I get asked fairly regularly for insomnia tips or ideas on how to get a good night’s sleep. I actually have quite a bit of knowledge in this area as I’ve written many articles on sleep disorders for other sites. I know many tips and even rules for getting a good night’s sleep.
Sleeping Well Takes Work
If you’re like most people you will experience insomnia at some time in your life. It’s actually a very normal problem. Insomnia stems from stress and anxiety, mostly, but can also come about thanks to mental illness or psychiatric medication.
And the thing is, conquering insomnia, no matter what the cause, takes work. You will have to do things you won’t want to do. But when trying to sleep well, you get out of it what you put into it.
Train Your Brain to Sleep Well
The reason most people don’t sleep well is because they have something called bad “sleep hygiene.” Sleep hygiene is simply all the behaviors and thoughts surrounding your sleep habits, and for most of us, our actions and thoughts are keeping us from sleeping.
But you can train your brain to sleep well. It takes time, but you can do it.
How to Train Your Brain to Sleep Well
The following will help train your brain to sleep well:
- Only sleep at night. Your body is set to a circadian rhythm – one that is based on the 24-hour clock and by sleeping during the day (napping), you are disrupting this rhythm. If your brain starts to get used to the fact that you sleep at night, this is something it will come to expect – as it should.
- Keep your room cool, dark and quiet. The human body sleeps best in a cool, but not cold, room.
- Only use your bedroom for sleeping and sex. You are trying to program your brain to think “sleep” whenever you walk into your bedroom. This is a learning process for your brain and you break that process by doing other things (like watching TV) in your bedroom. (It would probably help if you eliminated sex from the bedroom too, but that’s not normally very practical.)
- Always go to bed and wake up at the same time. This means no sleeping in on the weekends or late-night movies. You’re training your brain to act a specific way and changing times will hurt your rhythm. (In my opinion, this is the most important tip.)
- Go to bed when you are sleepy. That being said, you need to be sleepy in order to sleep in bed. If you brain gets used to you tossing and turning in bed, that is an unhelpful association.
- If you try to sleep for 20 minutes and can’t, get up. Do something quiet, preferably in a dark room (not your bedroom, remember, you’re only sleeping there), and wait to get sleepy again. Do not watch TV or use the computer (more on this later).
- Create a bedtime ritual. Always do the same things in the same order before going to bed so this is used as a cue to your brain that you are about to go to sleep. For example, wash your face, brush your teeth and then read for 30 minutes every night before bed.
None of these will work immediately, but keep at it and over time you will find yourself sleeping better.
Brain Training Takes Time and Effort But It’s Worth It
Now I know you’re not going to want to do all those things, but if you want to sleep, those are the rules. By skipping one or two, you may be defeating the benefits of the others. I’m sorry, but while good sleep hygiene can be restrictive, it’s the way to ensure quality sleep and quality sleep is one of the most important ways to ensure stability and good mental health. And while I can’t guarantee a good night’s sleep will make you feel better, I can guarantee a bad night’s sleep will make you feel worse.
More on Getting a Good Night’s Sleep
Yes, there are even more tips than that on how to beat insomnia, but you’ll have to wait for part 2 for those.
(A Psychiatric Times article: Sleep Hygiene.)
About Natasha Tracy
Natasha Tracy is an award-winning writer, speaker and consultant from the Pacific Northwest. She has been living with bipolar disorder for 18 years and has written more than 1000 articles on the subject.