Insomnia affects about 60 million Americans at one time or another. For 40 million of these individuals, the problem is long-term.
Insomnia simply means a person experiences difficulty falling asleep or staying asleep. Missing sleep is associated with a host of chronic problems that often worsen over time.
These include a weakened immune system, weight gain, depression, poor cognitive function and an increased risk of heart disease. Fortunately, unless the problem stems from an underlying illness for which medical treatment must be pursued, remedies are available for sleeplessness without the need for drugs.
Obvious and Hidden Causes of Insomnia
Certain causes of insomnia are obvious, while others are easily overlooked. Below are some common causes of the disorder:
- Obvious and Hidden Causes of Insomnia
- Natural Effective Treatments for Insomnia
- 1. Creating the Ideal Temperature for a Good’s Night Sleep
- 2. The Secret of the 4-7-8 Exercise
- 3. Essential Lavender Oil to Promote Sleep
- 4. Properly Winding Down May Solve Many Sleep Problems
- 5. Slow Down Racing Thoughts With a Pen and Paper
- 6. Wearing Socks to Bed
- 7. Keep Devices Out of Bed
- 9. Avoid Evening Exercise Sessions
- 10. Blowing Bubbles is Not Just for Kids
- 11. Skip Late Night Snacks Containing Sugar and Simple Carbohydrates
- 12. Limit Coffee Intake for Faster and More Restful Sleep
- 13. Music to Enhance Sleep
- 14. Take a Warm Shower or Bath Before Bed
- 15. Foods Play a Vital Role in a Good Night’s Sleep
- 16. Insomnia and the Cold Water Connection
- 17. Meditate with Breathing, Thankfulness and Prayer
- 18. Picture a Happy Place With a Special Meaning
- The Importance of a Proper Insomnia Diagnosis
1. Elevated Levels of Anxiety From a Specific Source
Certain circumstances create significant amounts of stress in a person’s life, which can quickly lead to insomnia. For example, moving, changing jobs, going through a divorce or having to face the illness or death of a loved one are all considerable sources of anxiety and stress, which in turn can lead to sleeplessness.
2. Dealing with a Chronic, Acute or Life-Threatening Illness
Facing a potentially life-threatening illness such as cancer or heart disease, or dealing with chronic conditions such as arthritis or autoimmune disorders can also result in insomnia. For example, health conditions that cause pain may make it difficult to sleep due to the discomfort, rather than an environmental factor or personal stress.
3. Environmental Factors That May be Overlooked
The aforementioned causes of insomnia are somewhat obvious, but other reasons for the disorder may be more subtle. For example, a person may be physically uncomfortable due to his or her bedroom being too cold or too hot. Similarly, something as simple as sheets that irritate a person’s skin can lead to interrupted sleep.
4. Medication as a Culprit for Insomniacs
Another not so obvious reason for insomnia is the use of specific medications. Many times, a person may not connect his or her inability to fall asleep with a particular medication. However, there are many over-the-counter and prescription drugs that can cause this disorder, including the following:
• Ace inhibitors
• Calcium channel blockers
• Allergy medications
• Selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors–SSRIs
• Muscle relaxers
• Asthma medication
• Certain cold remedies
Another cause of insomnia that one may overlook is depression. In certain cases, sleeping too much can be a symptom of depression, but in other instances, the inability to fall asleep is a sign of the disorder.
Natural Effective Treatments for Insomnia
1. Creating the Ideal Temperature for a Good’s Night Sleep
A person’s internal temperature also regulates his or her body’s biological clock and circadian rhythm, the latter of which controls sleep patterns. It is an established fact that one’s body temperature must slightly drop to promote easy, restful sleep. However, if a person is attempting to fall asleep in a room that is too warm, this drop in body temperature does not occur. According to experts at the Harvard Medical School, a bedroom temperature of 67 to 70°F creates a sleep-friendly environment for most individuals. The majority of experts recommend a dark room as well, as this signals the brain to manufacture melatonin, which is the hormone that tells a person it is time to go to sleep. Therefore, taking simple steps such as blocking light and slightly lowering one’s bedroom temperature may eliminate sleeping problems entirely for certain people.
2. The Secret of the 4-7-8 Exercise
Many people, even those who are not suffering from chronic insomnia, have experienced restless nights where no position seems to work to help them drift off to sleep. According to Doctor Andrew Weil, this problem is not associated with the position as much as it is with breathing. Weil states that by deliberately changing inhaling and exhaling patterns, one can also change his or her blood pressure and heart rate, both of which are linked to sleepiness. The exercise is simple and is accomplished by taking three to four seconds to fill the lungs with air and then taking twice as long to exhale. Another method called the“4-7-8 exercise” is completed by inhaling for the count of four seconds, holding the breath for seven seconds, followed by an eight-second exhale.
