Beating Insomnia – How to Sleep Better – Part 2

Last time we discussed the routines involved around sleep, part of sleep hygiene, and how to train your brain to get a better night’s sleep. This time I’ll be sharing additional tips and information on how to beat insomnia and sleep better every night.

Daytime Lifestyle and Sleeping Well

What you do in the day can make a big difference to how to sleep at night. As some of the commenters pointed out after the last sleep better post, sunlight is key in getting your body’s rhythm set. If you can get up in the morning and stick your head into the sunshine for half-an-hour that would be ideal. That would trigger the signal in your brain that it was “time to be awake.”

[push]If you can get up in the morning and stick your head into the sunshine for a half-an-hour that would be ideal.[/push]

This though, isn’t the most practical thing for most people. While I dream of a time in life when I can wake up, get a coffee and croissant and enjoy them in the sun on my balcony, that time has not yet arrived. An alternative would be using a light box in the morning (more on light boxes in part 3).

You can also change the light bulbs in your house to full-spectrum lights (like a light box) so that when you turn on the lights, it’s like getting a little bit of sun. That way you can flood your apartment in light even on the darkest winter days.

Other daytime habits to help beat insomnia include:

  • Don’t drink coffee after noon
  • Exercise
  • Don’t eat or drink two hours before bed
  • Don’t nap (yes, I know I said it, but it’s particularly true)

Alcohol and Sleep Don’t Mix

Many people think alcohol will help them sleep. This is not true. Alcohol will make your sleep worse, not better.

How to Beat Insomnia

What alcohol does is induce sleep, which people think is a good thing, but in actual fact, alcohol will decrease the quality of the sleep to the point where getting to sleep sooner will be the least of your worries. Alcohol affects the brain in ways that prevent it from going into stage 3 sleep (or deep sleep) which means you never feel fully rested. This will also negatively effect your mood.

People who drink alcohol also tend to toss and turn all night as they drift in and out of sleep, but they may not remember this in the morning. If alcohol alone disrupts sleep, imagine what mixing alcohol and other drugs could do to your sleeping patterns.

Alcohol and quality sleep don’t mix. Really.

Other Bits of Good Sleep Hygiene

Make sure it’s dark at night. No, not just where you’re sleeping, but for the hour before that as well. Turn off lights and try to signal to your brain that it’s “sleepy time.” Ideally, do something quiet before bed like reading a book using a book light.

This includes not using electronics (yes, the TV and computer) at night. Electronics emit the type of light that makes your brain think it’s time to wake up, not go to sleep, so by staring at them right before bed, you are doing yourself (and your brain) a disservice.

Other tips on sleeping better:

  • Cover the time on the alarm clock – clock-watching leads to anxiety and stress which hampers sleep
  • Keep a worry book by your bed to write down your anxieties should they arise when you’re trying to go to sleep. This way it’s easier to let them go.
  • Sleep on a firm mattress
  • Stop doing mental work one hour before bed
  • Learn relaxation or meditation techniques

More on Beating Insomnia, Getting Better Sleep and Improving Mood

In part 3, I’ll discuss how important light and darkness is to your brain and how it might just help your mood. (Link to part one of the sleeping better series.)

(Yes, that’s my cat Oliver. Yes, he’s adorable.)

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