Longevity Living | Insomnia Help: Sweet Dreams are Made of Zzzzzs

Good quality sleep is a must. It’s as important as food, oxygen and water. According to the National Sleep Foundation, more than a third of our lives are spent sleeping. Typically, a person with great sleeping habits is in excellent health. Does good health lead to better sleep or does good sleep lead to better health? It can be tough to tell which comes first, but if you have insomnia, working on fixing that issue is a good place to start.

Insomnia is a terrible condition to live with. If you’ve got insomnia, you’re probably waking up feeling exhausted. Makes it hard to get through a normal day, right? It’s probably not only complicating your ability to get things done, but it might be impacting your mood, health and overall quality of life too.

 

DO YOU HAVE INSOMNIA?

Insomnia is a tricky thing to diagnose, but if you regularly suffer from these symptoms, you probably have it:

  • waking up frequently during the night
  • having trouble falling asleep (more than 30 minutes on average)
  • waking too early (getting less than 6 hours a night, despite making time for more)
  • not feeling rested after waking

If you do have insomnia, you're probably also dealing with other unpleasant symptoms like:

  • headaches
  • gastrointestinal issues
  • struggling to concentrate or focus
  • feeling exhausted during the day
  • depression or irritability
  • distraction
  • feeling clumsy or like you’re making a lot of mistakes

With insomnia, these conditions get progressively worse as time goes on. If you believe that you have insomnia, you should see a doctor to be properly diagnosed, especially because insomnia can sometimes be a sign of a deeper problem. A qualified medical professional can determine the right path and schedule you in at a sleep center for testing.

CAUSES OF INSOMNIA

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Stress and anxiety are major causes of insomnia. Worries related to work, school, money and family issues can keep your mind active at night, even if you don’t normally suffer from insomnia. A death in the family, illness or struggles relating to lack of work, divorce and other difficult situations can make insomnia worse, leading to a chronic condition.

Beyond the day-to-day struggles that nearly everyone faces at one time or another, insomnia is also often linked with illness and disease. Cancer, heart disease, acid reflux, GERD, Parkinson’s, Alzheimer’s and arthritis have all been known to cause bouts of insomnia, as have many types of medication. Discuss with your doctor before starting any regimen if you know it will cause you to lose sleep, as a proper good night’s rest is a great start to fighting off any ailment.

Woman writing in a notebook

MAKE SLEEP A PRIORITY

You may not need to see a doctor. Initially you may want to treat your insomnia by making simple adjustments to your home life and your diet. For starters, figure out how many hours of sleep you need each night and set out a plan and schedule. It’ll probably take a couple of weeks to nail it down, as you see how you respond to different amounts of sleep. Track your mood, energy levels and overall health on good nights versus bad nights.

By sticking with a sleep schedule, and tracking how you feel the next day, you will learn what works best for you. Keep to it even on the weekends. Set up a time each night when you will put away all distractions and start a nice, relaxing bedtime ritual. 

We've created the ultimate sleep routine to get you started. Check it out here.

SWEAT FOR YOUR SLEEP

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According to the National Sleep Foundation, studies have revealed that a regular exercise regimen can help sufferers of chronic insomnia. In one study, there was significant improvement in sleep quality after moderate aerobic exercise (at any time of day) like walking or swimming laps. Insomnia sufferers found themselves able to fall asleep more quickly and stay asleep longer.

There is still a lot to learn about insomnia and exercise. There seems to be a lot of variety from person to person when it comes to the impact of exercise on sleep, especially where time of day is concerned. Some people find that working out right before bed is the key to great sleep, while others find it keeps them up. Studies show that exercise does help, it’s just not easy to know what kind of exercise to do or when to do it. Keeping a sleep journal with notes on your exercise routine will help you determine what works best for you.

Foods high in tryptophan

INSOMNIA AND YOUR DIET

A great way to combat insomnia is by eating the right foods, at the right times and avoiding certain other foods. Several natural components in food can work as sedatives and help to inspire sleep.

For example, we all hear about tryptophan around Thanksgiving. When you eat turkey or other foods with tryptophan in them, it creates a neurotransmitter in the brain known as serotonin. Serotonin is the ‘happy hormone’. It also helps to calm the body and makes it easier for us to fall asleep. Tryptophan is in tofu, cheese, eggs, red meat, beans and lentils, among other foods.

A 2005 study found that patients who suffered from chronic insomnia found improvements in their sleep when they ate a tryptophan-heavy diet or took dietary supplements with tryptophan as the main ingredient.

Tryptophan needs a little bit of help to get into the brain, though. Studies have shown that eating carbohydrates triggers a release of insulin and that insulin helps the tryptophan to cross the blood-brain barrier. So consider this your free pass to enjoy some carbs before you hit the hay!

Whether you suffer from occasional insomnia or deal with it every day, hopefully, these tips have given you a place to start. Insomnia is a big deal, unchecked it can affect every aspect of your life and can put you in danger of serious health risks. Always check with your doctor before starting any program or regimen.

We've got lots more info on insomnia and other sleep issues, as well as tips for getting better rest in our new book. Download your copy of Sleeping Without Pills.

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