Insomnia may be either difficulty getting to sleep, or difficulty staying asleep or both. If you feel that you’re not sleeping well, not sleeping enough or not enjoying good quality sleep, there are ways to improve sleep so that you wake up feeling rested and refreshed.
Sleep Initiation Insomnia
Sleep initiation or sleep onset insomnia is where it may take you a long time to get to sleep. If it’s taking you longer than 25 minutes to fall asleep on a regular basis, then there is a problem.
Tips for Dealing with Sleep Initiation Insomnia
- Avoid caffeine after noon, including coffee, tea, green tea and chocolate.
- Avoid sugar and carbs in the evening before bed.
- Have a little protein before going to bed to stabilize blood sugar.
- Avoid stimulating activities in the evening – thrilling TV shows, books or movies, video games.
- Dim the lights inside once it’s dark outside to encourage natural melatonin (sleep inducing neurotransmitter) production.
- Maintain a regular bedtime and a regular bedtime routine.
- Relax from 8 p.m. onward to calm the nervous system.
- Avoid high intensity exercise from 7 p.m. onward.
- Engage in calming/relaxing activity in the evening – warm bath, soothing music, meditation.
Sleep Maintenance Insomnia
Sleep maintenance insomnia is where you get to sleep but then wake frequently throughout the night. For some, they can go back to sleep quickly, for others it can take hours to resume sleep, if at all. Either way, broken sleep is not good quality sleep. and people won’t wake feeling refreshed and energized.
Tips for Sleep Maintenance Insomnia
Maintaining good sleep hygiene as listed above is important for sleep maintenance as well. Additionally it may also help to:
- Avoid alcohol in the evening.
- Have a little protein before going to bed – leftover fish or chicken, hard boiled egg seem to work best.
- Support the adrenal glands. Your stress glands help to maintain a stable blood sugar throughout the night. Dips in blood sugar is often the catalyst for night time waking.
- Keep a little almond milk beside bed so that if you do wake up, you can have that to get blood sugar back to normal quickly so you can resume sleeping more quickly.
Valerian, hops and passionflower are often used in combination to help people relax and feel sleepy. Chamomile is also good for calming and relaxing. Teas are a less intense way to take these herbs, but may also be less effective than a good quality tincture or tablet.
Insomnia Vitamins and Minerals
For your brain to produce adequate melatonin, you need vitamin B6, magnesium, tryptophan and darkness. Vitamin B6 and magnesium are important co-factors in many enzyme reactions including the production of melatonin. B6 and magnesium are also important in helping the body adapt to and deal with stress. If demand for these is high and supply is low, you may not be able to produce adequate amounts of melatonin and several other important neurotransmitters.
Melatonin supplementation may be helpful for those with sleep initiation insomnia, as it can help you feel sleepy. Some people will find that they have nightmares while taking it and others will wake up feeling groggy, while a third group will have the best sleep of their lives with it.
Everyone is unique and what works for some, may not work for others. It is always best and most efficient to see a licensed naturopathic doctor rather than self-medicating.