5 Ways To Tackle Insomnia

I can’t get no sleep…duh duh duh, duh duh duh, duh duh duh duh duh duh.

I’m sure most people of our generation will have that song pop into their head when they hear the word INSOMNIA! (And yes I did listen to the song whilst writing this article)

 

But, do you know what Insomnia is and whether you have it?

 

                    

 

The Mayo Clinic describe it like this:

 

“Insomnia is a common sleep disorder that can make it hard to fall asleep, hard to stay asleep, or cause you to wake up too early and not be able to get back to sleep.

You may still feel tired when you wake up. Insomnia can sap not only your energy level and mood but also your health, work performance and quality of life.”¹

 

 

 NHS UK also highlight:

 

“If you have insomnia for a short time (less than 3 months) it’s called short-term insomnia. Insomnia that lasts 3 months or longer is called long-term insomnia.”²

 

 

They also provide details on the amount of sleep needed on average as shown below:

 

  • Adults need 7 to 9 hours
  • Children need 9 to 13 hours
  • Toddlers and babies need 12 to 17 hours

 

If your someone who looks at the above and says to yourself…

 

“Well I can definitely survive on only 5-6 hours of sleep a night!”

 

Then I challenge you to read Why We Sleep by Matthew Walker and you may be surprised at what you find out.

 

If you‘re not sure if you’re struggling with insomnia the NHS Website has a survey you can complete to get feedback on what your experiencing and if it’s likely to be insomnia.

 

If, like me, you know you struggle with insomnia; you’ve probably tried some of the normal ways to help:

 

• Making sure the room is dark
• Making sure the bed/pillows/blankets are comfortable
• Checking the room is cool enough
• Not eating a big meal before bed
• Not using digital devices before you sleep

 

And so on.

       

Here are some things you might not have considered before:

1. Using Breath Work

 

I’m sure you were expecting me to say meditate, but to be honest I rarely meditate in the evenings. For me that normally falls within my morning routine (more on routines later).

 

But one thing I use if I can’t sleep is breath work. Here are a few of my go to’s when I have trouble sleeping: 

 

 

 

Alternate nostril breathing 

 

The are a couple of ways to do this, the most common is:

 

• By using the index finger to cover the right nostril first, inhaling for a count of 4 through the left nostril

• Pausing, covering the left nostril and then exhaling through the right nostril for a count of 4

• Then inhaling through the right for a count of 4

• Pausing and exhaling through the left for a count of 4

 

Repeating for 5 to 10 times on each side.

 

Another way, and my preferred way at night, is like above inhaling for a count of 4 through the right nostril covering the left nostril but instead of exhaling through the left stay on the right side. Do 5 to 10 breaths like this only through the right before switching to the left.

Give it a try and see which method you prefer.

 

Slowing the exhale

 

Another simple trick is to slowly extend the exhale:

Inhaling for a count of 4
Pause
Exhaling for a count of 4
Pause
Repeat
Inhale four a count of 4
Pause
Exhale for a count of 6
Repeat inhale for 4, exhale for 6 as needed

As you slow down the exhale you should feel the body starting to relax and let go with each extended exhale.

The Wim Hof Method

 

I harp on about Wim Hof quite a bit throughout my work….but with good reason! It’s really been a game changer for me, I’ll admit it’s not something I do daily anymore, BUT I do use it whenever stress is taking over and I can feel the onset of a bout of insomnia or anxiety.

The Wim Hof method is a hard one to explain via text it’s better to watch the method in action instead…

 

 

If you want to learn more there’s a great article on Oxygen Advantage that shares lots of details as well as the Wim Hof Method website itself.

I was lucky enough to train in this method with the amazing Dr Oberdan Marinetti at the OM ICE Retreat in Singapore, upcoming dates are available via their website. They also have plans to expand outside of Singapore soon, so keep your eyes open for their latest announcements.

 


2. Routine, Routine, Routine

 

Any parent knows the importance of a bedtime routine, and if you don’t have kids most of us will still remember some of the routines that happened before we went to bed. Maybe it was a bath, a glass of milk and a story.

 

As we get older there are so many distractions that this routine often slips by the wayside, but our body and mind both benefit from clues that it’s time to wind down and get ready for slumber.

 

For me this is sometimes a bath or shower, a cup of calming herbal tea, a few nights a week some gentle yin yoga and always a few pages of a book.

 

Danielle Pacheco states in her article “Bedtime Routines for Adults” on Sleepfoundation.org that:

 

“Bedtime routines help your brain separate the day from the night, clear your mind and body of the day’s stresses, and relax into sleep.”³

 

So take a look at your routine and see if it’s consistent each night, and if not see what adjustments you can make to establish a routine.

 

 


 

3. Look at what you‘re consuming before bed

 

I’m not just talking about what you’re eating or drinking, although we’ll get to that soon. But what are you watching or listening to before you got to bed?

 

As a teenager I could watch the worst horror movies out there, but as I’ve gotten older what seemed like an impossible story from a movie now seems more like it could actually happen! This got worse after having kids when my rescuer tendencies really kicked in to gear.

 

Over the last years I’ve noticed this has even stretched to Thrillers, I used to love to watch a good Thriller or read books from Jo Nesbo. But I started to notice it took a while to properly calm down afterwards and it definitely affected how I slept later on.

 

Does it mean I don’t get to enjoy them anymore? Nope, I just reserve the thrillers for Friday and Saturday nights now. That’s when I know there’s no pressure to be up at a specific time the next day.

