Insomnia is one of the most frustrating problems anyone can have. According to numbers from the American Academy of Sleep Medicine, 10 percent of adult Americans have chronic insomnia, and 30 to 35 percent of people display insomnia symptoms for a short time. About 15 to 20 percent of adults exist in a middle ground between these two categories. If you struggle with insomnia, proactive tactics include shifting your expectations and developing a structured bedtime routine.
What causes insomnia?
If you've been struggling with insomnia for a few weeks or a few months, identifying the cause is critical because you could have a medical or emotional issue. Common insomnia causes include the following:
- Life stress
- Health problems (for example, cancer, acid reflux or Parkinson's)
- Other sleep disorders (such as restless legs syndrome)
- Poor sleeping environment
- Daily habits
In many cases, self-help approaches are effective and medical assistance is not needed. However, do seek medical assistance if you see no improvement or if your insomnia is already leading to major problems in your life. Also see a doctor if chest pain or other scary issues happen along with your insomnia.
Your daily habits and sleeping environment
For many people, their daily habits, bedroom environment, or both are major contributors toward insomnia. Look at these factors to identify potential areas for improvement. Fortunately, self-help approaches often solve the problem. The following environments and habits can affect your ability to fall asleep easily:
- A bedroom that is uncomfortable, overly lit, and noisy
- Exercising or eating within two to three hours before trying to sleep
- Drinking alcohol to help you fall asleep
- Consuming drinks with caffeine in the eight hours before bedtime
- Playing video games, watching TV or using electronic devices before you go to bed
Changing your bedroom and mindset
It's likely that the way you use your bedroom and see your sleeping problem needs to change.
- Stop using your mobile devices in your bedroom.
- Move electronic devices such as a computer and printer to another room to get rid of the lights.
- Stop constantly checking the time. In fact, position your clock where you can't see it, or place it face down.
- Give yourself permission to get out of bed if you can't sleep. Enjoy a hot bath or calming music, and go back to bed when you feel sleepy.
- Don't give up before you've even set foot in bed for the night. Adjust your expectations; think, "Who knows what the night will bring? I have several ways I will use to try to get to sleep." instead of "Why bother to try to sleep tonight? I'll fail."
- Enlist the help of a friend or counselor to talk to and help you de-stress.
- Try yoga, deep breathing and other techniques to relax.
- If everything else fails, take supplements such as melatonin and valerian (be warned that melatonin makes some people drowsy the next day).