Insomnia is an incredibly common disorder that has an enormous impact on our physical and mental health. A community health study on sleeping habits in the Australian population found that some 13-33% of adults regularly struggle with getting to sleep or staying asleep. Insomnia can be triggered by anything from excess stress at work to over the counter medications and it can cause a whole range of short and long term health effects. In this article, we run through three key strategies you can try if you find yourself suffering from insomnia.
Examine your sleep hygiene
If you’re struggling with your sleep patterns, then your sleep hygiene may be off balance. Your sleep hygiene refers to all those behaviours relating to the promotion of good sleep such as diet, exercise, and sleep environment. Changing your sleep environment can involve reserving your bed for sex and sleep exclusively, only getting into bed if you’re tired, and getting out of bed and doing a gentle activity if you find yourself lying awake for more than 20 minutes. Reducing your consumption and exposure to visual and dietary stimulants such as bright lights, screens (tv, phones and tablets), alcohol, caffeine and nicotine an hour before bed can also help to improve your sleep hygiene.
Practice relaxation techniques
Anxiety and stress are common causes of insomnia, so learning how to manage these during your waking hours can help improve your quality of sleep. During the day, stress management techniques like writing your worries down can help prevent your mind from wandering in that direction after hours. Before going to bed, practicing deep breathing and progressive muscle relaxation can help calm your system and prepare your mind to rest.
Engage in mindfulness meditation
Thinking about the poor quality of sleep you’ve been having, or imagining how bad you’ll feel in the morning after another bad night will only exacerbate your anxiety and make it harder to relax. Instead of letting your mind run away from you, try to remain present in the moment by focusing on the different sensations throughout your body. Sensations to focus on might be the feeling of your breath moving softly in and out of your nostrils, the subtle night noises outside your window, or the feeling of your pillow against your cheek. There are also some great mindfulness apps out there if you want something guided, check out: Smiling mind, headspace, and insight timer
For most people, bouts of insomnia will pass in a matter of days, but if you find yourself suffering from sleepless nights for more than a month, you may have chronic insomnia and need a more comprehensive management plan. Non-pharmacological treatment approaches such as mindfulness based counselling and hypnosis can be an effective long term solution for people experiencing insomnia. Positive Pathways offers online counselling and hypnotherapy and can help you achieve a better night’s sleep. To learn more, please don’t hesitate to get in touch by booking in a free 15-minute chat or emailing me at [email protected].