The past month has been pretty rough. I have been feeling overwhelmed at work. My mom has been sick and the holiday stress has been exhausting for me. The result of all this pressure is that I’m struggling with getting a good night’s sleep. Now I’m having full-blown insomnia and am eager to find out how to treat insomnia naturally.
What is insomnia?
According to the Mayo Clinic, insomnia is a common sleep disorder that can make it hard to fall asleep, hard to stay asleep or cause you to wake up too early and not be able to get back to sleep.
Some common symptoms include:
- Difficulty falling asleep at night
- Waking up during the night
- Waking up too early
- Not feeling well-rested after a night’s sleep
- Daytime tiredness or sleepiness
- Irritability, depression, or anxiety
- Difficulty paying attention, focusing on tasks, or remembering
- Increased errors or accidents
- Ongoing worries about sleep
It’s normal if you occasionally have a hard time falling asleep or waking up too early. If you’re still able to function during the day and you’re not relying too heavily on caffeine, then you’re okay.
However, if you notice that you’re struggling in various facets of your life and have prolonged insomnia then it’s best to see your doctor.
How to treat insomnia naturally based on science
Let’s say you’re having bouts of insomnia. There are nights when you get a good night’s sleep and others when you don’t and you’re curious about how to treat insomnia naturally.
Remember that if you have secondary insomnia-sleeplessness that results from an underlying health issue like chronic pain, depression, anxiety, or asthma, then you and your doctor will focus first on addressing the underlying health condition.
Sometimes a prescription drug is used to treat the underlying health issue that is causing insomnia, so your doctor will help you find a substitute medication that may be the solution.
It may even be possible to find an alternative that promotes sleep as a side effect, rather than impeding it.
For primary insomnia-sleep problems not due to an underlying health condition, you can try one of the techniques that will show you how to treat insomnia naturally.
1. Try going to therapy
As a licensed mental health professional I routinely ask my clients about their sleep habits.
Because the quality and quantity of our sleep are highly correlated with our overall mood and physical and emotional well-being.
Curious about how to treat insomnia naturally? Then try cognitive behavioral therapy which is one of the best ways to treat insomnia as well as anxiety, depression, and numerous other mental health conditions.
CBT is a type of therapy that helps you uncover unhealthy thinking patterns that might be causing self-destructive behaviors and beliefs.
Part of the magic of CBT is that it offers constructive ways to deal with worry and other emotions, which often prevent you from dropping off into sleep.
Magic of Cognitive Behavioral Therapy
When you’re working with a CBT therapist, you will learn how to recognize when you’re ruminating on negative thoughts and feelings.
Here are some helpful CBT techniques you can use:
- Establish a regular morning wake-up time
- Go to bed only when you’re sleepy
- Get out of bed when you’re unable to fall asleep
- Avoid napping during the day
- When you wake up in the middle of the night, count backward from 1000
One little habit I’ve been practicing which has helped me at night before I go to bed is writing down all my worries and stressors on a piece of paper.
Then I put that piece of paper away in another room. If my worries reappear while I’m trying to sleep, then I remind myself that it’s on the paper and I’ll deal with it tomorrow.
2. Restrict your sleep
I know, this may sound a bit counterintuitive, but restricting your sleep might work if you’re wondering how to treat insomnia naturally.
To restrict your sleep, you will go to bed later rather than earlier. This helps compress the amount of time you spend in bed.
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As a result, it helps ensure that sleep is occurring the majority of the time that you’re in bed.
Once you’re asleep for at least 85% of the time, you can increase time in bed in 15-minute increments until daytime drowsiness disappears.
3. Focus on relaxing your body
Wondering how to treat your insomnia naturally?
Then start learning how to calm your mind and body. This can make a big difference when you’re struggling with sleeplessness.
One technique I use that has helped me immensely is progressive muscle relaxation.
When you try progressive muscle relaxation, you first tense and then relax the body’s muscles sequentially, from the toes to your head. You can do it multiple times, especially if you find yourself waking up in the middle of the night.
