A Science-Backed Guide To Dealing With Insomnia

A night of good quality sleep is essential to your overall health and well-being. It improves physical and mental function, boosts the immune system, enhances metabolism, fights off illnesses, and reduces the risk of acquiring chronic diseases.

Most adults should get 7-9 hours of sleep every day. If you find it difficult to sleep at night, you’re probably experiencing a common sleep condition called insomnia.

Insomnia prevents you from falling asleep or sleeping uninterruptedly through the night. Unfortunately, it’s an extremely common problem that can cause negative effects on your mood, behavior, and energy during the daytime.

In most cases, insomnia can be treated with simple lifestyle changes. But if it persists and causes significant issues in your daily routine, that’s a sign of chronic insomnia.

If you need help, you may visit mental health sites like Craigcounselingidaho.com. You might need to restore your mental health to overcome insomnia caused by stress and other factors. Hence, don’t forget to consult your doctor for an overall health assessment.

Below, you’ll learn everything you need about insomnia, focusing on science-backed insights that may help you deal with insomnia effectively. Read on to find out. 

What Are The Symptoms Of Insomnia?

There’s a high possibility of insomnia if you’re constantly experiencing some symptoms, such as the following:

  • Difficulty maintaining uninterrupted sleep and falling asleep through the night—even if you’re too tired from work
  • Extremely early waking hours
  • Constant sleep interruptions
  • Depression
  • Becoming dependent on sleeping pills to sleep
  • Anxiety, especially when you wake up at night 
  • Irritability and drowsiness during the day
  • Difficulty remembering some tasks
  • Inability to focus on a particular subject
  • Feeling tired and sleepy during the day
  • High chances of making mistakes and accidents
  • Feeling tired even after getting some sleep at night

If these symptoms persist and continue to affect your daily routine, you should seek medical attention as soon as possible. Your doctor might refer you to a sleep expert for further testing. This will help provide an accurate diagnosis and proper treatment plan for your condition.

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What Are The Possible Causes Of Insomnia?

There are many factors that can cause insomnia, such as:

  • Stress: This could be due to work, school, health, family, traumatic events, or the death of a loved one.
  • Frequent Sleep Adjustments: This may be due to changes in work schedules and travel, disrupting your circadian rhythm or sleep-wake cycle.
  • Bad Sleeping Habits: These include watching TV, playing video games, and browsing through smartphones before bedtime.
  • Having Midnight Snacks: This can cause discomfort when lying in bed, particularly due to indigestion and heartburn.
  • Mental Health Disorders: This may include depression, anxiety disorders, post-traumatic stress disorders, eating disorders, and more.
  • Medical Conditions: Physical health issues can negatively affect your sleep cycles, such as Alzheimer’s disease, Parkinson’s disease, asthma, heart disease, and diabetes.
  • Drinking Energy-Stimulating Beverages: These include coffee and alcoholic drinks, which will prevent you from falling asleep at night.
  • Taking Medications: These are drugs linked to insomnia, such as steroids, decongestants, amphetamines, psychostimulants, dopamine agonists, and anticonvulsants.

How To Deal With Insomnia Effectively?

Below are some of the most effective tips for managing and dealing with insomnia effectively.

Changing Your Lifestyle

Making changes to your current lifestyle is sometimes the most effective way to fight off insomnia, especially for milder types. Start by improving your sleep hygiene—routines and habits affecting sleep patterns—to ensure you get healthy and quality sleep.

Here’s what proper sleep hygiene should look like:

  • Following A Sleep Schedule: The time you go to bed and wake up in the morning should be consistent regardless of what day it is. For example, if you sleep at 9:00 pm and wake up at 5:00 am on weekdays, you should do the same on weekends.
  • Staying Away From Bad Influences: Avoid things that could cause difficulties falling asleep. This includes drinking coffee or alcohol at night. If you need a drink, grab water or a hot cup of chamomile tea to relax your systems.
  • Avoiding Late Workouts: Try not to go to the gym within three hours before you sleep. Experts say that working out late can boost your energy, making falling asleep more difficult. It’d be best to do your workouts early in the afternoon, around 3-4 pm.
  • Limiting Day Naps: Do you often take a nap during the day? If so, how long? If it takes an hour or more, you’ll surely be having a hard time falling asleep at night. So, limit your day naps to around 10-20 minutes.
  • Avoiding Electronics Before Bedtime: Try not to use electronics before bedtime. Why? The blue light they emit restricts melatonin production, which can disrupt your natural circadian rhythm, making it tougher to fall asleep at night.
  • Creating A Sleep-Inducing Bedroom: Optimize your bedroom to maximum comfort levels to promote sleep. Make sure the temperatures are neither too hot nor too cold, mattresses are soft and plushy, and the room is noise-free and, most importantly, dark.

Repeating A Mantra

A mantra is a short group of positive words (or sounds) often pronounced in Sanskrit—an ancient language in India thousands of years ago. Repeating this over and over may help touch and soothe your mind.

Because reciting mantras can help you relax and reach a calm state, it has become one of several ways to induce sleep. On account of this calming effect, stress and anxiety, which are among the factors that lead to insomnia, can also abate. 

A mantra doesn’t have to be in Sanskrit. It can be in any language you’re comfortable with. If you don’t have some in mind yet, you may consider some mantra examples below.

  • ‘I am facing the terrors of my life and am becoming better every day.’
  • ‘I am learning from my mistakes.’
  • ‘I am ready for a good day, and I will welcome it with open arms.’
  • ‘No one can break the commitment I promise to myself.’
  • ‘I will ask for help whenever necessary.’
  • ‘I am confident with my skills and knowledge.’
  • ‘I am willing to learn new things even from my mistakes.’

