Lack of sleep is something that plagues people everywhere. Almost everyone you talk to will complain about feeling tired. Not getting a good night’s sleep, or struggling to get to sleep, can be a real pain. There is a medical condition for struggling with sleep, it’s called insomnia. People who suffer from insomnia spend their nights staring at the ceiling, unable to sleep. No matter how many sheep they count, they can’t get to sleep. Until eventually their eyes shut and then within a couple of hours their alarm goes up. So they have to start the day with very little rest, which can lead to problems.
Image Credit: planetchopstick
So what causes insomnia?
Insomnia is caused by a number of different things. If you’re suffering from insomnia then looking at this list can help you. You should be able to identify what is causing your lack of sleep, and see how to help with it.
Suffering from anxiety is a common cause of insomnia. Feeling anxious means your mind is uneasy, and you cannot rest. You’re too busy being worried or focussed on one thing. Students usually suffer from anxiety driven insomnia because of their constant workload. They’re worried about exams and assignments, so stay up at night panicking. To deal with anxiety, you should try to relax and think positively. Positive thinking is the best way to get rid of anxiety and sleep better.
Stress is linked to anxiety but is slightly different. New mothers are likely to suffer from stress because of the change in lifestyle. They’re constantly caring for a newborn baby, and all the work is getting to them. To combat stress, you need to relax. Try relaxation techniques before bed, like meditation or yoga. You could even join a local yoga class. Going to yoga classes is a great way to deal with stress and relax.
Regularly drinking lots of alcohol can lead to insomnia. Too much alcohol consumption is directly linked to illnesses like insomnia. Chemicals in alcohol effect your body’s sleep cycle and lead irregular sleeping patterns. If you’re drinking too much alcohol you should check yourself into rehab or a ‘sober home’. Sober homes, like A Fresh Start to Sober Living, aim to help alcoholics beat their addiction. Getting free from alcohol abuse will help you sleep better at night.
Depression is a serious mental illness and a huge cause of insomnia. People often think being depressed just means you’re really sad. It doesn’t. Being depressed means you’re suffering mentally, it’s a completely different feeling. Depression can keep many people up at night, and needs to be treated. Too many people die as a result of depression because they don’t get help. If you’re depressed then ask someone for help, talk to someone you trust. There are institutions that help people deal with depression too. Checking in to one of these can help you recover from this illness.
To deal with insomnia, you have to know what’s causing it. It can be a serious problem, or just something minor that passes. Find out what’s stopping you from sleeping, and then look at dealing with it. Only then can you start having healthy nights of sleep again.
Simple lifestyle changes can make a world of difference to your quality of sleep.
Follow these 10 tips for a more restful night.
Keep regular sleep hours
Going to bed and getting up at roughly the same time every day will programme your body to sleep better. Choose a time when you’re likely to feel tired and sleepy.
Create a restful sleeping environment
Your bedroom should be a peaceful place for rest and sleep. Temperature, lighting and noise should be controlled so that your bedroom environment helps you to fall (and stay) asleep.
If you have a pet that sleeps in the room with you, consider moving it somewhere else if it often disturbs you in the night.
Make sure your bed is comfortable
It’s difficult to get restful sleep on a mattress that’s too soft or too hard, or a bed that’s too small or old.
Moderate exercise on a regular basis, such as swimming or walking, can help relieve some of the tension built up over the day. But make sure you do not do vigorous exercise, such as running or the gym, too close to bedtime, as it may keep you awake.
Cut down on caffeine
Cut down on caffeine in tea, coffee, energy drinks or colas, especially in the evening. Caffeine interferes with the process of falling asleep, and also prevents deep sleep. Instead, have a warm, milky drink or herbal tea.
Do not over-indulge
Too much food or alcohol, especially late at night, can interrupt your sleep patterns. Alcohol may help you to fall asleep initially, but it will disrupt your sleep later on in the night.
Do not smoke
Nicotine is a stimulant. People who smoke take longer to fall asleep, wake up more frequently, and often have more disrupted sleep.
Try to relax before going to bed
Have a warm bath, listen to quiet music or do some gentle yoga to relax your mind and body. Your GP may be able to recommend a helpful relaxation CD.
