It is 3 a.m. in the morning and Sarah is still wide awake. If she was in college and did not have class until the afternoon or it was the weekend, this would not be as much of an issue; however, it is actually Tuesday night (Wednesday morning, really), and she has to be at work by 8 a.m., giving her a maximum of 4 hours of sleep. Because work has been particularly stressful this past month, causing her to experience insomnia most nights, she had a glass of wine earlier in the night, in an attempt to help her body wind down and hopefully fall asleep. That one glass turned into a whole bottle and now she is not only still awake, but likely to have an alcohol-induced headache throughout the work day tomorrow.
Like Sarah, between 30% and 50% of adults in the U.S. experience insomnia, with an estimated 10% suffering from chronic insomnia, according to the Sleep Management Institute. While not getting enough sleep is something that every adult faces from time to time due to work, stress and/or depression, and other factors, insomnia is a more serious problem that people all too often pass off as an inconvenience. The reality is it can cause serious health problems for those whom it affects, especially if they turn to unhealthy means, such as alcohol and drugs, to deal with the insomnia. Fortunately, there are many tips and techniques that people with insomnia, especially caused by stress or anxiety, can use to help them get to sleep earlier and sleep better during the night.
Tips for Getting a Better Night’s Sleep
What every professional will tell you, from stress management counselors to sleep therapists, is that what technique works for one person with insomnia may not work for another person; thus, getting a better and healthier handle on your insomnia could be a long process of trial and error. However, with the help of a skilled counselor and other professionals, who can help you identify the stress and anxiety that’s causing the insomnia, in addition to the following tips and techniques, you may be able to sleep more and better:
- Determine what causes your insomnia. If it is an actual health related issue, such as hot flashes or pain, see a doctor who specializes in treating such issues. They can usually provide treatment or medication for these health issues that can help you overcome your insomnia. However, if it stems from non-health related issues, such as stress, anxiety, or depression, you’ll need to identify this and likely begin speaking with a therapist to work out how to handle these issues.
- Avoid caffeinated drinks in the afternoon and evening, particularly as caffeine can add to a person’s stress and anxiety.
- Try to work out at least 20 minutes every day. Working out in the afternoon or evening can help you to fall asleep more easily, not to mention reduce feelings of stress.
- Try keeping to a regular sleeping schedule every day of the week, not just on work days.
- Consider keeping a journal that you write in before you go to bed. This can help you get your worries, stresses, and frustrations out so they don’t plague you as you are trying to go to sleep.
- Try to avoid taking long naps during the day.
- If you are a smoker, try to cut down on the number of cigarettes you smoke per day, especially at night.
- Experiment with a variety of relaxation techniques, such as yoga, meditation, drinking calming, herbal tea, or taking warm baths before bed time.
If you have insomnia, consider trying out some of these tips to help you sleep better. However, you should keep in mind that you might not see results in one day or even a week; It may take time for these tips to begin working. For this reason and the fact that a counselor can help you address your sources of stress and anxiety, it’s important to seek the support and help of a trained professional.