Once you’ve found the perfect mantra that represents you, start chanting it loudly, silently, or mentally whichever you prefer. Focus on what you speak of and establish a connection between your mantra and mind.

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However, if chanting a mantra seems to cause distress, don’t hesitate to stop and take a break from it. That’s probably because your mind isn’t at peace yet, thinking of the things that may cause you stress, such as work and other disturbances. Once your mind has calmed down, you can get back into the process.

Practicing Mindfulness Meditation

As its name implies, mindfulness meditation is the process of becoming mindful and aware of your present surroundings. It focuses on erasing negative thoughts, calming down your feelings, and soothing your body and mind.

On top of that, mindfulness meditation offers health benefits in addition to promoting a good night’s sleep. It can help reduce stress, develop immune systems, boost focus and concentration, normalize the heartbeat, and improve overall well-being.

Meditation helps improve the sleep cycle. Much like when reciting mantras, it can calm the mind and body. It also aids the autonomic nervous system which is one of the few bodily functions that regulate sleep. 

Here’s how to do it:

  • Slowly inhale and exhale at a speed you’re comfortable with.
  • Check how your body is positioned when you lie down in bed.
  • Check if there’s any sensation in your feet and legs, whether they’re good or bad.
  • Check the rest of your body for sensation. Don’t judge what you feel. Just focus on keeping each body part relaxed and present at the moment.
  • After all these steps, allow your body to relax.

Start meditating at a comfortable pace for 5 minutes and gradually add 10-15 minutes to your session until the total length reaches 30 minutes per session. You can use a timer to focus better without getting anxious about time, but use a gentle alarm to avoid breaking your focus.

If you find mindfulness meditation difficult to practice, you might want to consider meditation apps to help you focus and concentrate. Some apps provide free meditation courses and tools that may allow you to be present throughout the day.

Taking Melatonin Supplements

Melatonin is a hormone your body naturally produces before bedtime to help you fall asleep at night and improve your sleep quality. Therefore, if you find it tough to sleep at night, you may consider taking melatonin supplements before bedtime.

According to a 2021 review article on Science Direct, melatonin supplements were able to improve the sleep cycle of insomnia and cancer patients. But in spite of the results, extensive studies are suggested to conclude the findings further.

Melatonin supplements can be purchased over the counter at your local pharmacies. Take the right dose two hours before bedtime to allow your body to absorb it.

But before you do so, consult your doctor, especially when you’re taking other medications. A doctor can also inform you of some possible side effects, such as:

  • Irritability
  • Depression
  • Headaches
  • Stomach cramps
  • Dizziness

Doing Exercise

Regular exercise is extremely good for your overall health and well-being. It can help improve your mood, boost energy, lose extra pounds, and promote a good night’s sleep.

insomnia smartphone
Sleeping with a smartphone – Photo by: m01229

Based on a study in 2021, exercise was able to improve the condition of patients (especially older ones) suffering from primary insomnia. Thus, experts recommend a 60-minute exercise routine at least 4-5 times a week for 3-4 months. 

Here’s what to do:

  • Engage In Moderate Exercise: This may include riding a bike on flat ground, swimming, playing tennis, and walking fast. Do this every day for no less than 20 minutes.
  • Add Some Strenuous Exercise: If moderate exercise becomes too easy, consider adding some strenuous exercise. You can ride a bike uphill, run or jog around the block, or lift a heavy backpack uphill. Do this a couple of times every week, but avoid doing it every day, especially if you find it difficult to do so.

Also, don’t forget to perform warmups and cool-downs before you start and end your workout. This will help you ensure a safe and injury-free exercise session.

Taking Lavender Oil Capsules

Lavender is a natural sleeping aid. It helps improve mood and body pain, promoting and improving sleep quality. Experts believe that taking it in the form of capsules is the best way to receive its benefits.

According to a 2021 study, taking lavender oil capsules has significantly helped people taking antidepressants for depression improve their sleep patterns. Lavender oil capsules were also found to reduce anxiety symptoms, allowing the participants to sleep better.

You may take around 20-80 mg of lavender oil capsules daily. While lavender is generally safe, some symptoms, such as mild headaches, nausea, and constipation, may appear. So, consider consulting your doctor before incorporating them into your daily routine.

Undergoing Cognitive Behavioral Therapy

If all the steps above don’t help relieve your insomnia, you should consider taking cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) sessions. In fact, it’s even better at promoting a good night’s sleep than medications.

Cognitive behavioral therapy is a form of psychotherapy that helps people determine and correct catastrophic thought patterns that can negatively affect their feelings and behavior. It’s one of the best treatments for people with mental health issues, such as depression, anxiety, and addiction.

Cognitive behavioral therapy also addresses thoughts on sleep, such as the anxiety that comes with not sleeping. To do this more deeply, the therapist could take notes on your ideas about your sleep anxiety for a few weeks. 

In addition, CBT may involve sleep restrictions, especially if you can’t fall asleep. This includes reading books, washing the dishes, cleaning the room, and other tasks to keep you occupied. As a result, you’ll feel tired and fall asleep faster.

Moreover, CBT was also found to reduce and treat the symptoms of insomnia in patients with mental disorders, based on a study conducted in 2022.

Final Words

Getting a good night’s sleep is somehow impossible with insomnia. Fortunately, treating it is possible because of all the tips discussed above. You can do all these until your sleep gets back to normal. But continue implementing the changes you made in your lifestyle to prevent insomnia from coming back.