Practice good sleep hygiene. Aim for seven to nine hours of sleep. Keep consistent wake-up and bedtimes. Keep the bedroom cool, quiet and dark. Use the bed for sleep and sex only. Avoid alcohol, caffeine and exercise before bed. Turn off your screens 30 to 60 minutes before trying to go to sleep.
Don’t chase sleep. Don’t go to bed early. Don’t sleep late. Don’t nap. You’ll diminish your sleep drive, making it even harder to go to sleep the next night.
Don’t go to bed until you’re sleepy. Learn the difference between tiredness and sleepiness. (Sleepiness is when your eyes are drooping.) And limit your time in bed to the amount of time you are asleep, plus half an hour.
Don’t stay in bed unless you’re asleep. Tossing and turning in bed reinforces your brain’s association between wakefulness (and negative emotions) and the bed.
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Keep a worry journal. “Sometimes we worry because our brain is telling us to not forget something,” says Philip Cheng, a sleep researcher at the Henry Ford Sleep Disorders and Research Center. If you write your worries down during the day, “when worry comes at night you can tell yourself you’ve already documented it.”
Practice gratitude. If you find yourself starting to ruminate in bed, think about the things you are grateful for, or savor your favorite moments from the day. This will train your brain to associate the bed with pleasant thoughts. “And it gets us back to feeling safe,” says Allison Harvey, a professor of clinical psychology at the University of California, Berkeley, and director of the Golden Bear Sleep and Mood Research Clinic.
Listen to someone else’s voice. A pleasant but unexciting audiobook is ideal. Turn it on low volume when you go to bed. This will distract you from your thoughts.
Try CBT-I. The website of the Society of Behavioral Sleep Medicine allows you to search for a therapist in your area. Some health programs, such as the Cleveland Clinic and the Department of Veterans Affairs, have programs. And app versions such as Sleepio and Somryst were developed by researchers.
Re-establish daily routines. Have a morning routine. Eat meals at the same time. Exercise at the same time (not too late). Log off work at the end of the day and take a walk.
Stick to your natural circadian rhythm. You’re not going to be able to easily change whether you’re a night owl or an early bird. Recognize when you sleep best and stick with it.
Have a bedtime routine. Just like a child. Establish a daily wind-down time. Then take a bath. Read a book. Relax.
Stop catastrophizing. Quit telling yourself you won’t be able to sleep, or to function the next day. Ask yourself if these thoughts are really true. Replace them with positive thoughts. (“A bad night of sleep is not the end of the world.”) Then try to focus on something else. “People who sleep well don’t think about sleep all the time,” says Wendy Troxel, a certified behavioral sleep medicine specialist.
According to a meta-analysis, about 40% of the population has had sleep problems during the pandemic.
We know to keep a consistent schedule, avoid alcohol, caffeine and bright lights before bed and practice other sleep habits. But it is not enough to solve chronic insomnia. Our brains need to feel safe and secure to be able to fall asleep.
Living with insomnia can be a challenge. Fortunately, effective treatments are available that can help people fall asleep faster, stay asleep, and feel more rested during the day.
Cognitive behavioral therapy for insomnia (CBT-I or CBTI) is a short, structured, and evidence-based approach to combating the frustrating symptoms of insomnia.
Whenever you feel overwhelmed, try alternative solutions to pills and checks with the doctors. Weighted blankets have proven to have a calming effect on individuals who find themselves having to deal with too much stress.
The blankets supposedly work in the same way tight swaddling helps newborns feel snug and secure so they can doze off more quickly. The blanket should simulate a comforting hug, in theory helping to calm and settle the nervous system.
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