Sleeping Problems? {Insomnia}

There are two main sleeping problems that used to cripple me.  The first was actually falling asleep and the second was waking up during the night.  I am not proud of this fact, but I was addicted to sleeping aids for over 10 years.  It began in college with 4 girls per room in  my sorority house.  Then it was after I got married and my husband snored.  Finally, I gave in tot he Starbucks craze and got hooked on caffeine.  There was always an excuse as to why I needed medication to help me sleep.

Finally, I began to study holistic nutrition and  realized there were several key factors that cause Insomnia in the first place.

Key Factors that lead to sleeping problems:

  • Stress
  • Depression
  • Traumatic experience
  • Taking medications that might affect sleep
  • Health problems
  • Sleep environment
  • Sleep cycle on track

Common mental and physical causes of sleeping problems:

Sometimes, insomnia only lasts a few days and goes away on its own, especially when the insomnia is tied to an obvious temporary cause, such as stress over an upcoming presentation, a painful breakup, or jet lag. Other times, insomnia is stubbornly persistent. Chronic insomnia is usually tied to an underlying mental or physical issue.

While treating underlying physical and mental issues is a good first step, it may not be enough to cure your insomnia. You also need to look at your daily habits. Some of the things you’re doing to cope with insomnia may actually be making the problem worse… as in my case!

Habits that make insomnia worse:

  • drinking a lot of caffeine
  • drinking or smoking before bed
  • taking naps during the day
  • an irregular sleep schedule
  • chronic worrying- stress

Adopting new habits to help you sleep:

  • Make sure your bedroom is quiet, dark, and cool. Noise, light, and heat can interfere with sleep. Try using a sound machine (this was my saving grace) or earplugs to mask outside noise, an open window or fan to keep the room cool, and blackout curtains or an eye mask to block out light.
  • Stick to a regular sleep schedule. Support your biological clock by going to bed and getting up at the same time every day, including weekends. Get up at your usual time in the morning even if you’re tired. This will help you get back in a regular sleep rhythm.
  • Avoid naps. Napping during the day can make it more difficult to sleep at night. If you feel like you have to take a nap, limit it to 30 minutes before 3 p.m.
  • Avoid stimulating activity and stressful situations before bedtime. This includes vigorous exercise; big discussions or arguments; and TV, computer, or video game use. 
  • Limit caffeine, alcohol, and nicotine. Stop drinking caffeinated beverages at least 8 hours before bed. You might need to go on the Starbucks diet, (give it up) for your health & savings account.  Avoid drinking in the evening. While alcohol can make you feel sleepy, it interferes with the quality of your sleep. Quit smoking or avoid it at night, as nicotine is a stimulant.
  • Think positive. Evidence shows that just by changing your thoughts, you can change a behavior.  Think of all the things you are grateful for rather than focus or stress on the problem.  Begin a gratitude journal, so when worrying hits, you go straight to the place that can change your thoughts instantly.

My tricks to help with my Sleeping Problems and kick Insomia:

  1.  My room is completely dark at night
  2. I sleep with a noise maker right by my bed every night.
  3. I allow myself one large iced tea per day at lunchtime, but avoid caffeine after 2:00pm.
  4. I changing my thoughts.  The last thing I do before bed every night is journal 10 things I am grateful for.  Even in extremely tough situations, financially or emotionally, this has allowed my brain to focus on all the good that is present in our lives.
  5. I changed my workouts!  I began a workout regime first thing in the morning.  When you get your blood pumping it releases natural mood boosting and energy releasing endorphins that give you a natural hi all day long to combat stress.  Then by the evening, your naturally tired and will fall asleep.  I have actually helped several clients with insomnia by getting on a specific workout & nutrition plan.  You are guaranteed to fall asleep when your head hits the pillow!
  6. I cleaned up my diet & nutrition.  It all ties together and when you avoid the triggers to insomnia, like caffeine, stress and noise, you can increase healthy foods to support a more natural sleeping pattern.

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