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What To Do When You’re Unable to Sleep

by Richard A Reagan

It’s estimated that around 60 million Americans suffer from insomnia every year. It’s often brought about by high levels of stress, and can be detrimental to both your physical and mental health. So what can you do to prevent it? Here are a few tips.

  1. Identify the Source. Assuming your insomnia is caused by stress, is there some specific thing that you’re stressing out about? Maybe there’s a work project with a looming deadline that you don’t know if you’ll be able to meet. Maybe you’re having money troubles. Try to determine the source of your anxiety and take steps toward dealing with it before you go to bed at night. For some, it can also help to keep a journal of your problems and anxieties. Writing them down will help you to clear your mind, so those thoughts aren’t impeding your sleep process all night.
  2. Moderate Your Caffeine Intake. A cup of coffee in the morning can be a good way to get your engine started and make you ready to take on the day. But if you’re still having caffeine in the afternoon, it can mess up your sleep schedule. Even if you drink it several hours before you go to bed, you may still find yourself wide awake once night falls. The easiest way to deal with this is to eliminate caffeine from your diet entirely—or at the very least, enjoy it in moderation. This includes coffee, tea, soda, and any other sources of the stimulant. Limit yourself to a cup at most, and don’t have anything after lunch.
  3. Be Aware of Your Surroundings When You Go to Bed. If you’re having trouble sleeping, it’s important to give yourself the best chance every night. What are some external stimuli that keep you awake? Is it light? Get a sleep mask. Is it noise? Get noise-cancelling headphones—or just earplugs. Adjust the thermostat to make sure it’s not too hot or too cold. Look at your mattress and pillow to see if they’re comfortable enough, or if you need new ones. There are any number of things that never bothered you before, but combined with stress and other factors, are suddenly exacerbating your insomnia. Be aware of these factors and do what you can to fix them.
  4. Don’t Lie in Bed Too Long. You’ve gone to bed, and you still can’t sleep. Or maybe you wake up in the middle of the night and can’t drift back off. So you lie there, staring blankly at your alarm clock, counting off the minutes until it goes off. This is the worst thing you can do in this situation. The longer you lie there with nothing to do, the more likely you are to fixate on your worries and stress, and the more difficult it will be to sleep. If you’ve been lying awake for 20 minutes and still can’t get back to sleep, get up and do something. Make it something mundane, rather than stimulating. Do your laundry, or tidy up a shelf that’s been getting cluttered. Avoid things like watching TV or reading a book, as that will only stimulate you further. Do something that will make it easier for your brain to turn itself off. Then go back to bed and see if that helps.

These are just a few tricks you can try to ward off occasional insomnia. If you suffer from it chronically, however, or if it persists even after you’ve tried these things, then talk to your doctor immediately. They can explore treatments and find one that works for you. The longer you wait to go, though, the more difficult it will be to treat you, and the more health problems you’ll suffer in the interim. Sleep is just as essential to your body as food or water. Don’t you owe it to yourself to make sure you’re getting enough of it?

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