Write away your worries
If you tend to lie in bed thinking about everything you have to do tomorrow, set aside time before bedtime to make plans for the next day. The aim is to avoid doing these things when you’re in bed, trying to sleep.
If you cannot sleep, get up
If you cannot sleep, do not lie there worrying about it. Get up and do something you find relaxing until you feel sleepy again, then go back to bed.
Make an appointment to see your GP if lack of sleep is persistent and it’s affecting your daily life.
The NHS Apps Library has sleep apps that can help you sleep better.
Read more about insomnia.
Audio: sleep problems
In this audio guide, a doctor explains what you can do to give yourself the best chance of a good night’s sleep.
Page last reviewed: 4 July 2019
Next review due: 4 July 2022
Medically Reviewed by:
According to various studies, 10% to 30% of adults experience insomnia symptoms. This sleep disorder is characterized by persistent difficulty falling or staying asleep on a nightly basis. The signs and symptoms of insomnia vary from person to person, and largely depend on whether the insomnia is a chronic or short-term condition.
Chronic Insomnia Symptoms
To receive a chronic insomnia diagnosis, patients must experience symptoms at least three times per week for at least three months. A diagnosis for chronic insomnia hinges on two other factors: symptoms despite adequate opportunities for sleep and resulting daytime impairments.
Difficulty falling asleep is known as sleep onset insomnia, while difficulty staying asleep is known as sleep maintenance insomnia. In some cases, people with insomnia encounter issues with both sleep onset and sleep maintenance. Sleep onset and sleep maintenance problems have been documented across all age groups. Periods of sleep latency (the amount of time it takes to fall asleep) or wakefulness during the night may constitute chronic insomnia if they exceed 20 minutes for children and young adults, or 30 minutes for adults.
People with chronic insomnia may also frequently wake up earlier than they wish. Many patients – most commonly children and older adults who need caregiver supervision – also resist the idea of following a healthy sleep schedule. Additionally, people with insomnia often experience one or more of the following impairments during the day after a bout with insomnia-affected sleep:
- Fatigue and malaise
- Difficulty concentrating, paying attention, or remembering things
- Impairments to their social, professional, and academic performance
- Irritability and mood disturbances
- Excessive daytime sleepiness
- Hyperactivity, aggression, and other behavioral issues
- Increased risk for errors and accidents
Short-Term Insomnia Symptoms
The symptoms and diagnostic criteria for short-term insomnia are quite similar to those for chronic insomnia, but there is one key difference: patients have experienced sleep onset or maintenance problems for fewer than three nights per week and/or less than three months.
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While short-term insomnia can be an isolated condition, there is often an underlying variable that precipitates the insomnia symptoms. Short-term insomnia may be comorbid with a mental health disorder, medical condition, or substance abuse. Daytime stressors related to work or family life can also lead to short-term symptoms. That said, some people experience short-term insomnia without any precipitating factors.
Many people with short-term insomnia will see their symptoms gradually taper off, especially if their insomnia has occurred alongside a distressing event or temporary condition. If left unaddressed, however, short-term insomnia can develop into a chronic condition that requires more intervention.
Complications of Insomnia
Chronic insomnia can take a major toll on a person’s overall health and wellbeing. It can increase your risk for certain medical problems and also exacerbate pre-existing conditions, such as:
- Asthma and other respiratory and breathing problems
- Cardiovascular problems such as arrhythmia, high blood pressure, heart disease, and heart failure
- Anxiety, depression, and suicidal thoughts
- Substance abuse
- Chronic pain
- Pregnancy complications, including increased pain during labor, premature birth, and a low birth weight for the baby
- Inflammations and other problems with the immune system that make it harder for the body to stave off germs and infections
- Metabolic issues that affect hormonal releases regulating appetite and digestion, which in turn can lead to obesity and other health problems
When to See a Doctor about Insomnia
Generally speaking, you should consult with your doctor or another credentialed physician if ongoing lack of sleep is negatively impacting your mood, performance, and other aspects of your daily life. Even if you haven’t experienced symptoms three times per week or for at least three months, you may qualify for a short-term insomnia diagnosis.