3. Essential Lavender Oil to Promote Sleep
It is an established fact that lavender not only has a lovely smell, but its aroma may also encourage sleep. Its ability to put a person into a relaxed state of mind comes from its fragrance, although the reason for this is not yet known. It is believed to lower blood pressure, decrease the heart rate and relax the nerves. A study conducted by the National Institutes of Health discovered that participants who were exposed to the fragrance of lavender oil for several minutes, over the course of three, ten-minute intervals slept deeper and felt more energetic the following day. Although not all people respond positively to scents, making lavender oil a part of one’s bedtime ritual may help banish sleeplessness. For this reason, this remedy is worth a try for those suffering from insomnia or restless sleep.
4. Properly Winding Down May Solve Many Sleep Problems
Taking 60 minutes to wind down before heading off to bed can go a long way toward combating insomnia. Those with busy lifestyles may find it difficult to relax and force themselves into sleep mode suddenly. Founder of New York City Sleep, Janet Kennedy, Ph.D., states that the assault of constant information on the human brain can easily interrupt its sleep patterns. Kennedy recommends that a person give his or her mind and body a full 60 minutes to wind down from work, social media, television watching and other activities before attempting to fall asleep.
5. Slow Down Racing Thoughts With a Pen and Paper
Doctor Kennedy also recommends that a person log nagging thoughts with an old-fashioned paper and pen, and therefore temporarily remove them from his or her mind just prior to going to bed. Racing thoughts often travel in a circular pattern that may be difficult to break, particularly at night. However, making a list of tomorrow’s “to dos” or listing issues that must be dealt with the following day has a tendency to tame erratic thoughts. This is because such action places these issues in the future, which discourages one from stewing about them at bedtime.
6. Wearing Socks to Bed
In a Swiss study published in Nature Journal, researchers in Switzerland noticed that warm hands and feet were the most accurate predictor of the onset of sleep. Participants in this study were given hot water bottles for their feet, which increased heat loss by widening the blood vessels on the skin’s surface. This shift in blood flow to the extremities from the body’s core is believed to work in tandem with melatonin to promote restful sleep.
7. Keep Devices Out of Bed
Watching television, visiting social media sites, returning work-related e-mails, playing games and essentially any other activity that can be done from an electronic device should not be part of anyone’s bedtime ritual. Studies now show that anything is emitting what is considered a “blue light,” such as computers, iPads, and smartphones, can significantly interfere with sleep. Keeping these devices far from one’s bed is an easy and practical way to avoid this type of insomnia.
8. Use Natural Sleep Supplements Before Bed
Those facing chronic insomnia should also consider natural sleep aids including melatonin, passion flower, Valerian root, or effective blends such as ZenSLEEP. Supplements of this type have helped thousands of individuals who suffer from sleep disorders, and there are virtually no issues concerning dependency, as most natural supplements are not habit forming. However, it is important to avoid replacing traditional medications with holistic remedies without first discussing this intention with the prescribing doctor.
9. Avoid Evening Exercise Sessions
Almost everyone can relate to the enjoyable endorphin rush associated with a good workout. However, working out too late in the evening and even worse, trying to work out just before bedtime, is usually a mistake. That same rush of endorphins that is so enjoyable in the morning hours can cause a person to feel wide awake when it is time to drift off to sleep. Fortunately, this problem can be fixed quite easily by shifting work out schedules to the a.m., making it easier to wind down at night.
10. Blowing Bubbles is Not Just for Kids
Anyone with children probably has a plastic bottle of bubbles somewhere within their home. A time-tested and enjoyable activity for youngsters, most adults probably give this past time little thought. However, there is a twofold benefit of blowing bubbles right before bed, for adults as well as for children. John Hopkins University School of Medicine Neurology Professor, Rachel Marie E. Salas, wrote in an article for the New York Post that there are surprising benefits associated with participating in this activity just before bed. Salas states that such bubbles have a mildly hypnotic appearance and also require a specific deep breathing process to blow. This combination can promote restful sleep. Additionally, because it is a rather silly activity for adults to participate in, it can take their mind off any thoughts that may potentially prohibit sleep.
11. Skip Late Night Snacks Containing Sugar and Simple Carbohydrates
Another great way to prevent insomnia is to avoid consuming high glycemic fruit juices or high carbohydrate fare and sugary sweets just prior to bedtime. This is because simple carbohydrates, sweets, most juices and similar products can create an energy boost due to the sugar they contain. This not only interrupts sleep, but may also make one wake up feeling famished and craving sugar. Instead of juice or high carbohydrate fare, individuals suffering from insomnia should opt for protein-rich vegetables or foods with high protein content combined with small amounts of complex carbohydrates both of which enhance melatonin production, ultimately leading to deeper sleep. Hummus with celery, peanut butter on a slice of whole-grain toast, a handful of nuts, or apple chips with sunflower butter are all good choices.
