Sleep is much more than a way to recharge yourself—it is an essential component of a healthy and happy life. Sleep ensures that your body and mind work properly. Unfortunately, people are now sleeping less than they did in the past, and sleep quality has decreased.
Insomnia is common in the United States: About 60 million Americans have this disorder. Sleep deprivation affects both your physical and mental health, and people with mental health issues are more likely to have sleep disorders.
Traditionally, healthcare professionals saw insomnia as a symptom of psychiatric disorders, but studies show that insomnia may raise the risk of developing mental health issues because it impairs thinking and emotional regulation.
Insomnia is not just a factor that contributes to psychiatric disorders—it can also affect physical health. Getting less than 6 hours of sleep, in the long term, makes you more likely to die of heart disease or develop a stroke, and sleep deprivation weakens your immune system.
If you suffer from insomnia, you can try these mind-body approaches:
Design your sleep environment.
The environment where you sleep is crucial for good night sleep. First of all, make sure that the temperature in your bedroom is set between 60 and 70 degrees, and eliminate all the noise that can disrupt your sleep. Finally, your bedroom should be free from light. Eye shades, ear plugs, and humidifiers can help to make your sleep environment more comfortable. If you wake up with an aching back, you should consider changing your mattress. Take some time to test different types of mattresses and choose the one that best suits your needs. Avoid watching TV or using your laptop in bed—reserve the bed for sleeping and sex, so it gets easier for your brain to wind down at night.
Create a bedtime ritual.
In the evening, your body should naturally shift towards a sleep mode. One hour or so before going to bed, switch off all the electronic devices. You don’t have to switch off your phone, but maybe commit not to look at it until the next morning—leave it out of the bedroom, if possible. Stay away from bright lights and activities that can cause excitement, stress or anxiety. Once you found your preferred calming activity, repeat it every night to train your brain to wind down before bedtime. Examples of recommended activities include reading a book by a soft light, taking a warm bath, listening to soft music, and meditating.
Follow a sleep schedule.
Going to bed and waking up at the same time every day helps to regulate the body’s internal clock and optimize the quality of your sleep. Test different times to find the one that best suits your needs. Keep in mind that if you get a good night sleep and you sleep enough you should be able to wake up before the alarm clock. When the weekend comes, stick to your weekly schedule to avoid jetlag-like symptoms during the week. Napping may help to make up for lost sleep, but it cannot replace a good night sleep—in some cases, it can make things worse. If you want to take a nap in the afternoon, limit the time to about 15 minutes.
Do physical activity.
Regular exercise helps you sleep better and feel less tired during the day. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommends that adults should do at least 150 minutes a week of moderate-intensity physical activity. Even walking 10 minutes a day can make a difference. Whether you prefer moderate or vigorous physical activity, it is essential that you stick to a routine. Regular exercise offers excellent benefits including speeding up your metabolism and maintaining a healthy weight. Exercise also stimulates the hormone cortisol, which may interfere with sleep patterns, so try to finish moderate to vigorous workouts at least three hours before bedtime. Relaxing exercises such as some yoga postures or gentle stretching may help to promote sleep.
Andre Obradovic helps people who are you struggling with energy, motivation, sleep and have trouble losing weight.
Expose yourself to light during the day.
Expose yourself to bright light during the day to follow the circadian rhythm, which is defined as the physical, mental, and behavioral changes that respond to light and darkness and are based on solar time. When you get up, roll up the blinds, and let the natural light come in—try to spend some time outside during the day. Taking a quick walk after lunch is an excellent way to promote digestion and get some light. Keep this routine going even when the weather is nasty—getting a coffee or taking your dog out are great excuses for a walk—even in the rain. If you have a hard time spending time outside in winter, consider light box therapy.
Improve your eating habits.
Your eating habits also affect how well you sleep. As you prepare your body for bedtime, avoid stimulants such as caffeine and nicotine. Caffeine can cause sleep issues up to ten hours after intake, and smoking can also disrupt your sleep. What you eat in the evening has an impact on the quality of your night sleep, so try to avoid heavy, rich, and spicy foods that are harder to digest within two hours of bed. Cut back on sugary foods and refined carbs, which can also disrupt sleep. Alcohol may help you relax, but it interferes with sleep patterns during the night. Limit the consumption of liquids in the evening to avoid frequent bathroom trips throughout the night.
Alina Z is specialized in lifestyle management and nutrition. Her approach helps clients to increase energy levels, lose weight, sleep better, and improve mood and productivity.
Relaxation techniques, breathing exercises, and meditation can improve sleep quality, increase sleep time, and make it easier to fall asleep. If you take medications to sleep and are interested in holistic approaches, we invite you to try meditation. Meditation does not have side effects, and studies showed that it reduces the use of sleeping pills. Meditation also helps to reduce blood pressure, pain, anxiety, and depression. Meditation is an easy practice that is accessible to people of different ages. You can start by finding a comfortable place to sit or lie down. Then, close your eyes and breathe slowly and deeply, focusing your attention on the breath. If your mind starts to wander, simply bring your attention back. Repeat this practice for a couple of minutes at a time and increase the amount of time as you get more comfortable.
Daron Larson is specialized in sleep disorders, mindfulness, and meditation. His custom programs help people decrease distraction, anxiety, and insomnia.
Seek professional help.
If you are new to meditation and are interested in trying different holistic approaches to treat insomnia, we invite you to seek professional help. At awarenow, we have an incredible team of health and wellness professionals specialized in a variety of holistic approaches. They can create custom guided meditation and breathing exercises to promote sleep and combine them with different relaxation techniques, such as cognitive behavioral therapy for insomnia (CBT-I). If you want to talk to a professional, consider keeping a sleep diary, so your coach can better evaluate the issues that you are experiencing.
Orlando Zuniga helps with insomnia by drawing from different perspectives - body, mind, spirit, environment, and culture.
Dan Miller offers programs that incorporate total human wellness in the essential aspects of daily life: stress management, sleep, hydration, nutrition, and exercise.
We also highly recommend our partner, a great wearable device Biostrap that helps you and your coach track and improve your sleep.