glass of low-fat milk before bed.
- Bananas – Bananas are a great fruit all-round. They are rich in carbs and trytophan but they also contain potassium and magnesium which helps to promote muscle relaxation.
Simple Lifestyle Changes
While the above methods ARE lifestyle changes, I wanted to mention just a few things separately as they don’t really warrant having a whole section to themselves as they are simple changes that can be explained simply too. These include:
- Stop using your phone, tablet or computer in the evening – When we use these kinds of electronics it leaves our brain feeling more revved up than relaxed. Try turning them off a couple of hours before you plan on going to bed.
- Take a shower at night – The heat from a warm, pre-bedtime shower sends the message to your nervous system that it’s time to relax and slow down, encouraging you to feel sleepy.
- Try aromatherapy – Scents play a big role when it comes to our mood. Try aromatherapy and fill your room with different scents such as lavender, frankincense, spikenard, and myyrh.
- Make your bedroom comfortable – If you are uncomfortable in bed then chances are you are going to have a real hard time getting to, or staying asleep. Try turning the temperature down, switching off all lights and noise, use comfortable bedding and more importantly, a comfortable mattress.
At UK Survival Guides we are big believers in natural remedies over conventional medications. You must understand however, just because something may be ‘natural’, it doesn’t automatically mean that it is healthy. For obvious reasons, the options below are all considered to be safe and effective when it comes to improving your sleep.
- Chamomile tea – This one will often be the first remedy that people will suggest and for good reason. It is easy to make, it tastes good, and it is very effective. You can safely make it as strong as you like with some people even using multiple tea bags to get the full effect.
- St. John’s wort – When steeped, St. John’s wort makes for a tasty tea.
- Valerian root– Valerian root has been shown to help people not only get to sleep easier, but also get a better nights sleep.
- Kava root – Used for the short-term, the root is great for promoting relaxation.
- Passion flower – Try steeping a teaspoon of passion flower in boiling water for 10 minutes before drinking. It tastes fantastic!
- Melatonin – We mentioned above that cherries can be eaten for melatonin but I expect that you don’t want to be doing that every single night. Melatonin supplements can give you the same sleep-inducing benefit.
- California poppy – Steep the bright orange leaves in hot water for at least 10 minutes to make a tea that’ll erase your anxiety and leave you feeling relaxed.
While searching, I also found a couple of items on Amazon that have some fantastic reviews that you may wish to check out. The best ones I found were:
What methods have you found to manage your insomnia? Let us hear them in the comments below.