Your least favorite time of the day is night time. While the world is fast asleep, you spend your time tossing and turning. Perhaps you just lay in bed and try to count sheep, but after doing this for months- or maybe even years- it's aggravating.
Or perhaps you actually fall asleep like a baby each night, but the moment you wake up to sip some water or go to the bathroom, you lose the urge to sleep. You've done several Google searches to help you curb your insomnia, but nothing has worked. You've tried downloading every app, but it only works for a short while.
What if I told you that you that your habits could be making your sleep disorder worse? Perhaps your insomnia is actually caused by some of your habits. Well today is your lucky day. Here are 5 habits you need to stop to restore your sleep and improve your insomnia.
1) Taking your electronics with you to bed: These days our gadgets are almost an extension of us. We take our phones with us to the gym, to the store, to the bedroom and even to the bathroom (you know you do this). However these laptops, phones and tablets that are so dear to us emit blue light. The blue light actually sends a signal to your brain and tells it to reduce its production of melatonin. Melatonin is the hormone that helps you maintain your sleep cycle. With this reduced production of melatonin, your sleep cycle is off and your body will think it needs to sleep less.
The solution: To make your life easier, just turn off your electronics about 1 hour before bedtime. If you feel like you absolutely can't do it, just keep them out of arm's reach.
2) Drinking coffee or caffeine all day long: Most people who struggle with sleep problems or insomnia drink quite a lot of coffee or other caffeinated beverages to help manage the grogginess and sour mood they experience in the morning. However, caffeine has a half life of approximately 5 hours. This means it takes 5 hours for your body to completely get rid of half the amount of caffeine you drank. So if you're drinking more than 1 cup of coffee a day, you're pretty much layering the effects of caffeine in your system.
The solution: To get good quality sleep, limit caffeine intake to no more than 1 or 2 cups in the morning. After noon, stay away from coffee, energy drinks and any other stimulant. This will give your body time to get rid of it completely before night time.
3) Staying in bed when you can't sleep: Many people with insomnia remain in bed for hours when they can't sleep. They'll toss and turn for hours. What this does is it sends a message to your brain that the bedroom is a place of anguish. Your bedroom should really be your vacation spot. When you walk in, you should think "I cannot wait to lay on my comfy bed." Not, "Ugh! My awful bedroom again." When you have negative thoughts about your bedroom, it'll sour your feelings and ruin your sleep pattern.
The solution: If you can't sleep after 30 minutes of laying in bed, get up. Go over to another room, do something relaxing for 30 minutes, then return to bed. Whatever you do, DO NOT pick up any electronics. Remember that blue light is exposure is bad for melatonin production.
4) Working in your room: I'm very guilty of this. I love my room so much that it's my favorite place to think and write. No I'm not writing this post from my bed. When it comes to sleep, it's important to trick your brain. The ideal scenario is to work somewhere else, wind down an hour before bed, then come into your room about 30 minutes before bed time. So the brain automatically knows that it should begin to shut down once you step into the bedroom. But when you work and use your laptop while in your bed, your brain doesn't know that it should shut down. The bedroom becomes a trigger for brain activity, rather than brain rest. You get it?
The solution: Use your bedroom for relaxing activities only. Don't do any writing, intense TV watching, talking on the phone, arguing, or anything upsetting in your bedroom. Use it as your sanctuary.
5) Sleeping in on the weekends: Many people make up for lost sleep over the weekend. They'll go to bed extra late, then get up at noon. The problem is if you sleep in 2 days in a row, that's enough to disrupt your sleep pattern. Your body needs to know when to produce adenosine (the hormone that's responsible for your wake up cycle), and when to start producing melatonin (the sleep hormone). If you aren't being exposed to sunlight, your body won't know to keep you awake, then by Monday you'll end up groggy when you should be alert.
The solution: Don't sleep in for more than an hour on the weekends. If you typically get up at 6am during the week, you should be up and out of bed by 7am. This helps your body maintain a regular sleep-wake pattern.
And if you would like to learn about some other habits to help you sleep, here is a list of habits to help you fall asleep and stay asleep.
Those are your first few steps in beginning to retrain your brain so that your insomnia can be a thing of the past. I am a licensed marriage and family therapist who provides counseling and therapy to women with anxiety. I also provide insomnia treatment in Murrieta using Cognitive Behavioral Therapy for Insomnia (CBT-I). For women within California who are too far away from the Murrieta, Temecula or Menifee areas, I provide insomnia treatment online.
CBT-I is a 5 to 8 week treatment for people who struggle with insomnia. It's the first line insomnia treatment in the USA and it is highly recommended by sleep researchers and experts. Click here to schedule your free 15 minute consultation call so that insomnia can be a thing of the past.