12. Limit Coffee Intake for Faster and More Restful Sleep
Although most people realize that caffeine can keep them awake at night, what they do not know is that its effects can last up to 12 hours. Many individuals are under the impression that having coffee with an evening meal will not necessarily disturb their sleep five or six hours later. However, the only surefire way to guarantee caffeine will not prevent sleep is to limit its intake to the morning hours. Alternatives to caffeine for daytime energy include exercise, iced mint tea or a small protein snack.
13. Music to Enhance Sleep
Research indicates that classical music can quickly lull a person to sleep. According to the US National Libraries of Medicine, essentially any music with a rhythm of less than 60 to 80 beats a minute has this effect. In one study, 80 students between 19 and 26 years of age who listened to relaxing music of this type for only 45 minutes fell asleep quicker, enjoyed higher quality sleep, and reported decreased symptoms of depression than those who simply retired without the use of music.
14. Take a Warm Shower or Bath Before Bed
Indulging in a hot shower or bath and stepping out into cool air approximately 60 minutes before it is time to go to sleep typically causes one’s body temperature to precipitously drop. Research indicates that this rapid decrease prepares the body for sleep by slowing the metabolism. In addition, warm showers and baths are quite relaxing, which also helps. Experts recommend showering at the same time every night as well, as this will make such action part of a consistent bedtime ritual, which in turn trains the body to anticipate sleep as the natural next step of the night.
15. Foods Play a Vital Role in a Good Night’s Sleep
Melatonin is a major factor in a healthy, natural sleep cycle. For this reason, eating specific foods that contain tryptophan, which boosts melatonin production, or foods that are melatonin-rich themselves will help most people get to sleep quicker and enjoy a more restful night’s sleep.
Melatonin-rich foods include the following:
• Red wine
• Morello cherries
• Porridge oats
Foods that contain tryptophan, which is a precursor to melatonin, include those listed below:
• Sunflower seeds
• Sesame seeds
• Beams and pulses
• Grass-fed dairy products
• Turkey, chicken, fish
• Sprouted Grains
Those who prefer not to eat at bedtime can simply incorporate these foods into their last meal of the day.
16. Insomnia and the Cold Water Connection
Anyone who is stressed out or anxious at bedtime may find that immersing his or her face in the very cold water for less than a minute can make a tremendous difference in how quickly the person falls asleep. This is because anyone who is in full energy mode at bedtime desperately needs a reset of his or her nervous system in order to calm down enough to successfully drift off to sleep. Simply submerging one’s face in cold water triggers something referred to by sleep experts as the “Mammalian Dive Reflex,” which is an involuntary phenomenon that lowers blood pressure and heart rate. After this occurs, it is easy to drift off into soothing sleep.
17. Meditate with Breathing, Thankfulness and Prayer
It is not as difficult for one to ease his or her mind into a restful state as it may at first seem. Dwelling on the positive parts of the day and the happy things to which one is looking forward tomorrow go along way toward promoting deep, restful sleep. The key is to stop thinking about any of the present day’s activities or the worries of tomorrow, and instead, take several deep breaths and then slowly exhale. One should then focus on relaxing one area of the body at a time. After this, individuals should reflect on what they are thankful for, pray, or simply meditate on happy thoughts. Although it sounds quite simple, many people have had positive results from this ancient piece of advice.
18. Picture a Happy Place With a Special Meaning
Instead of counting sheep, which likely does not result in sleep for most people, one should visualize a place that makes him or her feel happy and calm. It could be a favorite place from his or her childhood, a vacation spot where happy memories were made, or a completely fictitious location created by the person’s mind. The key is pondering an environment that is engaging enough to distract one from his or her worries and thoughts long enough to become sleepy. Oxford University’s Behavior Research and Therapy Journal published a study about participants who were told to complete the aforementioned visualization exercise. They were simply instructed to imagine a waterfall, beach or any other relaxing scene, and they fell asleep quicker than insomniacs who were told to do nothing or to count the proverbial sheep.
The Importance of a Proper Insomnia Diagnosis
Those who think they may be suffering from insomnia should speak to a licensed healthcare practitioner for a medical evaluation. This will ensure that any underlying medical conditions are ruled out as a cause. If no underlying illness or disorder is discovered, one can try the tips and suggestions outlined above and invest in a helpful supplement such as ZenSLEEP to banish his or her insomnia for good.