To feel good, you need to sleep seven to nine hours a night, but not everyone can do it. Some people find it difficult to fall asleep, others suffer from waking up in the middle of the night, and others wake up early in the morning before the alarm clock rings. These are all different manifestations of insomnia – a sleep disorder. We’re talking about the most common causes of insomnia and how you can help yourself.
Not Enough Sunshine
Sunlight is important for the internal clock, which controls all processes in the body. When light hits the retina, the brain knows what time of day it is.
With a lack of natural daylight, the brain doesn’t know when to sleep and when to be awake. Gradually, the time on the internal clock becomes confused and no longer matches the time of day.
If the body doesn’t get enough sunlight, you can do the following:
- Be in the sun in the morning for 20-30 minutes. Do this in the first hour after awakening so that the brain readjusts to the right mode and the sleep schedule shifts to an earlier time. If it’s dark in the morning, it’s advisable to walk in sunlight in the afternoon. The more you can be in the light, the calmer and longer the night’s sleep will be.
- Use a lamp for light therapy – a device that imitates sunlight. Conventional lighting devices or ring lights for selfies are not suitable for this. During the session you need to stay at a distance of 20-30 cm from the light bulb, you don’t need to look at it all the time. Light therapy lamps are safe, but it’s important to choose them correctly. The device shouldn’t emit ultraviolet light or flicker.
The effectiveness of the lamp depends on the brightness of the light. The higher it is, the shorter a light therapy session can last. For example, 10 000 lux corresponds to the light on a bright sunny day in the shade, such a lamp is enough to turn on for 20-40 minutes a day. The intensity of 2 500 lux is the light on a cloudy day. In front of a lamp with this brightness should be at least 2 hours.
Using a light bulb isn’t recommended if you have eye diseases such as cataracts, glaucoma, optic nerve disease and inflammation of the vitreous body. If you have retinal problems or diabetes, consult an ophthalmologist before using the light bulb.
No Sleep Schedule
It’s important to fall asleep and wake up at the same time – this helps establish circadian rhythms, that is, the body’s internal clock. If you aren’t in the habit of going to bed at a certain time, your brain doesn’t know when it’s time to sleep or get up.
It’s desirable that the bedtime and wake-up time should be the same for weekdays and weekends. Sometimes sleep is sacrificed in order to finish urgent work or to finish reading a 3 patti site review, and you sleep on Saturday or Sunday. But compensating for the lack of sleep is possible only within a day. For example, you can sleep today for yesterday, but not for the day before.
If there is no sleep schedule, you can do so:
- Try to stay awake during the day. Sleeping after 3:00 p.m. shifts your internal clock, and it will be harder to fall asleep at night. If you want to take a nap during the day, it’s better to do it before dinner and not too long, for example half an hour.
- Get used to falling asleep at the same time. It is better to do this gradually, to avoid stress to the body. To do this, go to bed 30 minutes earlier than the day before, for example at 2:30 instead of 3:00. After the body will get used to going to sleep at 2:30, set a new time of departure to bed for half an hour earlier, that is, at 2:00. This time is kept until the habit of falling asleep appears, after which the schedule is shifted again. Continue in this manner until the sleep schedule is normalized.
- go to bed and get up at the right time, even if you don’t want to. As a result, the brain will begin to clearly distinguish between periods of sleep and wakefulness, and it will become easier to fall asleep and wake up.
Lots of Artificial Light in the Evenings
The brain alternates between sleep and wakefulness cycles with melatonin, a hormone that regulates circadian rhythms. Melatonin levels are usually low during the day because the body is dominated by hormones that keep you awake and alert. Two hours before bedtime, melatonin levels begin to increase, making you feel sleepy. In the middle of the night, the brain produces the maximum amount of melatonin, and in the morning its level gradually decreases.
Melatonin is produced in the dark, and lighting slows this process down. The blue light emitted by LED lights and the screens of electronic devices such as computers and smartphones is particularly harmful. The blue light affects the light-sensitive cells in the retina, the brain gets the wrong information about the time of day and inhibits the production of melatonin.
If sleep is disturbed by lighting, you can do this:
- Don’t use light sources with a blue glow before bedtime. Energy-saving or LED lamps with a cold shade of light are better to turn on only during the day. In the evening, it’s better to light the room with subdued light of warm shades of red, yellow or orange.
