I struggled with insomnia for a good eight years…8 YEARS. I still can’t believe it when I say it out loud. I started working on my health over the past 2 years and I finally whooped that insomnia in the tailbone early this year. The majority of my health focus was on dietary changes primarily, then I decided to shift that focus to sleep. Once I really committed to fixing my sleep, the pieces fell together and getting to better health after you get proper sleep makes it so much easier. The 8 years I had insomnia, I read every article and tried many things, most of which didn’t work. I wanted to put together a list of things that did finally work for me, with the hope that these tips will help someone get a better nights rest.
I will preface this article with the fact that I had pretty bad adrenal fatigue by the end of the 8 years. I started working on fixing the adrenal fatigue and fixing my eating habits soon followed. I’m sure that it was a combination of these things that helped me to get to where I am today. The human body is very complex with interrelated systems, so you cannot spot treat one area in hopes of fixing something. If you have chronic health issues, I would recommend starting with making some changes to your diet and improving the quality of your sleep to get you moving in the right direction (under the care of your physician).
On to the sleep tips:
- Right when you wake up, go outside and let the sun hit your eyes for a few minutes (even if it’s overcast-the sun is still there). This will tell your brain that it’s morning and to stop making melatonin, your sleep hormone. Do a few light stretches while you’re out there if you start to get bored. I take that time to water my herb garden and think about three things that I’m grateful for.
- Get blackout curtains for your bedroom. A small percentage of the population is very sensitive to light and any kind of light can affect their ability to get good quality sleep. If you are one of these people, getting blackout curtains for your bedroom will be essential. Even if you’re not one of those people, sleeping in a completely dark room will help. Sleeping in complete darkness tells your brain to go to sleep by producing melatonin, your sleep hormone.
- Keep all electronics outside of your bedroom. Yup, you read that right, ALL electronics. If you must have an alarm in there, keep it at least 5 feet away from you and try to have the LED display pointed away from your line of sight. The reason for this is three-fold: first, you don’t want any lights from any of your electronics to bother you while you’re sleeping. Second, if your phone, laptop, tablet, other device is in your bedroom, you’ll want to use them before you sleep. Your bedroom should be your sanctuary, a place where only two things happen: sex and sleep. Everything else, including looking at your phone, should be done outside. Third, that is just too much electromagnetic field radiation in your room. I keep my alarm on my phone outside of my bedroom for all of the above reasons. Plus, keeping my alarm outside makes me physically get up to turn off my alarm, and that will make it a little bit harder for me to crawl back into bed.
- Be in bed by 10pm. Whether you have chronic health issues or are super healthy, going to bed by 10pm will allow our body to repair and regenerate tissues. Making this a priority combined with step 5 were the two game-changers for me. Helpful tip: If you’re used to going to bed much later than 10pm, try going to bed incrementally earlier by 15 minutes. If you’re used to going to bed at midnight and you try to go to bed at 10pm one night, it may be hard for you to fall asleep. In the above example, you would try going to bed at 11:45pm for a day or two, then 11:30pm, then 11:15pm, etc. until you got to 10:00pm.
- Stay away from all electronic devices (laptops, phones and tablets) for 1-2 hours before bed. This was probably the toughest one for me to implement, but I’ve noticed since the day I implemented this, the time it took me to fall asleep was much shorter. Previously, I thought I was just plagued with not being able to fall asleep for 1-2 hours every night–turns out I was just too addicted to my phone and browsing the internet. What should I do if I can’t look at my computer or my phone for 1-2 hours? Read a book…a fiction book. Sit outside on your patio. Talk to someone–just make sure it’s a relaxing conversation and not a heated discussion. Whatever it is, stay away from your electronics and relax! Fix this and life and sleep will get so much better. Helpful tip: Addicted to your phone or laptop? It’s ok, I’ve been there. This may sound like too big of a change for you, so start ignoring all electronic devices for a 1/2 hour before bed. Then start trying to wean yourself from electronics by adding 15 minute increments over several days. I aim for 1 hour of no electronics before bed and find that this helps immensely.
This list could go on and on, but in an effort to make things easy to digest, I will separately post an “intermediate” and “advanced” level of how to hack insomnia. From binaural beats to blue-blocking glasses, the things you can do to fix your sleep are many and I promise to cover as many as I can. You will want to layer in these changes and see what works best for you–otherwise it’s too much and not sustainable.
Beating insomnia does take some level of effort, but once you start getting more sleep, it’s amazing how much richer life gets. Your brain gets sharper, your energy levels go up and your body’s ability to heal increases. It’s plain awesome.