There are few things in life more frustrating than an inability to sleep. Sleep is essential for energy, health, productivity, and emotional balance. And many people don’t get enough sleep. However, remember “Insomnia is not an illness, it is a symptom.” Certain factors like age, a disturbed circadian rhythm or ‘biological clock’, and hormonal changes, are the risk factors of insomnia while, stress, frequent urination in diabetes, some medical conditions, pain, uncomfortable sleeping environment or chemicals like caffeine and nicotine can accelerate insomnia. Many prescription drugs, including some antidepressants, heart and blood pressure medications, can also interfere with sleep. This post throws light on how to cure insomnia without medication.
It should be noted that working against one’s natural habit of sleep can cause insomnia. If you try to sleep at a time when your body expects you to be awake, you are contradicting your circadian rhythm, so, you will likely lie awake or if you sleep during a different time of day, you will find difficulty in falling asleep at the usual hours.
The biological clock, which gradually becomes established during the first months of life, controls all biological patterns in our body including the sleep-wakefulness cycle. It makes people’s desire for sleep strongest between midnight and dawn and to a lesser extent in mid-afternoon.
If you had insomnia, for example, due to an examination or interview that has come and gone, insomnia also goes away with it. Similarly, insomnia due to jet lag or a place change is transient. This is termed as “Acute Insomnia”. However, in cases where insomnia persists, and unintentional behavioral or perceptive changes along with it makes things worse, it is called “Chronic Insomnia”.
If the causing problem/situation is not resolved, it is very likely that it will continue to disrupt your sleep. Therefore, it is advised to either adapt yourself to the situation or try to resolve it. This requires a careful self-assessment of the factors that are important to your situation.
Unfortunately, some triggers of sleeplessness are not easily remedied and there is not magic ‘Cure-all’ for improving sleep. It may require a passage of time to grieve a death. A mood disorder may require medication or psychotherapy. A new baby may take months to sleep through the night. A new place may take a few weeks to get adapted to. Try hard to focus on what you have control over, and avoid making the situation worse by worrying about things not under your control.
Many people with insomnia unintentionally make their insomnia more sustained. Several bad nights of sleep may lead one to change their pattern of sleep. You may think, “I am not sleeping well, so I will go to bed earlier and try to get enough sleep.” By extending your time in bed, you are introducing a new problem: you are now going to bed earlier than your body wants you to. If your body says you will get sleepy at 11 PM, but you crawl into bed at 9 PM, guess what happens? You will have trouble falling asleep.
“Chronic Insomnia” is deeply frustrating. Feelings of distress, hopelessness, inadequacy, and failure can drive people to self-destruction. People who sleep well do not wake in the morning and assess how well they slept. Insomniacs often do. Sleep becomes a focus in insomnia.
Late night parties and association and staying up late for work might give you a ‘high’ for some time, making you feel that you have adapted to the rhythm of modern life but if you’re experiencing sleepless nights, your nervous system is probably rebelling. We cannot sleep if our brain is alert and in a state of arousal, where the sympathetic nervous system is triggered. Negative thoughts in the insomnia brain spread like wildfire.
If the brain worries in bed on a nightly basis, it continues to happen and becomes an unintentional and unwanted mental habit. But like the silver lining of a gray cloud, the good news is that every habit can be broken if you have the right strategy.
Train your Brain
During sleep, the brain flushes out toxins that build up during the waking hours.
A few small changes in lifestyle and habits can help your brain get the right amount of sleep it needs.
- Regulate light exposure: The hormone melatonin, produced by the brain, regulates our sleep-wake cycle. As melatonin is controlled by light exposure, increase your light exposure during the day or spend more time in natural daylight. Open curtains and blinds, go outside to take breaks. While to boost melatonin production at night, control the use of artificial light after dark. Limit the use of computers, smartphones, and TV watching.
- Maintain a regular sleep schedule: Try to go bed and wake up every day around the same time.
- Limit food and drink intake before bedtime
- Create a daily relaxing routine for bedtime: Light music, low lights, comfortable bed, a noise-free bedroom
- Convert your worries from being destructive or disruptive to “Constructive Worries” by writing down each problem that you face during the day or the ones that you are going to face the next day. Then think about how you can fix or tackle each one and also jot them down. Make it a habit of doing this before bedtime to relieve your brain and at the same time remind yourself that now at this time there is nothing more to do, you will deal with them again tomorrow. Believe me “IT WORKS”
- Restrict the use of sleeping pills: Use them only when extremely necessary
- Try to resolve your insomnia with yoga
The benefits of yoga in relieving stress, improving physical strength and flexibility, improving breathing and enhancing mental focus are widely known. What may be less well-known are the positive effects that yoga can have on sleep. There are plenty of scientific pieces of evidence in recent years proving yoga’s effectiveness in improving sleep. A few are presented here:
- Researchers at Harvard Medical School investigated how a daily yoga practice affected people with insomnia and found broad improvements in their sleep efficiency, total sleep time, sleep onset latency ( the amount of time it takes to fall asleep), and wake time
- A study on 410 cancer survivors found that yoga was linked to improved sleep quality, reduced feeling of fatigue, reduced use of sleep medication and an improved quality of life
- A research with post-menopausal women with insomnia found that daily practice of yoga reduced their symptoms and severity of insomnia as well
- Women with osteoarthritis and sleep problems significantly improved after following regular evening yoga practice sessions
So, consult your yoga instructor for some gentle yoga that can help your body and mind to rest before bedtime. Meditation before bedtime is a great helper. You could also go through this post describing Yoga Nidra for deep sleep.
Finally, I would like to share one of my acquaintance’s personal experience with you. Some years ago, he had passed through the depressed, nervous, insomniac state; angry and bitter with life but he for sure, did pull himself out of the situation with the help of NO MEDICATION and NO PROFESSIONAL COUNSELLING except self-counselling, practicing yoga with meditation and strict sleep-regimen. I am sure you will also be able to do so soon enough and catch back your lost zzz’s. So roll over onto your side and enjoy a good night’s rest.
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