10 ways to set the stage to sleep well at night
Sometimes it seems that the more you need a good night’s sleep, the harder it is to get it.
However, there are many things you can do to improve your chances of nodding off with ease and staying there.
1. Set your sleep time in stone
I have to be honest with you, I love to sleep in on the weekends. However, I’ve noticed that my insomnia peaks when I do this so I’ve learned to be a creature of habit.
Try going to bed and getting up at roughly the same time each day. This may be the single best habit you can develop.
If you have an iPhone, try setting up a sleep schedule and wind down which will help you stay accountable to a sleep-wake schedule.
2. Exercise-but not too late in the day
Want to figure out how to treat your insomnia naturally? Then start exercising!
Even if you feel like a sloth, taking a 20-30 minute walk every day can help you sleep better at night.
Still not motivated? Check out 10 foolproof ways to boost your motivation and work out right now.
Just keep in mind that exercising too close to bedtime, like within 3 hours, can actually interfere with your sleep.
3. Stay cool
You’ll sleep better if you keep your bedroom a little on the cool side since your body temperature slowly drops as you sleep.
The National Sleep Foundation experts suggest a temperature between 60-67 degrees Fahrenheit.
4. Be careful with naps
A short nap during the day can feel restorative right?
Unfortunately, when you take a nap you also inhibit yourself from getting a good night’s sleep.
If you must nap, then try to keep it between 20-30 minutes.
5. De-stress before bedtime
I wish I could just jump into bed, lay my head on a pillow and fall asleep.
Since I’m so stressed, wired, and anxious, it actually takes me a long time to actually fall asleep.
Fortunately, I’ve created an incredible de-stress sleep routine that has helped me tremendously.
You can also try some simple stretches, bedtime yoga, or meditation for sleep.
These activities help relax and clear your mind of worries and stress before turning in for the night.
6. Don’t eat a heavy meal
If you find yourself a little hungry before bed, then try to eat something light like a cup of warm milk or yogurt.
On the other hand, a heavy meal right before bed won’t do you any favors with regard to treating insomnia naturally.
So avoid large meals, fatty or spicy foods, and carbonated beverages before bed.
7. Cozy up
Make sure your bed and bedroom are comfortable and inviting. Consider replacing a mattress that’s more than nine or ten years old.
Unsure where to start? Here are 20 things you should know before buying a new mattress.
8. Beware of caffeine
To be completely transparent, I have gone cold turkey with my caffeine intake ever since I’ve been struggling with anxiety, stress, and insomnia.
If you are having difficulty sleeping, then stop drinking coffee after 1:00 pm. The same common sense applies to tea, chocolate, and any other foods that perk you up.
9. Try a Jedi mind trick
When you’re having trouble falling asleep, don’t attempt to double down.
Instead, tell yourself this “I’m just going to lie here and relax, and see what happens, sleep will come when it’s ready.”
Using this trick helps take away some of your anxiety about falling asleep.
10. Stay hydrated
If you’re chronically dehydrated, then you won’t feel well overall.
It’s important to drink water throughout the day.
Need some help? Here are 8 easy ways to boost your water drinking game.
However, avoid drinking large amounts of water close to bedtime.
Want to know some good news?
Ever since I’ve made some of these changes I’ve noticed a significant improvement in the quality of my life.
My sleep has improved significantly and I’m able to cope with my daily stress in a healthier way.
I wish I could say that I’m insomnia-free but I’m not. There are definitely times when I have a hard time falling and staying asleep.
But then I remind myself that it’s ok.
Everyone is going to have a bad night now and then. It’s just part of being human.
But now you and I both have more tools to cope with insomnia and get through it naturally.
Do you struggle with insomnia or occasional bouts of not being able to fall asleep? What do you do to treat your insomnia naturally? What suggestions do you have that would help me and other folks? Please share your stories and comments below.