 

So now on to drink…I need to start by being honest, I was never a huge coffee drinker. That seems to be a rarity now a days I know! Now I got that confession out the way….

 

5+ years ago whilst pregnant with my son, my non-coffee drinking husband won a coffee machine in a work competition. We couldn’t decide whether to keep it, then my son was born. But my newborn wasn’t the problem.

 

I went from not drinking coffee to drinking a cup everyday as my 2.5 year old daughter demanded Mommy’s full attention every afternoon when I should have been napping with the baby!

 

Two years later my kids had grown up a bit and I’d gone down to a coffee only on Saturday mornings, but suddenly I couldn’t sleep properly at the weekends. After yet another weekend of insomnia I had to face the reality…the coffee needed to go.

 

That was almost 2 years ago I now, do I still drink coffee? Occasionally. 

 

Am I saying you have to give it up completely? No not necessarily. But at least take notice of your patterns, are you drinking coffee all day long? What happens if you stop before 2pm or midday? What about if you just have one a day?

 

The same goes for sugar, are you munching a whole block of Cadbury’s Dairy Milk before bed? A few squares of dark chocolate are shown to promote sleep, but I’m afraid a bag of sugary doughnuts or sweets aren’t quite going to have the same effect!

 


4. Getting back out of bed

 

This may sound strange, but if you can’t sleep it doesn’t make sense to lie there tossing and turning.

The reason for this, is you don’t want to start associating your bed as the problem. On the nights where I’ve gone to bed too late I find it hard to sleep because my stomach starts rumbling again, getting up just to have small snack can help.

Or if your mind is racing with worries, one trick from Mel Robbins in her “Start Here” audible is to keep a journal in the kitchen. When you have too much on your mind, go into the kitchen and write down whatever is one your mind. Once it’s written down go back to bed and see if you’re now able to sleep. 

 


 

5. It’s all in the timing!

 

We all have our own circadian rhythm, if that gets even slightly out of sync it can mess with our ability to sleep. This often happens if you start living with someone else and shift to the same sleep patterns as them.

 

As the article “Individual Variation and the Genetics of Sleep”on the Division of Sleep Medicine at Harvard Medical School website explains:

 

“The amount of sleep a person needs—as well as his or her preference for waking early or staying up late—varies from individual to individual. Some of these variations in sleep duration and timing, like many other characteristics, such as eye or hair colour, are genetically determined.

 

Humans are a diurnal species, meaning that we are generally active during the day and sleep at night. Some individuals feel more awake, alert, and able to do their best work in the morning. We typically refer to these people as “larks,” or morning-type individuals. Others have a hard time waking up or feeling alert in the morning and feel that they are most productive in the evening or night. We refer to these people as “owls,” or evening-type people.

 

Being a morning or a night person is influenced by how fast or slow our internal clocks tick.

 

What determines our desire to wake with the sun or, conversely, burn the midnight oil, is influenced by the same system that regulates the cycling of many bodily functions. Our internal biological clock resides in the brain and regulates the timing of functions such as appetite, hormone release, and metabolism. Of all the cycles controlled by the circadian system, perhaps the most obvious is the sleep-wake cycle—when we go to sleep and when we wake up.

 

Although our internal clock is set to approximately 24 hours, the exact timing of circadian rhythms varies from one person to the next. Differences in the speed of the circadian clock may help determine whether you are an “owl’ or a “lark.” For instance, there is some evidence that if your circadian clock runs faster than 24 hours, you may tend to be a “lark”; if your clock runs slower than 24 hours, you tend to be an “owl.”4

 

Me and my Husband were together a few years before the birth of our daughter, the sleepless nights with her were quickly followed by baby number 2 and more sleepless nights.

 

Once everyone started sleeping through the night, suddenly I found I couldn’t.

 

I couldn’t get to sleep or I’d find myself waking up in the night and not being able to get back to sleep. This went on for months, I was tired and I was miserable.

 

I thought back over my life, and tried to remember the times I had felt the most rested and when I had the most energy. Once I figured that out, I started to reflect on when I was going to bed and waking up each day.

 

At that time I went to bed at 9pm on most week nights and got up around 6am. Now I was on my Husbands schedule of bed at 10pm and up at 7pm.

 

I discovered that just that one hour difference in going to bed and waking up was having a huge impact on my ability to get to sleep each night.

 

I played around with the timing and length of my sleep for a few weeks to see what effect it had. I found that sleeping too long, also made me feel more lethargic throughout the day as opposed to better rested.

 

One other thing that has been a huge help is a Sunrise/Sunset Alarm clock, especially in those dark winter months we get here in Northern Europe where it messes up our melatonin production.

 

The clock simulates sunset by gradually getting darker over a period of time. Similarly for the morning, you can set it to slowly wake you up like the sun would have done for our ancestors.

 

Still having trouble sleeping? Check out our Bedtime Body Scan For Restorative Sleep meditation on Insight Timer.

 

We hope you’ve found this article helpful, we’d love to hear if you have any other suggestions drop us a message via out contact form.

Rebecca xx

References

1. https://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/insomnia/symptoms-causes/syc-20355167

2. https://www.nhs.uk/conditions/insomnia/

3. https://www.sleepfoundation.org/sleep-hygiene/bedtime-routine-for-adults

4. http://healthysleep.med.harvard.edu/healthy/science/variations/individual-variation-genetics

Posted in
Avatar photo

Rebecca Flecken

Mother of 2, Wife of 1 - the Founder and Owner of Saja Soul. Self confessed book worm and tea lover!