insomnia cures and sleep aids ideas
to help you go to sleep - some simple remedies for mild insomnia and sleep disorders
First let's get a few things straight:
This is not a medical page, and it does not claim to provide treatments for clinical conditions or sleep apnea (or sleep apnoea).
These are just a few simple ideas - a technique if you care to use it that way - to help you go to sleep.
Most of us have difficulty sleeping at some time in our lives - especially if we are worrying about something, or are under stress for any reason.
A few simple changes to how we approach sleep can make a big difference.
Insomnia and sleep disorders are caused by a very wide range of things, and the symptoms are almost as numerous as the possible causes. For the detailed information and qualified advice about insomnia, sleep disorders and sleep apnea/apnoea there are all sorts of specialised resources on the web - please note that this is not one of them.
All this page claims to do is provide a few ideas for getting to sleep. That simple.
If you've a real medical condition, or are fifty pounds overweight, or a chronic alcoholic, or if you've done a really bad evil thing, then this page ain't for you - so don't complain about it being unscientific or lacking medical substance and credibility - you've been warned.
Also obviously do not eat or drink anything which is suggested below that you know disagrees with you.
Take from this what you will. It works for me whenever I need it, and it works for others too I understand. So if you simply need a bit of help getting to sleep, and you'd rather not resort to liquor or drugs or a depressing visit to the doctors, perhaps give this a try.
some simple ideas to help you go to sleep..
1. Start making it dark in your house or apartment earlier in the evening than you normally do.
Avoid a quick spell in the gym doing five hundred press ups, or a couple of hours playing the latest 'Axe-Murdering-Car-Jacker III' computer game just before your bed-time.
Think about how our ancestors got ready to go to sleep - they finished their working day, they had some grub and maybe did a little gentle frolicking in the hay, it got dark, and then they went to sleep.
These patterns are built into our DNA. If you divert from them you will not be following or satisfying your body's natural urges. Think about your lifestyle, especially what you do as bed-time approaches.
2. Eat some carbohydrate before bedtime. Carbohydrate foods are things like potatoes, rice, pasta, porridge oats, bread.
Twelve hours could pass between your evening meal and breakfast. If you are hungry while asleep this will not help you to stay asleep.
3. Drink warm milk with a spoonful of honey before retiring to bed.
Alcohol is a temporary crutch and not a sustainable cure for insomnia.
Fizzy pop or squash drinks with millions of additives are not particularly conducive to a good night's sleep either. Ditto Red Bull, coffee, etc., use your common sense.
4. When you are in bed, try this relaxation technique:
It's best to start with your face. Relax your jaw. Make sure your mouth is slightly open.
Really concentrate on relaxing your face. It will be tense almost certainly - relax it.
If you are worried about sleeping, or anything else, you face will be tense, and this makes it very difficult to get to sleep, so relax all of your face. When your face is fully relaxed you can imagine and feel your worries drifting away.
Imagine them floating away into the distance until they disappear.
Like clouds. Or bubbles.
There they go..... all gone.
Especially relax your jaw and your forehead - and open your mouth a little.
Then work you way up from toes, ankles, knees, etc.
Relax each section before moving on to the next.
Check every now and then that your face and jaw and forehead are still relaxed, and if worries reappear imagine them drifting away again until they disappear.
5. Imagine any remaining tension flowing out of your body through your toes, fingers, the crown of your head. Imagine it and feel it.
Imagine your toes and fingers tingling as you release. Feel your body relaxing - there will be little sensations that you can feel as you relax and surrender. Feel for these sensations - focus inwardly on how your body feels.
Feel your heart gently beating. Feel your breathing getting slower. Feel all over relaxing.
6. If you are still awake, check your breathing. Your breathing will have slowed. Concentrate on slowing it further.
Breathe into your neck, then your chest, then abdomen.
Avoid 'trying' to breathe. Let your body do it for you. It's actually quite a well-proven phenomenon - your body will breathe by itself..
Use words (imagine - keep your mouth still) to help slow your breathing - breathe in 'love', breathe out 'peace' - or suitable calming alternatives. Imagine the words and sounds passing through your mouth.
7. Think of the colour purple. Make it appear in your mind's eye. Other colours may appear at first, but aim for the purple. Relax into the waves of purple.
8. Roll your closed eyes upwards three times, at any pace you like. (This happens naturally when you are falling asleep and evidently triggers some sleep chemical in our body).
..... and repeat stages 4 to 8 until you are asleep (or until it's time to get up - no, seriously - if you've a mild sleep disorder or fleeting insomnia, then you might not even reach stage 8 first time around).
other useful sleep aids..
If you experience interrupted sleep, remove the clock from your room, or cover the clock with a cloth.
Avoid doing mental arithmetic about anything - it keeps the brain thinking and stops you sleeping. Instead repeat in your head something positively reinforcing about going to sleep, like:
'Sleep-time is for sleeping. When I awake fully refreshed I'll be able to do all the arithmetic I want. But for now, sleep-time is for sleeping.'
If you are sleeping when or where there is light coming into the room, wear a sleep mask that keeps out all light.
This also helps keep you from opening your eyes at night and looking at the clock.
Warn your partner and children about the mask first or you'll be giving them nightmares when they see the Lone Ranger in the bed in the morning..
'Cal/Mag' (Calcium/Magnesium) tablets seem to help some people. The magnesium relaxes the muscles apparently.
Homeopathic remedies are worth a try too, for example Calms or Calms Forte by Highlands can be used by anyone, including children, without side-effects. Follow the instructions properly and seek appropriate advice for using any of this stuff if you are not sure.
It's very very important to cease the habit or the tendency to clock-watch, count the hours, remember the hours, and tell people the next day about lack of sleep.
