You know the drill, you’re dead tired but your mind won’t stop racing and sleep eludes you. Or you’ve fallen asleep quite peacefully but you’re up at 3am and wide awake. While chronic insomnia is a condition that’s best treated by a medical professional, we’ve all had intermittent bouts of it. Here are some tips for nipping it in the bud without taking OTC medications or supplements.
It might help to figure out the issue at the root of your sleeplessness. Are you having trouble getting comfortable? Perhaps it’s time to replace your mattress and pillow or maybe your room needs to be cooler. Studies show a cooler environment is more conducive to deep sleep than warmer ones. If you’re falling asleep fine but finding yourself awakened by noises, try a white noise app or earplugs. If it’s an overactive brain or stress nagging at you, try journaling, reading or meditating before settling in.
Sometimes the cause is less controllable, such as hormonal changes that can occur during pregnancy or menopause. In this circumstance, it may take a combination of anti-insomnia tricks to stack the deck against those pesky hormones. Try the suggestions above plus the bedtime strategies outlined in this month’s Small Steps post.
You can also try a few other tricks experts say help some people battle insomnia. Foods that contain tryptophan seem to help when consumed close to bedtime. Warm milk is the old stand-by. But if you’re trying to cut down on liquids before turning in to avoid trips to the bathroom in the middle of the night, solid foods that contain tryptophan include: cottage cheese, chicken, turkey, tuna, cashews and soybeans. Scientists have found that foods high in simple carbohydrates, particularly if they’re consumed warm, also help people relax before bed. Examples would be toast or herbal tea with honey added.
If you’ve tried all the options and are still having trouble on a regular basis, it’s probably best to consult your primary care physician. The solution may be as simple as a gentle, non-habit forming supplement to break the insomnia cycle.
Here’s to deep sleep and sweet dreams!