Having difficulties falling asleep at night? Well, you are not alone. Millions of people across the world suffer from sleeping issues. Some have mild problems which can be improved with lifestyle changes, while others require assistance with medication. Regardless of how severe your insomnia may be, there are few of things you can do to help yourself out.
First, get on a set schedule. Our bodies have an internal clock that regulates when we are supposed to be awake, and when we are supposed to be asleep. This is called your circadian rhythm. If you go to sleep every night at 10pm, and wake up every morning at 6am, your circadian rhythm will be in, well, for lack of a better term, a good rhythm! If your body has adapted to going to bed and waking up at the same time, it will be able to do so effortlessly. If on the weekdays you go to bed between 9-11pm and wake up between 6-9am, and then on the weekends stay up until 1-2am and sleep in until 11am, your circadian rhythm is going to be all out of whack. Your body will not have a set time in which it is supposed to be going to bed, and when it should be waking up. This will cause confusion to your internal clock, which can result in difficulties falling asleep, and not feeling well rested when you wake up.
Second, limit the electronics and blue light at night. We are living within a technological revolution that has been changing life as we know it decade by decade. The advancements have been astonishing, and we now have an assortment of devices from smart phones to tablets that are easily accessible and fun to use. While these devices may be entertaining, they can cause issues with our ability to sleep. When we are trying to sleep, we are trying to shut our brains off. If we are engaging ourselves on social media or playing games, we are actively using our brains, which is the exact opposite of what we want to do. These devices also project blue light which inhibits our brains production of melatonin, the hormone that regulates the wake-sleep cycle. If you must be using a computer or electronic device at night, look for an application or downloadable feature that can change the light from blue light to red light. This will be helpful in allowing your body to produce melatonin.
Third, try utilizing applications such as Calm, Headspace or Slumber on your smartphone or tablet device. We did just cover not using electronic devices at nighttime, but this is different! You are not staring at the screen when you use these applications, just a quick glance as you navigate to your desired location. These applications have helpful talk therapies and soothing background noise that can help to ease your mind and relax your body. Some people have difficulties falling asleep at night because they cannot turn their mind off. This often results in people turning a television on, but as discussed in our last paragraph, a television emits blue light, and can be stimulating if you are engaged in watching the show. With these applications, you will have a calm and soothing voice to follow along with, as well as the sound of falling rain, or the ebb and flow of waves in the ocean.
If you have tried all the above and are still having difficulties with your sleep, you may require medication management. There are over the counter sleep aids such as Melatonin and ZzzQuil, but for some, even these are not enough. If you feel like you are one of these people, scheduling an appointment with a psychiatrist may be a good option for you. The providers here at Pacific Neuropsychiatric Specialists have years of experience in treating insomnia, and we would be happy to help you.