1 Some insomniacs use valerian, passiflora, wild lettuce, chamomile, lavender, hops, and passion flower. Valerian has undergone the most studies and appears to be modestly effective.
2 Reduce the number of cups of coffee, tea or cola drinks you drink.
3 Only drink alcohol in moderation. It may bring on sleepiness, but will tend to cause early waking.
4 Avoid heavy or rich meals, especially in the few hours before bedtime.
5 Pomegranates are believed to be able to help insomniacs sleep.
6 Warm milk contains high levels of tryptophan, a natural sedative. Adding honey to warm milk helps get the tryptophan in your system faster.
7 Take the supplement 5HTP.
8 Regular daytime exercise can help you to feel more relaxed and tired at bedtime. However, you should not do exercise near to bed time if you have insomnia. Ideally, you aim for at least 30 minutes of moderate exercise on five or more days a week.
9 Mentally dealing with the day’s unfinished business is helpful. Writing down any worries to deal with the next day may help to clear them from the mind and prevent them re-surfacing in the early hours.
10 Practice the breathing-for-relaxation techniques in an earlier post.
11 Stop smoking – nighttime breathing problems are more likely in smokers.
12 Using aromatherapy such as jasmine oil or lavender oil and other relaxing essential oils may help induce a state of restfulness.
Preparing the bedroom
13 The bedroom should be a quiet, relaxing place to sleep:
– It should not be too hot, cold, or noisy.
– Earplugs and eye shades may be useful if you are sleeping with a snoring or wakeful partner.
– Make sure the bedroom is dark with good curtains to stop early morning sunlight.
– Don’t use the bedroom for activities such as work, eating or television.
– Consider changing your bed if it is old, or not comfortable.
– Hide your alarm clock under your bed. Many people will ‘clock watch,’ and this does not help you to get off to sleep.
Preparing to sleep
14 Work out how many hours sleep you can manage with before daytime sleepiness becomes a problem.
15 Go to bed at the same time each night and wake at the same time.
16 Try to relax and ‘wind down’ with a routine before going to bed. For example:
- A stroll followed by a bath, some reading, and a warm drink (without caffeine).
- Do not do anything that is mentally demanding within 90 minutes of going to bed – such as studying.
- Go to bed when sleepy-tired.
- Some people find playing soft music is helpful at bedtime. Try a player with a time switch that turns the music off after about 30 minutes.
17 If you cannot get off to sleep after 20-30 minutes – then get up. Go into another room, and do something such as reading or watching TV. Go back to bed when sleepy.
Screen use and sleep
18 The use of computers (including smart phones) before bed has been associated with a reduction in the hours of sleep experienced by frequent users, along with a decreased quality of sleep. An important factor in sleep is melatonin, a hormone produced in the pineal gland. During the daytime, blood melatonin levels are barely detectable, but at night, melatonin levels are high. This phenomenon is due to light’s effect on melatonin production. If there is sufficient light, then melatonin production is halted. It is possible for artificial light to be bright enough to have this effect. An adult study has discovered the use of light-emitting screens before sleep can Increase alertness at the time when you should be winding down which in turn delays the circadian rhythm which reduces melatonin. When we stare at these blue-lit screens at night time, our bodies don’t release the needed amount of melatonin but release cortisol – the stress hormone – which keeps us awake.