Focusing on the clock, the time, and discussing sleep problems at length with others guarantees that insomnia or sleep disorders continue. So find something else to talk about instead.
Telling others that you cannot sleep is actually a powerful technique for reinforcing and developing insomnia - it's a self-fulfilling prophecy - so do something else instead - like following these guidelines.
When you know and accept that watching the clock and counting the hours and telling others about lack of sleep all cause insomnia it's easier to cease the habit. So cease it immediately.
Start telling people that you are now much better or sleeping well. That you are relaxing and feeling a lot more comfortable when you go to bed, and that discussing it in this way is all part of the cure.
Say it to yourself and to others, and follow these guidelines, and you will go some or all of the way to rediscovering, and then maintaining, your natural healthy sleep patterns.
more sleep tips...
mind and body sleep tips
Exercise - but not directly before bed-time. Exercise is good for your body and your physical and mental health. Again - it's the way we are built and have evolved. A brisk 30 minute walk every lunch-time - get the heart pumping - will make a big difference. Use the stairs not the elevator. Walk rather than drive whenever you can. Play some sport once a week if you can - it's typically a lot more enjoyable than exercising alone in the gym - but do whatever you enjoy as long as you do something.
As far as possible try to establish a regular bed-time pattern. Obviously it's difficult if you have a job requiring shift work, but within the bounds of what's possible - sleep is greatly helped by routine and rhythm and habit.
If you are overweight, lose weight. Excess weight is a significant factor in sleep apnoea. Losing weight is obviously more easily said than done, but if you understand that the benefits also extend to sleep then it might provide additional motivation to eat better and exercise more.
Wear socks to bed - feet get cold because circulation is weakest down there. Cold feet don't aid sleep. Warm feet do.
Learn and use the simple Emotional Freedom Technique (EFT) - it might seem a little wacky at first but it definitely works for lots of people.
atmosphere and ambiance sleep tips
Turn off unnecessary electrical equipment or move them out of the bedroom - mobile phone chargers for example. Keep electrical alarm clocks a few feet away from the bed. Electrical devices create force-fields which can affect our brains and disrupt our sleep.
Keeping the alarm clock away from the bed will also reduce the tendency to 'clock-watch'. Clock-watching keeps the brain stimulated and anxious, so don't do it.
Use some sort of gentle alarm for waking. Sudden abrupt waking makes it more difficult to establish a smooth sleep rhythm.
Keep the bedroom temperature below 70 degrees F. If you get cold wear socks and use extra blankets.
Make the room as dark as possible. If you get up in the night try to manage with as little light as possible - or no light at all - since light reactivates our waking-time chemicals and biological functions.
Listen to 'white noise' or relaxation CD's before sleeping - anything that you find natural and relaxing.
food and drink sleep tips
Avoid grain- and sugar-based snacks before bed - they raise blood-sugar levels, which hinders sleep.
Eat a high protein snack and/or a piece of fruit a few hours before bed - both aid the production of helpful sleep chemicals in our body.
Avoid drugs. They ain't natural. They ain't sustainable, and they ain't addressing the real issues.
Avoid caffeine after mid-day and certainly before bed-time - obviously - it's a stimulant. Especially avoid coffee, but caffeine is also in tea and some fizzy drinks. Some people's bodies take many, many hours to break down caffeine - it's the way we are made - we've evolved from people who until recently never drank the stuff at all.
Avoid alcohol. (See drugs above.) Alcohol also hinders the body's deep sleep functions, which is bad for general health. Alcohol also dehydrates our body, which makes us feel bad the next day.
Generally avoid food and drink that you know you are sensitive to. This again is related to our evolution. Our genes reflect our ancestors and their lifestyles. The more in tune you can become with your body's natural preferences and tolerances then the more balanced and harmonious you will become, and the better you will sleep.
activity-related sleep tips
Read something relaxing - avoid thrillers and axe-murder-type suspense books. Obviously, scary thrilling stuff is too stimulating - it activates our brain's readiness functions.
Avoid TV just before bed-time - it's far too stimulating.
Write a personal diary before sleeping, or simply note down some things to remember for tomorrow. It's a way to clear the mind. It's not easy going to sleep with unfinished business on the mind, so find a way to note it and finish it until tomorrow, when you'll be far better able to deal with it anyway.
Go to bed at a reasonable time. The human body has evolved over tens of thousands of years to re-charge and perform essential maintenance work on our biological systems at night time. Going to bed too late - especially early hours of the morning - upsets natural body functions, which makes it even more difficult to rediscover our natural sleep rhythms.
If you find yourself having to get up in the night to go to the bathroom then avoid drinking too much liquid before bed-time. If you are worried that you could die of thirst in the night then keep a glass of water by your bedside.
A hot bath, shower or sauna before bed helps afterwards to encourage a drop in body temperature, which aids sleep.
Sleep and make love in your bed, and nothing else. Watch TV and play computer games in a living room or study. If you use a bedroom for work and play activities then it will become a work and play environment. A bedroom is a special place, so keep it that way.
Lastly, of course, you'll have heard most or maybe all of this before. So ask yourself why you've not tried doing any of it, or enough of it.
Knowing the secrets of a good night's sleep is just that: 'knowing'.
'Doing', on the other hand, requires a firm commitment to make changes, and that's the real secret. Make a commitment to yourself - write it down - tell other people what you plan to do if it helps reinforce your commitment, and then do it.
With acknowledgements to Carole Byrd, and the excellent natural health website mercola.com, which provides a lot of interesting biological and technical background for many of the sleep tips featured on this page.
- Stress and stress management
- Self-confidence and assertiveness
- The Four Agreements (Don Miguel Ruiz's life-changing book)
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© Carole Byrd main sleep aids and ideas content 2004-08; Alan Chapman edit and contextul material 2004-2013