Curing Insomnia: 7 Steps to a Good Night’s Sleep
Sleep is a fundamental human need that consumes about one third of our lives. During sleep, your body is working to support healthy brain function and maintain your physical health National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute. When we don’t get enough of it, our productivity and behaviour suffer as a consequence. People who suffer from insomnia have trouble falling asleep, staying asleep, or both. As a result, they have increased risks for depression, diabetes, heart disease, obesity and stroke.
A discovery, made by neurologists at Oxford University, could pave the way for a treatment to combat sleep disorders such as insomnia. Scientists think they have discovered the switch in the brain that tells our bodies when to go to sleep. The switch works by regulating neurons, or nerve cells, in the brain. Described as a ‘homeostat’ which can tell when someone has been awake for too many hours, the mechanism fires when the body is tired Huffington Post.
So while you may think you're doing nothing at night, for your brain though, sleep means finally having some spare time to take stock of the day's events. Freed from the distractions of recording new experiences, a deeply sleeping brain can organize and strengthen memories, especially the emotional ones National Geographic.
Another study appearing in Science Magazine has found that the cleanup system in the brain, responsible for flushing out toxic waste products that cells produce with daily use, goes into overdrive in mice that are asleep. The cells even shrink in size to make for easier cleaning of the space around them.
So while scientists keep probing on unveiling the definitive cure for insomnia, we can adopt sound habits that encourage a more blissful night’s slumber.
To help stay on track, the Mayo Clinic shares 7 tips for better sleep: Mayo Clinic
- Keep to a regular sleep schedule
Whether it’s a workday, weekend, holiday, go to bed and get up at the same time every day. Maintaining a consistent schedule reinforces your body's sleep-wake cycle and helps promote better sleep at night.
- Watch what you eat and drink
Avoid going to bed hungry or on a full stomach as being in a state of discomfort might keep you up. Alcohol, caffeine and nicotine deserve caution, too, as the stimulating effects may take hours to wear off and could well disrupt your sleeping patterns.
- Create a bedtime ritual
Repeat the same activities each night to let your body know it's time to wind down. This could include indulging in a nice warm bath, reading a book, practicing tai chi or listening to soothing music with the lights turned low. Be sure to switch-off technology before going to bed as some research suggests that surfing the internet, watching TV or other media use before bedtime interferes with sleep.
- Make yourself comfortable
Make your bedroom ideal for sleeping. For some, this could mean keeping it cool, dark and quiet. Next to having a comfortable mattress and pillow, you’ll want to be sure there's enough room for two, if you’re sharing your bed.
- Keep daytime naps to a minimum
While some bosses may not love the idea, post-lunch naps at work can actually improve productivity and cognitive functions and alertness. Extended daytime naps though, can wreak havoc with your nighttime sleep, especially so, if you're struggling with insomnia. If you do choose to nap during the day, limit yourself to about 10 to 30 minutes and make it during the mid-afternoon.
- Maintain a regular exercise regimen
Regular physical activity maintains and promotes cardiovascular health, which is vital to promoting a good night’s sleep. With that said, avoid evening workouts just before going to bed as the exercise stimulates your brain, heart and muscles, thereby making it harder to fall asleep. Low impact activities however, such as Tai Chi (aka ‘meditation in motion’) may actually help with a sounder sleep.
- Keep stress under control
As much as stress is a fact of life, being ‘stressed out’ does not have to be. To help restore a sense of restorative balance in your life, consider healthy ways to manage stress. Starting with the basics, this includes getting organized, setting priorities and delegating tasks. It’s important to give yourself permission to take a break when needed, such as simply sharing a hearty laugh with a dear friend. Before heading to bed, jot down what's on your mind and then set it aside for another day.
At one point or another, most of us will have the occasional sleepless night. If however, you are often having trouble falling asleep, the Mayo Clinic recommends contacting your physician. By identifying and treating the underlying causes, you may be able to get the better sleep you need and deserve. Continuing with our theme on personal health care, our upcoming blog will focus on physical exercise.