Sleep diaries can serve as helpful resources for your doctor. For a couple of weeks leading up to your appointment, take notes about time asleep and awake, sleep latency patterns, wakefulness episodes, and other aspects of your nightly sleep cycle. You should also document how you feel during the day, how often you exercise, and how much caffeine or alcohol you consume.
The first step of an insomnia diagnosis usually consists of a medical exam and questionnaire. These components help the doctor determine whether your insomnia is an isolated condition, or if you’re experiencing symptoms due to other underlying factors. They can also use these tests to rule out other sleep disorders such as sleep apnea.
Once these initial steps have been completed, your doctor may prescribe one or more of the following three tests:
- Sleep study: Some sleep studies monitor sleep latency, wakefulness, and other data over the course of one full night. You can complete these studies at a sleep center or at home, depending on the doctor’s recommendation. Other studies include multiple sleep latency tests, conducted during a series of naps, and daytime maintenance of wakefulness tests that measure how you feel and how well you perform during the day.
- Actigraphy: This type of monitoring test evaluates how well you sleep on a nightly basis. You’ll need to wear a small body sensor for this study, which can last anywhere from three to 14 days.
- Blood tests: As an added precaution to ensure your insomnia cannot be attributed to an underlying condition, a doctor may order these tests to check for thyroid issues and other problems that contribute to sleep loss.
Treatment for insomnia varies by specific diagnosis. For chronic insomnia, you may undergo six to eight weeks of cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) to help you fall asleep faster and sleep without waking up during the night. This therapy may be conducted online, over the phone, or in-person with a doctor, nurse, or therapist. Benzodiazepines and other sleep medications may also be prescribed. Alternatively, your doctor may recommend over-the-counter medications such as melatonin supplements or antihistamines with sleep aids.
For some people with short-term or chronic insomnia, improving sleep hygiene can reduce symptoms by a significant extent. Steps toward good sleep hygiene include maintaining a healthy bedroom that is conducive to sleep, going to bed at the same time each night (including weekends), avoiding daytime naps, and abstaining from caffeine, alcohol, and nicotine before bedtime.
June 24, 2018, 11:54 pm
Insomnia due to stress is one of the main health problems faced by many people in their day to day life. It is a type of sleep disturbance that has a direct impact on both the wear and tear of the body and the risk of low immune system that result in other illnesses.
In this article we will see both advice on how to combat stress insomnia and the typical symptoms of this disorder.
Table of Contents
Insomnia due to stress: how does it appear?
At the time of going to sleep and falling asleep, our perception of the possible dangers or problems that lie in wait for us is very important. If there is something that makes us think we are in a vulnerable situation, the nervous system will tend to stay alert, as this makes it more likely that we will seek a solution immediately.
Unfortunately, in Western societies the problems usually do not have to do with exploring the environment in search of nearby resources or safe places to turn to, but they have to do with more abstract purposes and with many intermediate steps. For example, pass an exam next week, or reconcile with a person who lives far away.
So, at the time of going to bed is not always practical to feel that concern, and the only thing you can do is try to sleep . It is in these cases that the less malleable face of this mechanism of adaptation to the environment appears: insomnia due to stress.
The main symptoms of insomnia due to stress are the appearance of intrusive thoughts and mental images that arise in our consciousness again and again, the difficulties to find a posture in which we feel comfortable, the impossibility of disengaging our focus from a topic concrete , and in extreme cases, tremors due to causes other than temperature.
In other cases, insomnia due to stress not only manifests when trying to sleep, but makes us wake up in the middle of the night without feeling especially sleepy and unwilling to stay in bed.
Of course, these signs should not be related to an illness or the fact of having gone to sleep at odd hours, since these are factors that have a clear impact on how we sleep in the short term.
What to do to get back to sleep?
These are several tips you can follow to start having quality sleep and, in general, to feel better .
1. Give yourself a margin
It is important to assess one’s health and not make it appear that lack of sleep is something circumstantial or a simple source of discomfort. Failing to face the problem makes it easier for it to get worse and get bigger day after day.
So, momentarily breaks with those responsibilities that are not clearly urgent and devotes a single day to re-enter the dynamics of sleeping well. This means losing several things on the first day, but in return we create the right situations to give our best during the coming weeks. Once the stress insomnia does not exist, we will be much more efficient dedicating ourselves to our tasks and we will lose less time.
