Helpful Sleeping Tips

It would be rare for someone to claim that they’ve never had problems related to sleeping. Most people have gone through bouts where sleeping is difficult, mostly related to events that are currently happening. Insomnia is when this difficulty sleeping becomes frequent and extends over a longer period of time. This may mean that there is an underlying issue. These underlying issues could be actual sleep disorders (like apnea or restless leg syndrome), mental illness (like depression or anxiety), injury, or poor quality of health.

I’ve had problems sleeping for a year or so that I believe are related to anxiety and the medication I take for ADHD. Although some nights it seems impossible to fall asleep, I’ve found several things that have helped overall. Here are some helpful tips, including the ones that work for me.

  • Set a set sleeping schedule and stick to it
    • Don’t nap within 8 hours of bedtime; set an alarm
  • Avoid caffeine, nicotine, and alcohol
    • 6-8 hours before bedtime
  • Have a relaxing bedtime ritual
    • Reading, meditation, warm bath, etc.
  • Be exposed to bright/natural light in the morning
  • Don’t lie in bed awake if you can’t fall asleep
    • Get up and do something else until you feel tired enough to sleep
  • Control your room environment and temperature
    • Make sure the room isn’t too hot or cold; avoid sleeping with TV or music on
  • Certain foods
    • Fish, jasmine rice, tart cherry juice, yogurt, whole grains, green leafy vegetables, bananas, chickpeas, & fortified cereals may all help provide certain vitamins/minerals that are missing from your diet
    • Tea: herbal and chamomile
  • Exercise

Recent studies have shown that exercise can have a powerful impact on sleep. The National Sleep Foundation conducted a poll asking people about their sleeping habits and outcomes. What they found is that the people who exercised (vigorously, moderately, or lightly) reported better sleep than those who didn’t exercise. In fact, more than 2/3 of those who vigorously exercised rarely or never reported symptoms of insomnia. Sleep was also affected by the mere act of spending a lot of time sitting down. Those who spent less than 8 hours a day sitting were more likely to report that they have very good sleep quality.

My very brief training in mindfulness has given me some tools for using my breath as a way to relax. Focusing on inhaling and exhaling and counting breaths can help calm down the mind and body. I’ve recently downloaded an application on my phone that guides your breath. It’s called “Universal Breathing – Pranayama Free”. I used it for the first time last night and for the first time in weeks, I woke up refreshed and was able to fall asleep within a decent amount of time. Because I feel I have some underlying issues when it comes to my sleep, I think this would work even better for someone who doesn’t suffer from insomnia.

If you have tried most/all of these tips and are still experiencing difficulty sleeping, it may be helpful to go see a doctor.

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Posted on September 9, 2013, in Biological Psychology, Emerging Trends in Psychology, Students and tagged , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. Leave a comment.

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