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Gotta Catch Some Zzzs!

Tips to Beat Insomnia and Get a Restful Night of Sleep

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Updated October 03, 2011

Do you feel as if you're getting as much sleep as anybody else, but you're still waking up tired? Do you struggle with insomnia or can't stay asleep once you do fall asleep? You're not alone. Many people in our modern society struggle with insomnia and sleep deprivation. We are continuously stressed and running short on time. To further complicate matters, we tend to depend upon caffeine, cigarettes and sugar as substitutes for what only a good night's sleep can provide.

Sleep patterns and mood are intimately related. Sleep deprivation makes us irritable and depressed. Many of us become so desperate to get a good night's sleep that we resort to medications. But is that really necessary? Perhaps the best medicine of all is to really start listening to your body instead of working against its needs.

How to Establish Good Sleep Patterns:

  • Determine the number of hours you need to feel rested. Don't worry if you don't fit into the "norm" of eight hours. A good guideline to start with is how many hours you sleep when you "sleep in" on the weekends.
  • Calculate a bedtime that will allow you to get this many hours and wake up at a reasonable hour (for example, when you need to get ready for work).
  • The first day, wake yourself at the time you would like to be your usual waking time -- whether you are rested or not. You may need help from a friend, relative or alarm clock the first few days.
  • Throughout the day, resist the urge for a nap.
  • Limit your intake of caffeine. Do not consume any caffeine after mid-afternoon. Its effects can take hours to wear off. You will eventually find that you are getting enough rest and don't need an extra boost in the morning to wake up.
  • A couple of hours before bedtime, begin to allow yourself to wind down. A regular evening ritual, like taking a bath, can help you relax and will signal your body that it's time to rest.
  • If you feel tense, try chamomile tea, soft music, scented candles, a hot bath or a massage. You can also try Kava , Valerian, or melatonin, but be sure to consult with your doctor before trying these, or any, supplements. (Melatonin is a naturally occurring hormone associated with the sleep cycle.)
  • Avoid over-the-counter and prescription sleep medications and alcohol. Although you may fall asleep, your rest will not be gentle and natural. You will feel groggy in the morning.
  • If you are troubled by racing thoughts that just won't stop, get up and do something to keep yourself occupied until the thoughts subside. They'll pass much more quickly this way.
  • Get up at your predetermined time, no matter how tired you may feel.
  • Repeat the above steps until you are able to fall asleep on time and wake up rested. This will generally take 2 to 3 days.

Tips:

  1. Don't despair if you have to be sleepy for a couple of days to get back on track. For most people, these steps will work if followed faithfully.
  2. Keep a regular schedule, even on weekends. If you do, every day will feel as glorious as "sleeping in" on the weekends.
  3. If keeping a regular sleep schedule is not working for you, consult an expert for further assistance. Certain sleep disorders, such as sleep apnea, have been associated with depression.
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