2. Avoid using screens at nightfall
During the hours before going to sleep, try to avoid exposing yourself to strong lights and screens. In this way, your nervous system will not remain activated as it would happen in the hours of more natural light .
3. Try stress supplement
There are several supplements that can improve mood relax our body and mind read more about these supplements for stress.
4. Do sport during the morning
Sport is a good way to discharge some of the stress, and in that sense it is good to use it as a resource. However, avoid at all costs practice it a few hours before dinner, or after. Otherwise, your body will still be very active when you try to fall asleep.
5. Do not take stimulants
No matter what happens, avoid taking any substance that significantly activates your nervous system, such as coffee or energy drinks.
6. Practice relaxation exercises
By resorting to these simple exercises from time to time, you will help your stress levels do not rise too much. In them, you will work especially with your focus and breathing patterns. The latter will serve to oxygenate you better with less effort , so that you will be giving reasons for your nervous system not to stay alert.
7. Make sure your bed is comfortable
It seems obvious, but many times we worsen sleep problems by pretending to fall asleep in a bed that is not prepared properly, or in a place that is not even designed to sleep on it.
So, make sure that the place is big enough to stretch well in it, that the sheets are adapted to the temperature it makes, and that there are no objects that limit your mobility , keeping in mind that while you sleep you will change your posture many times.
Natural Guides on How Your Body Works, and How to Work Your Body
I Can’t Sleep – Insomnia
The episode 1 player is above. Here, you can listen to or download episode 2.
In this episode we talk about most common causes of insomnia and how to identify which of them may be contributing to insomnia in your case. There may be one, or more than one contributing cause of insomnia in your case. As such it may take work to correct each of them before you relieve yourself of insomnia.
A strategy that works to correct insomnia for person may not help the next person at all because those two people may have different causes of their symptoms. When we address the appropriate causes of symptoms for each individual then we see fantastically effective results. By assessing individual body chemistry we can find out what’s off in each case and go straight after fixing what’s actually wrong with each person instead of trying to treat all cases of similar symptoms with cookie cutter solutions. This is especially true in insomnia where there are so many possible contributory causes.
In the second episode we talk more about specifics of what to do to help correct each of the primary potential causes of insomnia. To learn how to look at your chemistry to see which causes may be present in your case listen to part one of this series or take the Digestion Course at www.kickitinthenuts.com/courses
In this episode you’ll learn:
- There are many different potential causes of insomnia.
- Low blood pressure(as in the Electrolyte Deficiency Imbalance), low blood sugar, overly powerful insulin, the Sympathetic Imbalance and the Catabolic Imbalance are common body chemistry imbalances that can create symptoms of insomnia.
- Low blood pressure (BP under 112/73) can indicate presence of the Electrolyte Deficiency Imbalance.
- High Urine pH (urine pH over 6.5) may give indication of overly powerful insulin and blood sugar instability.
- A high pulse differential (greater than 45) and slow breath rate (slower than 14 breaths per minute) are indication of a possible Sympathetic / Fight or Flight Imbalance.
- There are different self tests that you can perform on yourself to determine which body chemistry imbalances may be contributing to your symptoms.
- You can learn how to perform these self tests using our Digestive Issues Course at the Kick it in the Nuts website.
- There are different diet and supplement strategies that can help you correct different body chemistry imbalances.
- There are a few primary body chemistry imbalances that can independently or concurrently cause insomnia.
- Those primary body chemistry imbalances that tend to be responsible for insomnia were detailed in part one of our two part series on insomnia.
- In this episode we identify the following imbalances and commonly contributing causes of insomnia: The Electrolyte Deficient Imbalance, Catabolic Imbalance, the Anabolic Imbalance, The Slow Oxidizer Imbalance, The Fast Oxidizer Imbalance, The Sympathetic Imbalance and The Alkaline Imbalance.
- We suggested some tips that may help correct each of these imbalances.
- To help correct the Electrolyte Deficient Imbalance focus on correcting digestion, adding salt to your food or trace mineral drops to you water. If you’re Electrolyte Deficient and Catabolic also try adding glutamine to a glass of milk before bed.
