Sleep is a necessary physiological function for the maintenance of good health. Despite this fact, many of us find it difficult to rest, either because we can’t get to sleep, our sleep is fragmented, or we wake up before we should. Indeed, enjoying restful sleep is sometimes a challenge. If you’re one of those people who has trouble sleeping, read on, as we’re going to share some helpful tips for a good night’s rest.
According to a meta-analysis published in the journal, Frontiers in Psychiatry, it’s estimated that insomnia affects at least 20 percent of the population. This makes it a highly relevant problem since lack of sleep significantly affects our well-being and routines.
Sleep difficulties stem from bad habits, unregulated emotional states, substance use, and even medical conditions. However, there are some guidelines that can improve the situation. Before we delve into them, let’s explore some basic concepts.
Having insomnia doesn’t simply mean that you can’t get to sleep. Nor is this the only sign of the condition and there are different types of insomnia that you should be aware of (López et al., 2012):
- Conciliation. This refers to the difficulty of falling asleep when you go to bed. You might spend hours unable to fall asleep, with all the frustration and despair that this entails.
- Early awakening. This occurs when you wake up earlier than expected and without meeting your recommended or desired hours of sleep. It becomes a problem when a lack of sleep impairs your daily functioning.
- Maintenance. Despite falling asleep easily and quickly, you awake several times during the night. This results in fragmented and low-quality sleep that prevents you from resting properly.
It’s possible that two of these types of insomnia can occur together. In this case, it’s known as mixed insomnia. If all three types occur, it’s called global insomnia.
Tips if you have trouble sleeping
Below, we present some of the main recommendations to consider if you have trouble sleeping.
1. Improve your habits and sleep hygiene
Your daily habits, especially those related to the hours before you go to bed, can facilitate or hinder your rest. As recommended in an article published in the journal, Sleep Medicine Reviews, it could be helpful to apply sleep hygiene measures. These are the most important:
- Exercise regularly. However, don’t do so in the last few hours of the day, since this could excessively activate you.
- Try not to take naps. If you do, make sure they don’t exceed 45 minutes. Also, don’t take them beyond the early afternoon.
- Turn off screens an hour or two before going to sleep. Don’t use them anymore, because the blue light they emit may prevent you from falling asleep.
- Watch what you eat in the last four to six hours before bed. Avoid alcohol, caffeine, theine, and other stimulating substances, as well as heavy dinners.
- Create a cozy and pleasant atmosphere in your bedroom. Maintain a healthy temperature, eliminate lights and noise, and choose comfortable textiles for you and for your bedclothes, in accordance with the weather.
2. Reduce stress
If you have trouble sleeping, you may experience intrusive or repetitive thoughts every night. When you go to bed, worries crowd your mind and you think of all your outstanding tasks or obligations for the next day. This prevents you from resting.
Reducing your stress levels may be the key to helping you sleep. Try the following strategies:
- Adopt practices into your daily routine that help you to relax. For example, deep relaxation techniques.
- Develop more efficient coping strategies. You’ll always have challenges, but knowing how to handle them will help you avoid stress. Relativize, seek social support and develop new ways of thinking.
- Learn to prioritize and delegate. Overloading yourself with tasks isn’t healthy since you can’t do everything. So, ask for help, recognize your limitations, and reorganize your schedule so you’re not overwhelmed by activities and obligations.
3. Treat any underlying health conditions
Insomnia is sometimes caused or influenced by other health conditions. Indeed, chronic pain derived from certain physical disorders is an impediment to rest.
For example, obstructive apnea generates fragmented sleep and menopause alters sleep patterns (Lampio et al., 2014). Seeking medical help to treat these conditions can be crucial in promoting a good night’s sleep.
4. Keep your bedroom for sleeping only
If it’s difficult for you to sleep, you should consider restricting the use of your bedroom. You might have a tendency to eat in bed, watch TV, or even work there. However, in reality, you should only reserve it for sleeping. This will contribute to creating a mental association between your bedroom and rest, making it easier for you to fall asleep faster.
5. Establish a sleep routine
Finally, it’s highly recommended that you establish an appropriate routine. This includes going to bed and getting up at the same time each day and performing a sequence of activities or a ritual you always repeat before bed. You might like to spray a relaxing fragrance on your pillow, read a book, or practice a few minutes of meditation or creative visualization.
When to seek help?
We all have difficulties sleeping at some time or another. It’s not usually a major problem. But, if you find that the situation has become recurrent, you’ll begin to observe certain repercussions in your life.
In fact, insomnia causes fatigue and daytime sleepiness, irritability, mood swings, and poor cognitive functioning that affects concentration, memory, and mental clarity (Roth & Roehrs, 2003).
In addition, insomnia is linked to various mental conditions such as depression and low-stress tolerance, as well as different physical disorders, including hypertension, obesity, and diabetes (Delgado-Quiñones & Hernández-Vega, 2015).
For any of the above, it’s advisable to seek help or take action as soon as your quality of life begins to suffer. Insomnia isn’t considered to be chronic unless it carries on for three months or more but acute insomnia should also be addressed.
We’re all different
The tips in this article will help you fall asleep, avoid waking up too early, and get a better night’s sleep. However, you should know that we’re all different and what might be useful for some may not be for others.
For example, if you have trouble getting off to sleep, but manage to sleep okay later, you may be suffering from delayed sleep phase syndrome. If this is the case, you might need other types of interventions.
Finally, if your lack of sleep is causing you significant discomfort or is interfering with your routine, beyond applying the recommended guidelines, you should seek medical advice. There could be some medical condition or underlying situation that requires intervention.
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