Sleep specialist Dr David Jankelson of St. Vincent’s Hospital, Sydney says there’s much that individuals can do to help themselves.
They call it ‘sleep hygiene’ and it’s basically about setting up systems for yourself that might lead to a good night’s sleep.
Each person is different, but it’s important for everyone to watch the effects of stress, caffeine, alcohol, certain foods, lifestyle, etc on their sleep pattern.
Having a regular waking time and early morning exercise is part of the lifestyle consideration.
Recognize that the sleep system tends to right itself after a few nights of insomnia if you do not adjust your schedule.? Apparently, keeping your wake-up time constant but going to bed one hour later will help 25 percent of insomniacs within one to two weeks.? After the temporary problem is fixed, you can try adding back some sleep (a half-hour at a time).? Source:? Psychology Today.
STIMULANTS AND MIND-ALTERING SUBSTANCES
People with insomnia are more likely to exacerbate or perpetuate their sleep problem by drinking alcohol to help induce sleep, smoking close to bedtime, and by sleeping in late in the morning, according to the May 2005 issue of the journal Sleep. Results of the study show that people with insomnia consume alcohol within 30 minutes of bedtime more often than controls, and 29 percent of them use alcohol to try to induce sleep.
Among regular smokers 45.3 percent of insomniacs smoke within five minutes of bedtime.
Exercise – but not within 3 hours of going to bed.
Sleep Specialist, Dr David Jankelson at St. Vincent’s Hospital in Sydney recommends having a regular waking time and early morning exercise. Source: The Sydney Morning Herald, Health & Science, May 15, 2003.
Apart from helping you sleep better, exercise will also
- Reduce your depression, if that is a factor in your insomnia
- Help you reduce your weight, and increase your general fitness levels. This is of benefit particularly to snorers, and sleep apnea sufferers.
Exercise does not need to be vigorous and lengthy for it to be very beneficial. A forty-five minute walk 3 times a week can make a big difference to someone with a sedentary lifestyle. Walking in nature helps the stress levels (by the beach, a grassy park, taking the dog out, wheeling the pram, etc). And if you get tired of doing the same thing, devise different exercises to help with the different fitness types – cardiovascular, speed, power, agility (dancing classes?), strength, coordination, local muscular endurance, flexibility (yoga).
Yoga and Tai Chi are both very relaxing. We have heard that there are yoga positions that apparently help release serotonin. If you have specific detail on this, we would love to hear from you so that we can share the information.
ESTABLISH A TRANSITION TIME BEFORE BED
Coming home late from work, grabbing dinner and then going to bed shortly after is clearly not a great option. How you establish a transition time between the day and night, between work and relaxing, between commitments and bedtime is a matter for judgment. For parents, an established bedtime for younger children is beneficial, because sometimes it only really becomes ‘your time’ after they are in bed.
At the end of the day, decide that the day is over. Make yourself a caffeine-free beverage (Chamomile Tea, Tranquillity Tea or Valerian Plus Tea).
Run a warm bath with some special essential oils, dim the lighting, put on some soothing music, succumb to the warmth, switch off. When you get out of the bath the reduction in temperature triggers sleepy feelings. Make use of that as you snuggle into bed.
In Ayurvedic medicine, insomnia is treated by rubbing warmed sesame oil into the soles of the feet. It is said that this promotes a restful state and relieves excess Vata, which is the frenetic, frantic energy in the body.
THINKING AND PLANNING AT BEDTIME
Set aside time in the early evening to review the day and plan for tomorrow. Do not leave this until you are about to go to bed, or actually in bed! If this requires writing down your tasks and goals each day, then reviewing them in the early evening, do it. Your diary can be used in this way (and is, by a lot of people).
Some recommend a ‘dump-pad’ by the bed, so that you can write down any important thoughts that come to you during the night. Once they are written down, you can go back to sleep knowing that you don’t have to remember them.
PROCRASTINATION, HAPPINESS, GETTING YOUR ACT TOGETHER
If you want to be happy you sometimes need to make some hard decisions in your life that will allow you to get on with it. Never ‘biting the bullet’, procrastination, ‘burying your head in the sand’, and other destructive life patterns will eventually affect your mental attitude, success, happiness, health, sleep pattern, etc.
Is your job the problem? Are your family relationships the problem? Have you ‘never got over’ something? Is your bad attitude a problem? Are you a victim? Not assertive enough? Is domestic violence the problem? Is the way you think the problem? Are there things in your life you might choose differently? Can you do anything about some, or all, of what is bothering you, with or without assistance?
In some cases, it’s possible that insomnia is the result of refusing to face the inevitable change that may be required in your life to make it better, more relaxed and fun. Sometimes, after having made a change, you’ll wonder why you didn’t do it a long time before!
LYING IN BED AWAKE
If you wake in the middle of the night it is important not to ‘negative self-talk’. If you can’t re-train your brain for positive thoughts when you wake up some help is in the book The Anxiety and Phobia Workbook.
If you’re being negative and feel very awake – get out of bed. Do something else to make yourself, or until you, feel sleepy. This helps your body associate the bed only with sleeping.
Refer Learning to Relax
Substance Abuse Contacts:
Alcoholics Anonymous NSW
Phone: (02) 9799 1199
Family Drug Support
Phone: 1300 368 186
Phone: 13 11 14
Alcohol and Drug Information Service
Phone: (02) 9361 8000
Phone: 1300 652 820