- To help correct the Catabolic Imbalance try having eggs with runny yolks for dinner. Also be sure to include lots of collagen or gelatin rich foods in your diet, such as Natural Selection Nutritional’s Complete Protein and bone broth soups. If you are Catabolic with high blood pressure, consider supplementing with vitamin E. If you are Catabolic with low blood pressure, consider supplementing with L glutamine before bed.
- To help correct the Anabolic Imbalance try drinking carbonated water with a pinch of salt before bed.
- To help correct the Fast Oxidizer Imbalance work on correcting any existing digestive issues, eating higher purine proteins (e.g. red meats, organ meats), avoid high glycemic carbs and consider supplementing with choline to help slow your breath rate to an appropriate rate.
- To help correct the Sympathetic Imbalance try meditating, drinking carbonated water and try to avoid low blood sugar episodes by eating frequently and including fruit and fructose in your diet regularly.
- To help correct the Alkaline Imbalance avoid alkaline water, polyunsaturated fatty acids and estrogen inducing foods like soy, whey and fish. Try drinking carbonated water and following the lessons the other dietary tips mentioned in Lesson 6 of the Personal Nutrition Customization Course at www.naturalselectionnutritionals.com
Check out this video of Tony talking about the causes of insomnia
Temporary insomnia is inadequate or poor-quality sleep lasting anywhere from one night to a few weeks. Temporary insomnia can be a single episode or recurring episodes of insomnia separated by periods of normal sleep. There are no formal criteria for diagnosing insomnia, and what constitutes sufficient sleep for one person may be inadequate for another. Temporary insomnia may involve difficult falling asleep, difficulty maintaining sleep (waking up frequently), awakening too early, experiencing unrestful sleep, or a combination of the above.
The following suggestions are intended to help overcome temporary insomnia and maximize the chance of getting a healthy night’s sleep:
- Make your bedroom an inviting place. Keep the room free of clutter and distractions. Be sure you have the right bed and mattress for your needs. The wrong mattress can lead to musculoskeletal problems and sleep disturbances.
- Use the bed only for sleeping and sex. Avoid use of the bed for watching TV, eating, working, or any other activities. If you do wish to use the bed for a bit of nighttime reading, read only pleasure books in bed.
- Therapists often use “reconditioning” as part of a treatment plan for insomnia. With this method, people are “reconditioned” to associate the bed with sleep. If you find yourself unable to sleep at all, get out of bed and move to another room, so that you only associate the bed with sleep and not with wakefulness.
- Establish a regular sleep-wake cycle. Your body will learn to set its internal clock to your schedule and will eventually respond to internal cues to become sleepy at a given time and to awaken at a given time. A good way to begin this is by getting up at the same time every morning, even on weekends.
- Don’t nap. No matter how tempting it may be, an afternoon nap can make falling asleep at night even harder. “Extra” sleep on weekends can also throw off your regular sleep schedule and worsen midweek insomnia.
- Limit your consumption of caffeine in the afternoon and evening. Remember that eating chocolates and drinking cocoa and colas also are sources of caffeine.
- Watch your alcohol intake. Don’t drink any alcoholic beverages in the few hours prior to going to bed. Excessive amounts of alcohol at any time in the day can also disrupt sleep patterns and lead to unsatisfying sleep. Cigarette smoking can also worsen insomnia.
- Fit in some exercise during the day, but don’t exercise strenuously right before bedtime.
- Eat light meals in the evening. Eating heavily in the evening or eating just prior to going to bed can disrupt your sleep.
- Establish a “winding down” ritual in the evenings just prior to bedtime. Try to free your mind of distracting or troublesome thoughts and engage in a relaxing, enjoyable activity like reading, listening to music, or watching a pleasant film.
Insomnia is one of the most common sleep difficulties reported in the United States today, as it’s currently estimated that up to 30% of Americans have been diagnosed with some form of the disorder, 1 which is characterized by a problem falling and/orstaying asleep.
Some of the tell-tale signs of insomnia include difficulty falling asleep, waking up during the night and having trouble going back to sleep, waking up too early in the morning and feeling tired upon waking.
