Insomnia: Tips for Improving Your Sleep

Insomnia is a common health concern that I see regularly in my practice.  Insomnia can be the result of hormone imbalance such as high cortisol, low progesterone and/or low melatonin.  However, insomnia can also be the result of poor sleep habits.  Here are some tips for improving sleep:

Guidelines for Better Sleep

  • Maintain a regular wake time, even on days off work & on weekends.

o   Following a regular routine is one of the most important things you can do if you have trouble with your sleep. The body operates on a natural cycle called the Circadian rhythm. This rhythm controls when you sleep, wake, produce hormones, and perform cellular repair. For healthy sleep to occur it is vital for us to get in touch with our daily rhythm cycle. To recapture our natural rhythm get in the habit of going to bed at the same time each night and waking at the same time each morning.

  • Try to go to bed only when you are drowsy.
  • If you are not drowsy & are unable to fall asleep for about 20 minutes, leave your bedroom & engage in a quiet activity elsewhere.  Do not permit yourself to fall asleep outside the bedroom.  Return to bed when, & only when, you are sleepy.
  • Use your bedroom only for sleep, sex, & times of illness.  No TV.
  • If you nap during the day try to do so at the same time every day & for no more than one hour (the perfect amount is 20-25 minutes).  Mid afternoon (no later than 3:00pm) is best for most people.
  • *Establish a relaxing pre-sleep ritual such as a warm bath, ten minutes of reading, meditating, deep breathing, etc..
  • Exercise regularly.  Confine vigorous exercise to early hours, at least 6 hours before bedtime, & do mild exercise at least 4 hours prior to bedtime.
  • Keep a regular schedule. Regular times for meals, medications, chores, & other activities help keep the inner clock running smoothly.
  • Avoid large meals close to bedtime.

o   Blood sugar irregularities around bedtime can interfere with your ability to have a proper sleep. If blood sugar is too low at bedtime the body may not be able to relax enough to fall asleep because it is preoccupied with balancing blood sugar. On the other side of the spectrum, many people eat too much too late in the evening and go to bed with relatively high blood sugar. This greatly interferes with deep sleep by delaying or preventing the release of hormones needed for proper cellular repair. If your diet is high in refined carbohydrates through the day and evening it is likely that unbalanced blood sugar is contributing to poor sleep.

  • Avoid ingestion of caffeine within 6 hours of bedtime.

o   The use of stimulants to boost energy through the day has become commonplace in our society. Unfortunately there are some unwanted side effects of stimulants like coffee, energy drinks, and other energy pills that inhibit proper sleep. First of all, if you are using a stimulant within about 6-8 hours of going to bed it is possible that the stimulant is still working. Secondly, if you are using stimulants as a boost to keep you going when your tank is empty, your adrenal glands will suffer. When the adrenal glands begin to burn out other glands and organs in the body suffer as well. Your ability to create energy will decrease and your ability to sleep properly may be inhibited. Thirdly, the use of stimulants in place of proper nutrition contributes to blood sugar irregularities, which inhibits proper sleep.

  • Avoid use of nicotine close to bedtime or during the night.
  • The optimal sleep environment is dark, quiet, and comfortable.

o   The body’s internal clock is extremely sensitive to light/dark cycles and can easily be disrupted by sleeping in a room with ambient light from sources like clocks, street lights, night lights, and TVs. These factors may not only prevent one from falling asleep but also reduce the quality of sleep. Any source of noise, light, or smell pollution has the ability to sabotage sleep. Ensure that your sleep environment is free from mold, dust, dust mites and other sources of potential allergens by cleaning your bedroom and washing your linens weekly.

  • Mental, emotional, and spiritual health are needed for one to be at peace. To fall asleep and get a good quality sleep one needs to be at peace especially around bedtime.

o   If we are preoccupied with relationship problems, work, health, or financial concerns it is hard to find the inner peace necessary for good sleep. When stress weighs you down it is hard to sleep because the mind is racing, and when you do fall asleep you may wake often because the wheels are still turning. Our mind is the most powerful tool we possess and we have the ability to perceive things any way we choose. If stress or other mental, emotional, or spiritual concerns are causing or contributing to poor sleep address them and seek help.

  • Many people with problems sleeping use sedatives in order to get to sleep. It is important to realize that sedatives, natural or synthetic, don’t actually address the cause of the sleep imbalance. Sedatives merely induce a false state that may help you fall asleep but ultimately do not address the reasons for poor sleep or improve the quality of sleep. Dependence on sedatives creates a new problem.
Leave a Reply

You must be logged in to post a comment.