Do you have trouble falling or staying asleep? If so, you may be one of the many people who struggle with insomnia. It sucks, right? You feel tired all day because you can’t sleep at night, which leads to all sorts of other secondary problems, including lethargy, a compromised immune system, memory problems, and more. Here are 5 common causes of insomnia, as well as some things you can do to help yourself drift off at night.
- Stress. I would argue this is one of the most common causes of not sleeping well at night. Stress increases blood pressure and adrenaline, which makes it hard to relax when it comes time to sleep. The best thing to do in this situation is to figure out what is causing the stress in the first place, address that as well as you can. In some instances, however, you might not be able to eliminate your stressor (for instance, if things are crazy at work or if you are having problems with relatives). In that case, there are still some ways you can manage stress. Try doing some yoga or stress relieving stretches (here are some ideas), or listen to calming music for awhile before falling asleep.
- Bad habits. You might not think it, but your habits during the day contribute to your quality of sleep at night. If you are “Type A” and always worrying about everything you have to do, it makes it difficult for your brain to slow down at night. If you have a habit of staying up on your phone or computer until late at night, when you try to fall asleep at a reasonable time your brain won’t like the idea because it is used to having stimulus at that time of night. Take an inventory of your usual activities around bedtime. Is there a habit that could be making you restless when you try to sleep?
- Bedtime snacking. There are some foods that can give you a rush of energy, which is not helpful when you are trying to sleep. Try to avoid eating carbs, sugar, caffeine, and other energy producing foods after supper. In fact, it’s a good idea to limit all snacking after dinner because just about any food will give you energy.
- Lack of activity. This might seem obvious, but if your body isn’t doing something physically challenging every day, you might simply not be tired enough to sleep. Even if you had a crazy day at the office, or a stressful day at home, there is something about physical activity that triggers the need to sleep. Just because your brain is in need of rest doesn’t mean your body feels the same way. Try doing some sort of exercise for at least 20 minutes a day for a couple of weeks, and see if it makes a difference.
- Overthinking. This one is a little tougher to get a grip on, but it can be done. Pay attention to what you are thinking about as you try to sleep. Are you focused on what has to be done the next day? Or on something that is worrying you? Thinking about things that make you anxious will not help you sleep. Even if you aren’t worried about anything, overthinking about anything (listen up introverts) keeps your brain awake and busy. A simple remedy for this is to practice imagining something calming as you drift off. It might be difficult at first, but like with anything, it gets easier once you make it a habit. Picture yourself lying on a beach, or curled up by a fireplace, or somewhere that is relaxing for you. Put on some white noise or calming music to distract and focus your mind. Over time this can make a huge difference.
What do you think might be causing your difficulties with sleep? Is there a remedy that helps you that I didn’t mention in this post? I’d love to hear from you! Comment below with your thoughts or questions!