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Beat Insomnia with 14 Proven Techniques

insomnia.jpgInsomnia is estimated to affect more than half the adult U.S. population. In my anxiety article, I discussed my own struggles falling asleep. And if you keep reading this article, you’ll discover all my insomnia busting techniques – everything I know to help you get a good night’s sleep, no matter what type of anxiety you’re dealing with.

The First 7 Techniques: Establishing Healthy Routines

One of the keys to falling asleep quickly is being prepared when your head hits the pillow. Since we are creatures of habit, my first 7 tips focus on establishing healthy sleep-preparation routines:

  • Establish a Firm Schedule: Through trial and error, determine how much sleep you need. Then make sure you get that amount every night. Go to bed and wake up at the same times, even on weekends, to regulate and normalize your body clock.
  • Avoid Caffeine:Caffeine is a stimulant that increases the activity in your nervous system and can affect you for several hours, so avoid caffeinated beverages after dinner.
  • Avoid Late Exercise: There is some debate about the effect of late-night exercise upon the ability to sleep, but if you feel jazzed up for several hours after working out, avoid exercising right before bedtime.
  • Embrace Earlier Exercise: 30 minutes of vigorous exercise in the morning, afternoon, or early evening will improve your health and prepare your body and mind for the regenerative powers of sleep. Tiring yourself through exercise is one of the most effective insomnia-busting techniques I know.
  • Avoid Certain Foods: a bedtime snack can be a very good thing (as we’ll discuss later), but certain foods are bedtime no-no’s: Spicy foods (especially if you suffer from heartburn), alcohol (which may make you feel sleepy at first, but cause sporadic sleep later), and heavy foods of all kinds.  
  • Eat a Sleepy Snack: Just before bedtime, eat a small snack containing mostly carbohydrate with a little pinch of a tryptophan-containing protein (milk and cereal, warm milk, yogurt with granola, or fruit and cheese) because this combination of nutrients will increase the flow of tryptophan to your brain and induce sleep.
  • Wind Down: 15 minutes before turning the lights out, try eliminating all distractions and reading a book, meditating, or doing some other soothing mental activity.

The Next 7 Techniques: Falling Asleep Fast

Once your head hits the pillow, things get more interesting. The 7 tips below are designed to help you fall asleep faster once you’ve closed your eyes. Some of these tips come from my own experience, some from friends, and some from you (my readers):

  • White Noise: My own personal favorite, I use the soothing hum and breeze of a bedside fan to ease my tired mind into slumber.
  • Toe Rubbing: Try gently rubbing your toes together – strangely, it’s quite relaxing.
  • Change your sleep environment: For some reason, a change of scenery helps some people sleep. If you normally sleep with the lights out, try a night-light, lava-lamp, or one of those multi-colored fiber-optic sprays. If you normally sleep on one side of the bed, try the other. You can even try putting your head at the foot of the bed and sleeping that way. In other words, switch things up.
  • Reverse Psychology: Try convincing yourself that you’re trying not to fall asleep. Nothing makes a person tired faster than trying to stay awake!
  • Static Visualization: As you fall asleep, imagine something peaceful and serene, like a quiet forest or babbling brook. One of my readers told me he likes to imagine he’s hiding inside a tent (the blanket) and must remain perfectly still to avoid detection. Alternatively, if your bedroom is cold, you can huddle up in the blanket and pretend you’re trying to survive the Arctic winter. It sounds silly – but it really works for some people!
  • Dynamic Visualization: As you fall asleep, imagine a single pinprick of light growing and changing shapes in your mind like a pool of mercury or an amoeba. For the first few minutes, you will be tempted to will your mental image into various shapes (a car, a person, a dog, a light-post, or whatever), but as time passes, try to let the amoeba become whatever it wants. The goal is to turn this mental exercise completely over to your subconscious mind, at which point you will be dreaming.
  • Eye Flutters: Fixate on a single point (like the ceiling) and then close your eyes. Keep your eyes closed for 5 seconds, then gently and slowly open them for just a moment, then close your eyes again, this time keeping them closed for 10 seconds. Repeat until your eyes begin to fatigue and you drift off to sleep, each time increasing your “closed” count by 5 seconds. Some people swear by this technique as a form of self-hypnosis.

Most doctors agree that the easiest way to beat insomnia is to tackle the underlying causes, such as anxiety, depression, or lack of physical activity. And I agree.

But while you’re working to improve your state of mind and body, I hope these 14 tips will help you find the good night’s sleep you’re looking for.

 Do you have a tip for beating insomnia?  If so, leave a comment and tell us about it.


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