There are 2 Types of Insomnia
There are two particular known types of the disorder: primary and secondary insomnia. Primary insomnia is a condition that affects people who do not otherwise suffer from any other medical problems. Secondary insomnia is a condition, by contrast, that affects people who do suffer from other ailments, the complications from which cause a person to lose sleep at night. People who’ve been diagnosed with asthma, heart problems, depression, anxiety, or arthritis pain frequently suffer from the secondary category.
An important variable related to insomnia is the amount of time that one can suffer from it. Insomnia is either considered “acute” [short-term] or “chronic” [long-term]. Acute insomnia can last anywhere from just one night up to a few weeks, whereas the chronic variety can, in certain cases, last for several months or even years, occurring some three times a week or more 2 .
- Stress: Whether it’s created by your job, schoolwork, or love life, stress can cause anxiety which often keeps you awake at night.
- Health Conditions: Diagnoses such as depression, asthma, heart problems, restless leg syndrome, cancer, and arthritis pain can all contribute to trouble sleeping.
- Disturbing Environment: Attempting to rest in a room that’s too noisy, too hot or cold, or that has too much light can affect your sleep.
- Medications: Those drugs that are prescribed for colds, allergies, high blood pressure, or in the treatment of depression can contribute to sleep loss.
- Caffeine, Nicotine, and Alcohol: Drinks containing caffeine are well-known stimulants, and consuming coffee, for example, in the late afternoon can keep you from falling asleep at night. The nicotine found in tobacco products is another stimulant which can cause insomnia; and though the sedative effects of alcohol may help you fall asleep, drinking it will prevent deeper stages of sleep and often cause you to awaken in the middle of the night 3 .
- Eating Habits: Either ingesting a big meal just before going to bed or eating something that causes your stomach to become unsettled can keep you up at night. Eating too much can cause you to feel uncomfortable in when you lay down, and eating something spicy can cause you to lie awake suffering from indigestion and heartburn.
- Owning an Uncomfortable Mattress: A worn-out or otherwise uncomfortable mattress can easily keep you awake at night. Those manufactured of spring coils, water beds, and air mattresses can all create both pressure on and stiffness throughout the body. The best remedy is a simple switch to a memory foam mattress, which will increase blood flow and thus create improved circulation… not to mention its unique ability to alleviate pressure by conforming to your unique shape.
What to do if you Have Insomnia?
If you believe you may have insomnia and would like to find out for certain, the most practical course of action is to seek the opinion of a professional health care provider. An accurate diagnosis of insomnia can typically be detected by a standard physical examination, accompanied by your documented history of medical and sleep problems. In certain instances, the medical examiner may ask to interview your sleep partner, or request that you keep a journal in order to document your sleep habits. Advanced cases may also be referred to professionals who will perform more detailed tests at a sleep center.
Although insomnia is a serious sleep disorder that affects a tremendous number of people every night, you may “rest assured” that it can be both treated and cured– quite often by simply monitoring bedtime habits and making the necessary adjustments. If modest changes to your nightly ritual, etc. do not have the desired effect, however, don’t be afraid to make an appointment with your doctor, who can discuss appropriate alternatives [ranging from a temporary sleep medication prescription to referral to a behavioral therapist] for lasting relief.
You turned out the light hours ago, but you’re still tossing and turning in bed. Every time you’re about to doze off, the corrections you got in class today pop into your mind—and just like that, you’re wide awake again.
If you have trouble falling or staying asleep, and you often wake up feeling less than refreshed, you may have insomnia. And the reasons are often connected to your mental and emotional well-being, which means there are few quick fixes. But there are some things you can do to get the rest you need to dance your best.
There are two main types of insomnia. Acute insomnia is when trouble sleeping occurs over a short period of time. (Think about when you’re just too excited about an upcoming competition or too nervous about a test.) Acute insomnia usually resolves itself without treatment or medication, because the event it’s tied to passes. Chronic insomnia occurs over months and is usually linked to major life changes, like a new schedule. It could also be the result of certain medications, a sleep disorder, or another medical condition.
