7 ways to deal with insomnia
Doing sports, stopping eating at least three hours before going to sleep, meditating, reducing the time spent in front of the screen... Despite all these methods, the famous sleep therapist shares seven effective methods for those who still have insomnia.
Camilla Stoddart, a renowned sleep therapist, offers several suggestions for those struggling with insomnia in her article for the Guardian. Stoddart, first of all, draws attention to the importance of finding the factors that cause insomnia:
“As a sleep coach, I regularly meet people who have tried everything to get more sleep. They read every article on the subject and followed every tip posted on the internet. Many of them do all the right things like rest before bed, reduce screen time, meditate, but still have the same problem. The problem is that when it comes to sleep, as with almost every other area of life, that effort is not rewarded. The more you try, the less successful you will be.
This is because sleep is a passive process, like breathing or digesting. Uncontrollable. If we can stop trying, sleep will naturally come. Instead, I get my clients to focus their attention on the main causes of insomnia: lack of sleep urge and overstimulation. Tackling these two factors can create the right conditions to allow sleep to happen on its own."
While Stoddart states that trying too hard will not have a positive effect on this process, he lists seven suggestions that can work as long as it is not too hard:
1- “STOP SLEEPING TODAY”
Stoddart states that the first step is to stop trying and making it harder by setting goals: “As cruel as it may sound, there's nothing you can do between now and bedtime to ensure you'll sleep tonight. That said, there's a lot you can start doing to sleep well in the next month. It takes time to reduce hyperarousal and there is no quick fix, so instead of just worrying about tonight, make getting good sleep a long-term goal and expect to see progress in a few weeks instead of tomorrow.”
2- REGULATE YOUR BREATH
According to James Nestor, author of Breath: The New Science of a Lost Art, modern humans tend to overbreath, which can raise blood pressure and keep a person in a constant state of nervous arousal. Slowing breathing from 12–20 breaths per minute to four or five breaths per minute engages the parasympathetic nervous system, which resists this stimulation. To sleep better, consciously slow your breathing for at least 10 minutes a day. For example; inhale for about five seconds and exhale for about seven seconds.
However, doing this exercise just before going to bed while trying to solve the insomnia problem as soon as possible will not work. In fact, tackling overstimulation should be thought of as a 24-hour project, not just something that lasts until bedtime. For example, doing a breathing exercise every morning will not only help you feel calmer during the day, but will also reduce the amount of overstimulation you have to deal with at night.
3- STAY AWARE FOR 16 HOURS
Adults need to be awake for at least 16 hours to get enough sleep urges to get eight hours of sleep a night. Stoddart also advises those who have insomnia to get up at roughly the same time every day, including weekends, and to set the earliest bedtime to about 16 hours later. She also doesn't recommend taking naps during the day: "Like having a snack just before you sit down to eat, taking a nap reduces your appetite for sleep."
4- REVIEW YOUR ROUTINES
Contrary to many suggestions, Stoddart suggests that sleep routines may not work, and instead recommends that people with this problem do what they love:
“If you have an elaborate slowdown routine that takes up your entire evening and still doesn't provide a good night's sleep, maybe it's time to try something different. For example, spend your time doing things you really enjoy doing, like watching TV in bed or scrolling through Instagram. It's not the blue light from the screen that keeps you awake, it's the worry about whether you're going to sleep. Doing something you enjoy is the best way to overcome this anxiety.”
5- ACCEPT SLEEPLESSNESS
Stoddart states that one of the things that perpetuates insomnia is actually the fear of being awake: “The fear of being awake also makes the process more difficult by activating stress hormones. So you need to befriend being alert to retrain your brain not to react in this way. As hard as it may sound, try to accept it as part of your night and do something that really gives you pleasure instead of wasting time worrying more.
Stay in bed if you're comfortable, but if you're not, get up and relax elsewhere until you're sleepy enough to return. Sleep is like a dove that lands on your hand and stays there unless you pay attention; If anyone tries to catch it, it will fly away quickly.”
6- SMILE MORE
Reminding that a quick way to counteract stress hormones is to smile, Stoddart makes a suggestion that may seem interesting to many:
“Try to think of something funny as you turn off the light at night, or imagine a loved one and smile to yourself in the dark. The truth doesn't have to be a sincere smile; Even a fake smile is enough to send a message to the brain that reduces stress and lowers your heart rate.”
7- STOP FACING WITH SLEEPLESSNESS
Colin Espie, professor of sleep medicine at the University of Oxford, defines insomnia as "preoccupied with sleep," and if you have trouble sleeping, it's easy to become obsessed with it. But reading research and analysis doesn't actually lead to better sleep. Pay less attention to sleep.