This is Part 3 and my final post in my blog post series ‘How I Overcame Insomnia’. In Part 1 I shared my background and circumstances that contributed to me developing insomnia. In Part 2 I shared the dietary changes I made that helped me overcome the terrible cycle of insomnia. In this post, I will share the lifestyles changes I have made as well as the tools and resources that have helped me tremendously in overcoming insomnia.
My Lifestyle Changes
There are three kinds of insomnia: 1. When you have a hard time falling asleep and 2. you have a hard time STAYING asleep, and 3. You wake up too early and can’t fall back to sleep. I struggled with the former, which is also called Delayed Onset Insomnia. It would take me FOREVER to fall asleep. Although I believe the following lifestyle changes can be helpful for all three types of insomnia, they are especially tailored to help those who struggle winding down and falling asleep.
1. Dim the lights.
It might sound crazy but dimming the lights past 8 pm will help your body to prepare for a good night’s sleep. (1) Light inhibits your body’s ability to produce Melatonin, the hormone produced by your pineal gland which regulates your wake and sleep cycles. (2) By lowering your light exposure, your body is able to wind down and help you fall asleep faster once you climb into bed.
2. Perform Nightly Routine Earlier.
For as long as I can remember I have performed my nightly routine RIGHT BEFORE I fall into bed. What I mean by ‘nightly routine’ is whatever you do to get ready for bed: remove make-up, wash face, brush your teeth, put on PJs etc. etc. In the case of helping your body get ready to fall asleep, the bright lights over the bathroom sink and the splashing water from washing your face has a way of making me feel more awake and renewed.
As I mentioned in the previous point, you want to help your body wind down and get prepped to release Melatonin. If you expose your eyes to bright artificial lights, it messes with your circadian rhythm (your internal clock) and signals that it’s time to be awake and alert. (1)
Not the best idea.
3. After 8 pm, Stay Off Cell Phone and Computer.
Although I definitely struggle following this guideline, I can testify that it DEFINITELY makes a big difference when I stay off technology late at night. Sometime, however, I do have to work on my computer at night. When this is the case, I put on my Blue Light-Blocking Glasses which help tremendously in protecting my eyes. (More on this in the section below).
Regarding your phone, I try to stay off social media above all else. The aimless scrolling causes my mind to race and most definitely does not help me wind down.
4. Avoid Engaging in Intense Conversations Before Bed.
As silly as this point might seem, this was actually the biggest culprit in keeping me from falling sleep. I was completely unaware of this terrible habit and never thought twice about it until a few weeks ago. It was actually my husband that discovered it one night while he was listening to me get all fired up about something on my mind.
And he is so right. I have a track record for bringing up the most intense topics to discuss right before bed. I actually used to do this with my mom in my night-owl days in high school. So that’s when it ALL started. Being aware of this bad habit has helped me in more ways than I can tell. It’s a simple little behavioral change that has made all the difference.
5. No Stimulants Past 1 pm.
I already covered this tip in Part 2 but I wanted to mention it again. This is not only a dietary change but also a lifestyle change. Some people are blessed to be able to enjoy a cup of coffee or Earl Grey tea right before retreating to their bed. However, if you struggle with getting a good night’s rest, it would be wise of you to avoid the following stimulants AFTER 1 PM:
- Regular (Caffeinated) Coffee
- Regular (Caffeinated) Tea (Black tea, Green tea etc.)
- Soda (Which you shouldn’t be drinking anyway….tsk, tsk)
- Chocolate (I know….a BIG bummer)
- Large Amounts of Sugar
- Generous Amounts of Alcohol (Proven to actually inhibit you from entering deep sleep, even though it makes you tired)
- MSM (Methylsulfonylmethane)Powder (SOOOO incredibly good for you. But as I mentioned in my previous post, you shouldn’t take it before bed as it gets you all energized. We now take it in the morning with our breakfast.)
Products That Helped
Lastly I want to share the products that have helped in overcoming insomnia.
1. Sleep Masks
These are our FAVORITE Sleep Masks. After trying out many different kinds, these actually work. They completely black out all light AND manage to stay on your face for most of the night. HIGHLY recommend!
2. ‘Say Goodnight to Insomnia’ Book
This book is THE BEST. I learned SO much about sleep, circadian rhythms, how sleep works, tips, tricks, and so much more. Dr. Gregg D. Jacobs’s created, developed and tested this drug free approach to curing insomnia at the Harvard Medical School. His program has received rave reviews and is proven to be more effective than sleeping pills. I couldn’t agree more.
3. Blue Light-Blocking glasses
Here are the glasses I mentioned earlier to wear at night when working on the computer. Here are favorite model:
This is the BEST! Just drop one to two drops onto the palms of your hands, rub together and breath it in! I also recommend putting a drop behind your ears so you can enjoy the relaxing scent all night.
Thank you so much for reading! I hope you found some tips to be helpful.
1.Kalsbeek, A., et al. “GABA release from suprachiasmatic nucleus terminals is necessary for the light-induced inhibition of nocturnal melatonin release in the rat.” Neuroscience 91.2 (1999): 453-461.