Insomnia is quite common. In fact, Dr. Vijay Jotwani—Houston Methodist primary care sports medicine physician and a consulting physician to the Houston Ballet—thinks it might even be more common among dancers, because of the major role that performance and competition play in our lives. With late-night rehearsals, travel, and ever-changing physical and mental demands, dance training is full of factors that can affect healthy sleep. And being a young person adds even more: Scrolling through your feed before trying to sleep, doing homework in bed, and eating late at night can all contribute to insomnia.
How to Cope
Start cultivating good “sleep hygiene” by making a few changes during your waking hours. Maintain a consistent sleep schedule (“Even on weekends, whenever possible,” says Dr. Kate Cronan, a pediatrician and emergency medicine physician at Nemours/Alfred I. duPont Hospital for Children in Wilmington, DE), and keep your bedroom dark at night. “Put down electronic devices at least an hour before going to bed—the blue light screens emit can make it hard to get to sleep,” Cronan says. Jotwani encourages dancers to use the bedroom primarily for sleep and to finish homework in another room.
But what’s a dancer to do, when many of the contributing factors of insomnia are part of a performer’s schedule—a schedule dictated by artistic directors and school? “Dancers should work with teachers on setting a schedule that allows for good rest and recovery time,” Jotwani says.
For most people, medication isn’t the answer. “A misconception about insomnia is that it needs to be treated with medicine,” says Jotwani. “Often the non-medicine components to a treatment plan are more important than medication.”
If improving your sleep hygiene doesn’t help, it’s probably time to talk to a doctor about the issues you’re facing. The bottom line, Jotwani says, is that poor sleep will affect your performance in the studio and raise your risk of injury.
Bedtime Best Practices
Rosie DeAngelo, a yoga instructor and freelance dancer in NYC, has a three-part plan to help you manage stress before bedtime.
“Shoulders and hips are two big areas of physical and emotional tension,” DeAngelo says. “Pigeon pose and double pigeon pose are great hip-openers.” For the shoulders, DeAngelo recommends releasing the pectoral muscles in supported fish pose.
Single Pigeon pose (Thinkstock)
Single Pigeon: Lay your right shin down parallel to the front of your mat, finding a position where the knee feels no pressure. Lengthen your left leg behind you and carefully lower your torso down over your shin.
Double Pigeon pose (Thinkstock)
Double Pigeon: Bend your right knee approximately 90 degrees and stack your left shin directly on top of your right. Walk your torso forward over your legs to deepen the stretch. If this hurts the knees, sit on a few pillows or keep the bottom leg extended forward.
Supported Fish pose (Thinkstock)
Supported Fish: Position yoga blocks behind you on the mat under your shoulder blades and under your head one level higher. Once you lie back on them, your pelvis should be completely on the floor.
“Breathing practices can help with sleep because they slow your heart rate and ground your energy,” DeAngelo says. Try alternate-nostril breathing: Sit comfortably and tall. Place your left hand open in your lap, palm up, and place your index finger and middle finger together between your eyebrows. Exhale completely, close off your left nostril with your pinkie and ring finger, and inhale through your right nostril. Always switch nostrils before you exhale. Switch fingers and close off your right nostril with your thumb. Exhale out the left, pause, then inhale through the left. Repeat for at least 5 minutes. Once complete, release your right hand and keep your eyes closed, breathing normally for 5–10 more rounds of breath.
Lavender essential oil (Thinkstock)
“Lavender or cedarwood oil is great for relaxation,” DeAngelo says. Dilute one or both with coconut or jojoba oil and place the mixture on the bottoms of your feet (where there are lots of pores, so you’ll absorb the oils efficiently).
A version of this story appeared in the February 2018 issue of Dance Spirit with the title “When Counting Sheep Doesn’t Cut It.”
Are you enduring restless, sleepless nights? Well read on because research is uncovering mindfulness to be one of the most powerful sleep aids on the planet!
In an article for Psychology Today (1) , mindfulness-based psychotherapist Peter Strong, Ph.D., reports that for many people who suffe r from ac ute insomnia – the cause is simply stress .
This stress takes the form of a racing mind that keeps a person in a state of hyper-arousal. Think of it as a switch inside your head. When you lay down at night, your mind should be able to turn off all the internal noise so that it can relax, reduce brain waves and give itself time to regenerate.
