I have never liked to go to bed. I have never seen a doctor about it, or gone to a sleep clinic, but I would self-diagnose myself as an insomniac. I have always been a night owl. Since I was a little kid I would ask my parents if I could stay up until “dark morning” on the weekends (which is what I called anything past midnight) and they would occasionally let me watch movies and eat popcorn until I eventually fell asleep on the couch. Even though my real bedtime was 9pm, I would lay awake in bed waiting for it to become “tomorrow” while my mind seemed to come alive in the wee hours of the night. It wasn’t really a problem when I was younger (besides occasionally falling asleep during class), but as I got older, getting into bed at 11pm and tossing and turning until 3 or 4am, knowing I had to be up at 7am started turning the nights into my personal hell.
Although I still have instances of insomnia, for the most part I can now get my mind to mellow out enough to drift to sleep at a reasonable hour. However, I didn’t improve my sleep habits without trying. Surprisingly, I felt that mental exercises helped better than anything else.
First off, let’s be clear to what exactly insomnia is. WebMD defines it as a sleep disorder that is characterized by difficulty falling and/or staying asleep. People with insomnia have one or more of the following symptoms- difficulty falling asleep, waking up often during the night and having trouble going back to sleep, waking up too early in the morning and feeling tired upon waking.
If that sounds like you, then it’s time for a change. It is important to keep track of how much you do (or don’t) sleep. This way it allows you to see patterns in your sleep cycle, which can be helpful if you decide to seek help from a doctor or therapist. Sleep therapy is actually a very helpful tool to getting control over your sleep habits. A therapist can teach you sleep strategies that will help create a more conducive sleeping environment.
It is also important to establish a regular bedtime routine, even if you can’t exactly fall asleep according to it for a while. Just the act of winding down your mind and getting into bed at a certain time every night will get you on the right track. This also pertains to bed use. Make sure your bed is only being used to sleep in. This means no cellphone, computer, television, music, etc. You want your bed to only be associated with the act of falling asleep. Another biggie is limiting the amount of caffeine you ingest. Try not to have any more caffeine after your morning cup, no matter how tired you feel midday. And if you really need a pick-me-up try a power nap. All you need is between 10 and 20 minutes to get a natural boost that will even enhance brain function.
Hopefully these tips will get you on track to a better night’s sleep and a more productive day.
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