- Set electronic devices aside 1-2 hours before going to sleep. If this is impossible, it’s advisable to adjust the colors of the screen to warmer shades.
- Sleep in complete darkness. If the room is bright because of street lighting, you can replace ordinary curtains with blackout curtains – they block the light. If this is impossible, it’s advisable to sleep in a sleep mask.
Action of Tonic Substances
If the nervous system is overexcited, sleepiness doesn’t appear. This may be due to tonic substances – artificial stimulants.
Caffeine is one of the most common stimulants. It’s found in coffee, tea, cocoa, chocolate, and energy drinks. The invigorating effect of caffeine lasts up to 6 hours.
Nicotine is also a stimulant and invigorates the nervous system. It disrupts the sleep-wake cycle, making it difficult to fall asleep or sleep becomes restless and short. Nicotine is not only found in tobacco, cigars, cigarettes, and tobacco sticks but also in vape liquid.
Besides alertness, nicotine keeps smokers alert to dopamine levels, the pleasure hormone that affects melatonin production and sleep regulation. Nicotine begins to take effect a few seconds after consumption and lasts for up to 2 to 3 hours. After that, symptoms of nicotine deficiency may appear, such as irritability, headaches, and cravings for smoking. The nervous system is disturbed, making it difficult to fall asleep and sleep more shallowly.
Alcohol can help to fall asleep faster, but after 3-4 hours, its sedative effect disappears and the quality of further sleep deteriorates. This leads to daytime sleepiness the next day, which can cause a person to drink more coffee during the day and then be unable to fall asleep again in the evening.
Psychoactive substances in some medications excite the nervous system. Such components occur in antidepressants, drugs for normalizing blood pressure and anti-allergic. Side effects of medications are listed in the instructions.
If the brain is overexcited due to tonic substances, you can do as follows:
- Don’t drink drinks with caffeine later than 6 hours before bedtime. But caffeine doesn’t invigorate everyone, so it’s advisable to observe your sensations and determine whether it works on the body.
- Stop smoking.
- Don’t drink alcohol later than 4 hours before going to sleep and don’t use it as a cure for insomnia.
- Check the instructions for the side effects of the medications you have to take. If they cause insomnia, it’s advisable to discuss with your doctor a replacement medication.
The nervous system can be agitated by an overabundance of emotions. They can be negative or positive, because any emotional stress is a stress to the body.
When emotions are negative, the stress hormones cortisol and adrenaline are produced. Because of them the heart rate increases, the blood pressure rises and the attention concentrates. Such a reaction helps the body to overcome a difficult situation, for example, when you are frightened or have an argument. Then the effect of stress hormones ends and the condition returns to normal.
If a person is emotionally stressed for a long time, this can cause a constant feeling of anxiety, discomfort, as well as difficulty sleeping. It becomes difficult to relax, instead of falling asleep, the brain tries to find solutions to current problems, and anxious thoughts swirl around in the head.
When emotions are positive, endorphins, the hormones of happiness and joy, are produced. There is a sense of lightness and the ability to solve problems. Sometimes it can help to relax, but strong positive emotions can also be invigorating. For example, in anticipation of a joyful event, a person becomes impatient for it to happen.
If there is emotional tension, you can do this:
- Write out all thoughts and a to-do list for tomorrow. This can give you a calming sense of control.
- Do breathing exercises. The easiest option is to breathe in and out equally slowly. This oxygenates the blood and slows the heart rate, which makes the overstimulation go away.
- Meditate. The easiest way is to close your eyes, tense your body to relaxation, even out your breathing and try to stop thinking. If the flow of thoughts cannot be stopped, you can try to abstract them away with visualization. To do this, imagine each thought in turn and push it aside. You can use meditation apps like Calm or Meditopia.
- Sleep with a weighted blanket. It should be up to 10% of your body weight. Weighted blankets can weigh anywhere from 2.5 to 15 pounds. It’s believed that the blanket’s gentle pressure on the body creates a hugging effect that lowers cortisol levels. At the same time, the body produces serotonin and dopamine, which are happiness hormones that help you relax and fall asleep. Before buying a weighted blanket, try its effect on yourself – the heavy weight of the blanket may cause a feeling of claustrophobia.
