Are You Having Difficulty Getting Quality Sleep? You May Be Experiencing Insomnia. Here’s What You Should Do To Combat It.

Shot of an attractive young woman sleeping in her bed in the morning at home

If getting good sleep is on your to-do list this year (as it should be), it’s essential to understand how insomnia can affect your rest, circadian rhythm, and general sleep routine. So, what is insomnia, exactly? Insomnia is defined as difficulty falling asleep, staying asleep, and waking earlier than desired. Insomnia can be broken up into acute insomnia, which is short-term, and chronic insomnia, which is longer-term. Having difficulty falling asleep or staying asleep or waking too early at least three nights per week for at least three months is considered chronic insomnia. According to a sleep specialist, Dr. Angela Holliday-Bell, insomnia has many causes. “The most common causes are stress and anxiety. This could be from an acute stressor such as a move, new job, death in the family, or other similar stressor. It could also be from more generalized daily stressors such as work, family, or financial constraints,” she says to ESSENCE. “When the brain is wired and active due to these stressors, it makes it difficult to transition into sleep and can lead to lighter, poorer quality sleep.” 

Also, there’s a strong genetic predisposition to insomnia, meaning if your parents have insomnia, it is more likely that you will, too. Mental health conditions, like anxiety and depression, can also lead to or co-occur with insomnia, but insomnia also dramatically increases the risk of developing these conditions. Lastly, certain medical conditions, such as chronic pain and obstructive sleep apnea, can lead to insomnia, as well as certain medications. 

Here are Holliday-Bell’s tips to combat insomnia: 

Movement: An excellent place to start is by going to sleep and waking at the same time each day. It’s also a good idea to get some light exposure 1st thing in the morning to further entrain your circadian rhythm and make it easier to wake up. Physical activity during the day can also help you get better-quality sleep.  

A steady routine: When it comes to bedtime, it’s essential to dim the lights or use low-emission lights like bedside lamps 2 hours before bedtime as this helps to promote your natural melatonin release, which is the hormone that sets the stage for sleep. Having a good, calming, and consistent bedtime routine is also a great way to facilitate the transition to sleep and help to make it easier to fall asleep at the desired time and stay asleep longer. This can include dimming the lights, taking a hot shower, listening to calming music, and reading. The key is to do soothing activities without electronics and keep the routine consistent from night to night.

Adopt restful techniques: Including relaxation techniques such as diaphragmatic breathing, guided imagery, or progressive muscle relaxation can help to induce the relaxation response,

and make it easier to fall asleep.  

Try sleep supplements: Certain natural sleep supplements, such as magnesium, can also help improve sleep quality, which has been shown to promote deeper quality sleep. Of course, you should speak with your physician before starting any new sleep supplement. 

Avoid caffeine: Avoid caffeine after about noon as it takes a long time ( about 5 to 6 hours) to be metabolized and eliminated from your system and could disrupt your sleep quality long after consuming it. I also recommend avoiding alcohol 3 to 4 hours before bedtime as it is metabolized quickly and, after metabolized, becomes a stimulant that can lead to broken, poor-quality sleep.  

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