Insomnia is a common sleep disorder, with effects that are often underestimated in their seriousness. Quality sleep is vital to a healthy body and mind. Many people who have insomnia will have it periodically for one or two nights, but it can develop into an ongoing chronic issue. The good news is that there are practical and easy ways to start working on your sleep routine at home. In this article we will look at how sleep hygiene and natural sleep aids may be able to give you a better nights rest.
One of the things that makes insomnia such a distressing disorder is that it often develops when people are stressed, or when there are disruptions to their life or wellbeing. Insomnia’s causes and effects create a nasty cycle of stress and anxiety leading to further poor sleep.
Some of the more common causes of insomnia are:
There are also several possible medical causes for insomnia including mental health conditions (depression or anxiety), medications, medical conditions (e.g., chronic pain, asthma, or heart disease), restless leg syndrome, or obstructive sleep apnea.
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Those with insomnia will likely experience the symptoms associated with a lack of sleep, and beyond. Prolonged poor sleep caused by insomnia can have negative effects on your emotional, cognitive and even physical health.
The tell-tale signs of insomnia:
For the first few days the primary symptom of insomnia will be daytime sleepiness. However, if insomnia persists for weeks or months the effects can snowball leading to an increased risk of mental health disorders, medical conditions, and accidents.
Insomnia can often go away on its own. A strategy that you can implement at home right away is improving your sleep hygiene. For those with insomnia being relaxed and ready for sleep is an often-overlooked part of the process. Here are some simple lifestyle changes you can make to help you sleep – with the acronym ASLEEP.
A – Alcohol, caffeine and nicotine should be avoided, especially in the evenings
S – Sex and sleep should be the only uses of a bedroom. It should also be cool, dimly lit or dark, and quiet
L – Leave electronics (mobile phones, TVs, and laptops) as artificial light will affect your natural sleep cues
E – Exercise regularly, but not too close to bedtime (not within 2-3 hours)
E – Early rising (avoid sleeping in) and avoid taking naps throughout the day
P – Plan for bedtime, go to sleep at the same time each night and have regular routine before bed (e.g. warm drink)
You should also consider using mindfulness or relaxation techniques, there are a range of sleep apps available to help you track your sleep habits, and/or develop and manage sleep routines.
Making improvements to your sleep hygiene should always be your first step towards quality sleep. There are several natural remedies that may offer additional support to help you sleep better (these should never replace proper sleep hygiene).
Magnesium – an essential mineral that plays a part in numerous bodily functions including muscle and nerve function. It may help the body and mind relax through it’s relation to regulating neurotransmitters, along with regulating the hormone melatonin – which guides your sleeping cycle. Studies have also shown that low levels of magnesium can caused troubled sleep.
Valerian Root – has a long history of use as a herbal remedy for sleep disorders. People taking valerian have been found to fall asleep faster and have better quality sleep. Experts believe this supplement may work by increasing levels of gamma-aminobutyric acid (GABA), a neurotransmitter know for producing a calming effect.
Lavender – is a fragrant herd known for its soothing fragrance. Lavender can be found across the world and many people use it’s oil to promote relaxation and improve sleep quality. Studies have shown that Lavender aromatherapy may improve sleep quality, reduce sleep disturbances, and reduce anxiety.
L-theanine – is an amino acid known for it’s calming and relaxing properties. It occurs naturally in tea leaves. It may play a role in reducing stress and improving sleep quality. Research has shown that L-theanine may influence several neurotransmitters promoting relaxing brain activity. This might help people fall asleep faster and sleep better.
Tart cherry – has gained attention as a natural sleep aid due to it’s melatonin and typtophan content. Melatonin being the bodies sleep hormone, regulating the sleep-wake cycle, and tryptophan helping the body produce melatonin. Adding a tart cherry juice or capsules to your sleep routine may promote better sleep.
Lack of sleep due to insomnia can have significant effects on your quality of life and it’s consequences should not be underestimated. If you are worried about your quality of sleep improving your sleep hygiene, alongside complementary natural sleep aids is a great first step that may help you get a good night’s rest.
If you are pregnant, have an underlying medical condition or are taking medication, speak with a healthcare professional before taking any supplements. If your lack of sleep due to insomnia is having a negative impact on your quality of life you should consult with a healthcare professional.