• coherenceassociates

I Can’t Sleep: How can I fight insomnia?

If you regularly have the experience of having a hard time falling asleep, staying asleep, or waking up too early, you might have wondered, “how can I fight insomnia?” Well, in my own experience when I’m tired, the last thing I have energy for is fighting. Perhaps a more helpful way to think about this problem is “how can I support my body and mind to get the sleep I need?” So, instead of fighting the insomnia monster, you can focus on making positive changes and maintaining good “sleep hygiene”. Here are a few simple tips which can help set the stage for achieving a full night’s sleep.

Back to basics– whenever you are dealing with a problem connected to your body or mind, it helps to first check out your nutrition and moving patterns… that is eating and exercise.

  • Our bodies love to move, and people with regular exercise habits, typically get to sleep more easily because their bodies are tired. Imagine all of the energy your body holds, and what happens when that energy is being stored up, instead of used up, it hangs around at night and chatters away in your brain, taking you down memory lane, or perhaps planning the next 5 years of your life. You gotta work it out! Now, I am being humorous here, and I realize that just because someone works out, that doesn’t mean that they sleep perfectly. And some people are limited as to the type of exercise they can do. Whatever your situation is, just notice your current movement/exercise routine, or lack thereof, and see what you can do to move more. Then notice if it affects the amount or quality of your sleep. If it does, keep it up!

  • What does your nutrition look like? If you get your daily fruits and veggies, lean protein, and complex carbs from mostly whole foods- awesome! If you’re saying to yourself, “Nutrition… is that when I check how many calories are on the box that my dinner came in?”, you might have some room for improvement here. Processed foods are just that, pre-processed for your body. Instead of allowing your body to do its job, and break down the food you eat into nutrients to send around your system, processed foods (or better yet pre-processed) get sent around your body like sugar- it gets used up quickly, and then crash! Your body might enjoy a more stable nutrient cycle, and reward you with a more stable sleep cycle. Instead of a nutritionally induced energy roller-coaster.

  • What to avoid- It seems the typical American working adult bases their day on the following: “Coffee, you’re on the bench. Alcohol, suit up!”…. starting and continuing the day with caffeine, and then when work is done- time to relax! Then if you’re having sleep issues, that morning and afternoon cup o’ joe may seem vital for you to show up in the world. So, let’s not be too drastic and say cut out the caffeine completely, but you can be more mindful about how much. Perhaps a cup in the morning to get you going, and then water to get you through the day, so that your body can metabolize that caffeine early and be ready for bed later. And maybe a glass of wine after work is OK (after all, recent research has equated a glass of wine with a full hour at the gym- that’s what we call a win-win!) However, more than that, or drinking too close to bed time, actually disrupts your sleep. And of course, if you have a problem with alcohol, this is by no means a reason to take up the habit again. Perhaps a replacement activity like exercising (actually going to the gym for an hour) is best for your situation. You may also sit on the floor during your favorite TV show and stretch, move, and breath gently, at the end of your day. “Readying” the body/mind for sleep is an important factor in consistently sleeping well. Ask yourself how do you ‘wind-down’ at the end of your day?

  • Sleepy space– one trap many folks fall into is spending time in their bed doing things other than sleeping. Watching TV, doing homework, scrolling through facebook on the phone- that may confuse your body about what it means to be in bed. And of course, some non-sleep things are totally appropriate for the bed… but this is not an ‘R’ rated blog post, so I’ll let you figure that one out. While we’re on the subject of your bed, make sure your bedroom is conducive to sleep, such as ensuring a quiet, comfortable, slightly cool space with cozy blankets. Consider some sleeping aids like a mask or blackout curtains for too much light, or ear plugs for noisy areas. Certain aromas can also slow down and relax the mind/body. Try a lavender scented (or whatever scent works for you) candle, pillow, spray, or essential oil diffuser, to enhance relaxation.

  • Routine, Routine, Routine– Establish a bedtime, and a wake time, and then stick to it (more or less), including weekends and holidays. This helps “train” your body to know when it is expected to sleep. There is not too big of a difference between 9:30 p.m. and 10 p.m., or 8:30 a.m. and 9 a.m., and your body will get used to the rhythm. However, if sometimes you stay up until 2 a.m. and then try for 10 p.m. the next day, your body and mind might not cooperate! You may feel you are dragging all day.

  • Bedtime Rituals– Something that is not so basic that might help is establishing a bedtime ritual. Hey, it works for kids right? Why not bigger humans? You could try a warm bath with lavender, meditation, nighttime yoga, 5 minutes of slow breathing, music — whatever sounds relaxing and sustainable for you.

  • Mid-Night Awakenings– So, maybe you can get to sleep, but wake up at 2 a.m. and can’t seem to get back to sleep in a timely manner. Or, you wake up at 4 a.m. when your alarm is set for 7. There are things you can do in these situations, such as not looking at the clock, that can help you fall asleep more efficiently. When we check the clock in the middle of the night, the stress hormones that are secreted during a panicky thought like “Oh my, I only have four more hours before I have to be up for my big day!’ actually wakes you up a little more. At first, simply stay where you are, begin to breath slowly, focus on the area where your heart is, feel the rise and fall of your chest, keep doing this, letting your thoughts come and go, and notice what happens. Another option is to get up and try again. Get out of bed and do something calm and relaxing, like sitting on the couch in the dark. Or do something boring, like reading the DSM-5. You can get your brain back into sleepy mode, and then go to bed again.

This of course is not an exhaustive list. These are quick and simple tips, and if you try these without success you can see a medical professional for help. Therapy is an option which can provide relief from rumination and the busy “monkey mind”.

If you would like to speak with a mental health professional about your sleep experience, call

Coherence Associates, Inc at (760) 942–8663 or email us at info@coherenceassociates.com.

Coastal North County Office - Corporate Office

6183 Paseo Del Norte, Suite 140 Carlsbad, CA 92011 Inland North County Office

12396 World Trade Drive, Suite 204 Rancho Bernardo, CA 92128

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