However, if overload causes that switch to get stuck in the “on” position, your mind remains in an alert state – too alert to fall asleep.
Mindfulness turns out to be a great cure for this kind of insomnia. In an article on mindfulness research published by Greg Flaxman and Lisa Flook, Ph.D., of the Mindful Awareness Research Center at UCLA (2) , they state that mindfulness improves regulation of stress and increases a sense of calm that results in a better ability to sleep.
A controlled clinical trial conducted by the University of Minnesota Academic Health Center (2) revealed some interesting results. People suffering from chronic insomnia who underwent a mindfulness-based stress reduction program had results equivalent to another group who used pharmaceutical sleep aids.
All participants fell asleep more quickly, slept longer and better. A portion of those taking pharmaceuticals throughout the study reported side effects, but the group trained in mindfulness did not.
“This study provides initial evidence of the efficacy of mindfulness training as a treatment for chronic insomnia,” writes Cynthia Gross, Ph.D., College of Pharmacy and School of Nursing.
“Given the absence of side effects and the positive potential benefits of mindfulness that extend beyond sleep, we encourage people with chronic insomnia, particularly those unable or unwilling to use sleep medications, to consider mindfulness training (3) ”
With a little practice, those suffering from insomnia due to stress overload will likely find marked improvem ent not only in their insomnia but also in their overall ability handle stress in daily life. Below is a method you can use to practice mindfulness meditation.
As with any new skill, in depth training will likely reap greater results, so you may want to consider a mindfulness training, course or retreat .
In saying that, this simple method, practiced regularly will surely show marked improvement in insomnia and overall wellbeing.
How To Practice Mindfulness For Insomnia
1. Find a fairly quiet peaceful place where you can sit undisturbed for 10 to 20 minutes. If possible dim the lights, sit down and take some time to be still. Allow yourself to settle, mentally and physically.
2. Take your time to make yourself as comfortable as possible in an upright seated position. You can use any cushions, stools or other props to ensure total comfort. It’s important to keep the spine erect.
If you’re in a chair or couch, aim not to slouch but to keep the spine straight. You may want to sit slightly forward so that your back is not in contact with the chair back. When your comfortable close your eyes.
3. If your feeling agitated, tense or stressed – take a moment to tune into your body and notice any parts that may be tense (eg. shoulders, face, jaw, chest). Take 3 deep breaths and with each exhalation have a sense of letting the tension melt out of those body parts.
4. Next, take the whole focus of your attenti on to th e tip of the nostrils. Note the sensations of breath entering and leaving the body. You may note a slightly cool sensation as you inhale and a warmer sensati on upon ex halation.
Allow the sensation to completely absorb your attention. Stay with this for 5 minutes or more.
5. Next, follow the flow of the breath as it moves through the nostrils, down the throat and into the lungs (inhalation). Then back out the lungs through the throat and out the nostrils (exhalation). Allow the mind to follow the passage of the breath as it enters and leaves your body.
6. Know that thoughts may drift through your mind. That’s perfectly normal. There is no need to resist them or try to push them away. No need to be concerned with the nature of any particular thought.
Take the attitude of an impartial observer to any thoughts that may arise. Aim to remain focused on your breathing. Thoughts may, at times, distract you from your practice. If this happens simply, gently, bring your focus back to your breath.
7. Continue your meditation for as long as you wish
8. When you’re ready to complete the practice Take 3 deep abdominal breaths, then feel the weight of your body against the chair, recall the room your sitting in and the time of day.
Begin to move and stretch your body and open the eyes. Feel free to sit peacefully and readjust to your surroundings before going about your day.
If your suffering from ins omnia, resear ch shows that you will likely benefit greatly from a regular mindfulness practice like this one. A little bit each day (even if its only 10 minutes) is better than one longer session a week.
A good habit is to practice upon rising in the morning and/or just before retiring in the evening to start and end your day with calm and clarity. Another option is to practice in your lunch break at work.
You’ll find that with regular practice, you’ll be able to rest easy.
Please let me know how you go! If you have any questions or comments please jot them below in the comments section. I’m happy to help out : )