A Sedentary Lifestyle
Physical activity is necessary for the body to function properly. During activity, processes occur that are important for rest. For example, physical activity breaks down cortisol, which keeps the brain toned. Another effect of exercise is fatigue, which accumulates in the body by the end of the day and helps you fall asleep. This mechanical effect works even if the sleep schedule isn’t established and the brain doesn’t yet distinguish between periods of sleep and wakefulness.
If you don’t sleep well because of lack of physical activity, do the following:
- Exercise for half an hour a day. Aerobic exercise, during which the heart rate increases, such as brisk walking, running or cycling, is suitable. If you can’t spare half an hour for a single workout, you can break it up into segments throughout the day. For example, walk briskly from home to the bus stop in the morning and back in the evening.
- Do relaxing exercises before going to bed. With their help, you relieve physical stress and slow down biological processes.
For falling asleep and having a restful sleep, it’s important that the body is relaxed. If there is too much tension, the nerves and blood vessels that run between muscles and bones may be compressed. This disturbs nerve function and impedes blood circulation, resulting in numbness and discomfort in a certain part of the body. Sometimes it’s difficult to sleep because the bed is uncomfortable. Then, at first, you toss and turn for a long time and then wake up at night because your body has fallen asleep.
If the bed is uncomfortable, you can do this:
- Change the pillow. It is chosen according to the habitual sleeping posture. For sleeping on your side, a pillow the height of which is equal to the width of your shoulder will do. This distance from the neck to the edge of the humerus is 10-14 cm. For sleeping on the back a pillow 8-10 cm in height is suitable, on the stomach – 6-8 cm. For neck pain it is advisable to use a pillow with shape memory. Such a pillow takes the shape of the head and neck.
- Change the mattress. It should support the body evenly during the night. The smaller the person’s weight and layer of adipose tissue, the softer the mattress should be, so as not to compress the blood vessels and nerves. The mattress is also chosen depending on the posture of sleep. For example, for sleeping on your side a soft mattress that doesn’t press on the protruding points of the body will do. With frequent back pain, choose a mattress of medium hardness or firm. If you have only a sofa to sleep on, you can buy a thin mattress-topper to lay it at night and remove it during the day.
Before buying a pillow or mattress, it’s desirable to test it to lie on them for 10-15 minutes.
Unsuitable Microclimate in the Room
The microclimate of the room – clean air of suitable humidity and temperature, no harsh smells, drafts or noise – is important for sleep. If the air is polluted, particles get on the walls of the nose and throat, penetrate into the blood and disrupt breathing. If there is insufficient humidity, nasopharyngeal mucous membranes dry out, making it harder to breathe, and you may get headaches. High air temperatures, pungent smells, drafts, and noise excite the nervous system and distract from sleep.
If the microclimate of the room isn’t suitable for sleep, you can do as follows:
- Ventilate the room 1-2 hours before sleep. If windows cannot be opened because of dust or unpleasant odor from the street, you can install a system of intake ventilation or a window valve with filters.
- Use the following equipment: air cleaner, air washer, humidifier, air conditioner, or ventilator. The air temperature for sleeping should be no higher than 19 °C, and the humidity not less than 45%. Sensors can be used to measure these, and air quality can be checked with an air analyzer.
- Get rid of draughts. To do this, you can replace the seal of windows and doors or additionally use a self-adhesive one. If the windows are plastic, you can adjust the clamping of sashes to the frame.
- Eliminate pungent odors. This can be done by damp mopping, placing containers of salt around the room, or simply removing the source of odor, such as flowers or fragrance. Sometimes the smell seems pleasant during the day, but at night it starts to irritate.
- Ensure silence. If appliances are noisy, you can turn them off at night, turn them into night mode, or replace them with silent appliances. If sleep interferes with the snoring of the partner, you can offer him to use a special mouth guard or change his lifestyle. For example, don’t drink alcohol before bedtime, sleep on your side and lose weight. If snoring is severe, you can advise your partner to see a doctor. If nothing can be done about the noise, it’s advisable to use earplugs or noise-canceling headphones.
The Bed Is Used Not Only for Sleeping
It is better to go to bed only in order to fall asleep. If the couch is used as a place to sleep, unfold it and make the bed just before going to sleep. If a person reads, watches television and eats in bed, it gradually becomes associated not with sleep, but with entertainment.
The only thing to do in bed other than sleep is sex. Studies have shown that having sex and having an orgasm are soothing and promote falling asleep.