Welcome to my article about how to treat insomnia naturally.
As many of us are only too aware, insomnia doesn’t tend to discriminate. Irrespective of our age, adolescent, adult, or well into retirement, any one of us can be struck down by this terrible night-time affliction.
I’ve recently read that the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) have estimated that 1 in 3 adults don’t get enough sleep on a nightly basis.
However, I have also seen other organizations state that this figure is closer to 50% of all adults, whereas others would have you believe that it’s nearer to 70%.
The figures we have to go by are obviously reported cases of people not getting enough sleep, or possibly visiting their Doctor to try and deal with their insomnia.
I would hazard a guess that the vast majority of people have had sleep issues at one time or another, and the numbers for those who regularly suffer from a lack of sleep is still pretty high.
What Do I Mean By Insomnia?
Firstly, I think it’s important to clarify insomnia as I see it.
Many of us assume that insomnia is about not being able to sleep and nothing more.
However, insomnia actually covers a wide variety of sleep issues.
It could mean that you’re having difficulties falling asleep at night on a regular basis.
Insomnia could mean that you do actually fall asleep, but then wake up numerous times during the night.
It may even mean that you fall asleep, carry on sleeping through the night, but then wake up at a ridiculously early hour, and find that you’re unable to go back to sleep.
If anyone of these issues sounds familiar to you (especially if you are experiencing this night-after-night, and have been doing so for over 4 weeks) then you too may be an insomniac.
Do You Constantly Worry About Sleep?
I know from my own experience of insomnia that I had lost that feeling of sleepiness at night and it was replaced by a feeling of constant fatigue throughout the day.
No matter what I tried I just couldn’t seem to fall asleep at night.
I’ve even read that you should fall asleep within 10-20 minutes of your head hitting the pillow.
Are you kidding me?
I recall many nights staring at the clock and realizing that I’d been in bed for two, maybe three hours, and I still hadn’t had a wink of sleep.
What was even worse was that I knew I had to be up in just a few hours and then I started to worry about how much sleep I was going to get that night.
I’d look at the clock and calculate that if I fell asleep in the next 10 minutes I’d now have 5 hours and 35 minutes of sleep. Okay, not great, but I could function on that.
The clock watching would continue and I was down to 4 hours 57 minutes, 4 hours and 22 minutes, and so it went on.
I had a number of things that I felt were stressing me out during the day anyway and I eventually worked out that this constant anxiety was affecting my sleeping patterns.
However, the biggest thing on my mind, the thing that was causing the most stress, was worrying about falling asleep, staying asleep, and actually getting a good night’s rest.
In fact, for a while it seemed to take over my life.
When should I be going to bed?
When should I wake up in the morning?
How am I going to get through the day if I haven’t had enough sleep?
What should I do to try and make myself fall asleep tonight?
Should I eat this or will it keep me up tonight?
Should I have a drink before bedtime and see if that works?
But what if it does work, I can’t really rely on alcohol to help me sleep every night (and for anyone in this situation let me tell you for nothing that alcohol does not help one iota. You may feel as though it’s helping you sleep, but it doesn’t do much for the quality of your sleep).
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To be honest, it was all becoming a bit much, and the more I worried about sleep, the less I was getting.
Set Up Your Sleeping Routine
For many years I never really had an “exact” time that I would go to bed, but I knew I had to be awake at 6am in the morning.
I knew that I could function fairly well on about six-and-a-half to 7 hours sleep, but obviously 8 would be better, or so I thought.
The optimum number of hours of sleep for an adult is between 7-9 hours, but something I have come to realize over the years is that there is no one-size-fits-all when it comes to sleep.
What may work for me may not work for you and vice versa.
However, it is widely accepted that slotting into the 7-9 hour mark is what is required.
I should add that I know people who sleep for 6 hours a night and swear by it, but I now finally realize that this doesn’t work for me.
Now I mentioned that I didn’t really have an allotted bedtime, but I typically got into bed most nights somewhere between 11pm-11.30pm.
With that being said, through my research into my own insomnia it soon became apparent to me that we should ALL have a specific time for going to bed and once again for getting up in the morning.
Think of it as a way to get the mind and body ready to go to bed. If you know you have to be in bed at a specific time you are less likely to start doing something completely irrelevant (that may even be keeping you up at night, e.g. watching a TV program from 10pm-11pm that stimulates the brain).
So, I started going to bed at 10pm strictly on a nightly basis.
It’s not something that worked immediately for me, in fact I’ll go as far to say that I was having real difficulty in nodding off, as I was generally wide awake by the time I got into bed.
What 15 Minutes Can Do For You
The main problem as I saw it was that I had made sweeping changes to my bedtime routine.
Well, actually I had gone from having no routine to having one and I was trying to go to bed about 60-90 minutes before I had previously.
Of course I wasn’t tired. And unfortunately this led to more sleepless nights.
In fact, after trying my new routine for about a week, I changed back to going to bed at 11pm, but still struggled with sleep.
The solution as I soon discovered was actually fairly obvious (although it took me a number of weeks to work it out).
Rather than making huge changes to my sleeping schedule, I should do it in small increments.
I looked at it in the same way I did working out and lifting weights.
I wouldn’t suddenly add a couple of 45lb plates to my previous bench press PB and hope to lift the weight successfully. No, I’d add 2.5lbs-5lbs maximum and I’d try to go a little heavier week after week.
So, I applied the same principle to my bedtime routine.
For the first 10 days I went to bed at 10.45pm.
By about the 5th day this was working out fairly well for me. I had got into a routine and I felt my mind was “mentally prepared” for sleep.
After 10 days I shaved another 15 minutes off and went to bed at 10.30pm.
I continued this process over about 6-7 weeks until I eventually was going to bed at 10pm and waking up at 6am.
I have to be completely honest and say there were many other things that I did to ensure that I was sleeping well at night, and they are covered in more detail in various articles on this website.
However, setting a sleep schedule and slowly but surely moving towards my optimum number of hours of sleep certainly worked for me.
Play Around With This And See What Works For You
Set yourself a specific sleep schedule, but do it in such a way that it is structured towards your individual needs.
If you’re someone who can fall asleep easily, but struggles to wake up in the morning, do you have time to get up 15 minutes later?
If you find that you’re always wide awake when you go to sleep, try going to bed 15 minutes later.
As I’ve mentioned there isn’t a one-size-fits-all solution to sleepless nights and insomnia, so you have to find what works for you.
This is also a method that you have to work on and I wouldn’t expect to see huge changes within the space of a few days.
However, by making a sleep schedule and then working on small increments to get you to where you want to be it shouldn’t be too long before you see the benefits.
I will always look at the most natural methods available to improve sleep and potentially overcome insomnia.
I’m not a fan of sleeping pills and in most cases I truly believe that they make sleeping problems worse.
So, my advice is if you are someone who is struggling with sleep, you have to set a new routine for yourself.
Pick a specific time you want to go to bed and a specific time you want to wake up.
Stick the same time at weekends and holidays until this becomes a habit (I don’t see anything wrong with getting up or going to bed 30-60 minutes later at weekends or when you’re on holiday, but this should only be applied when you are continuously sleeping well for a period of time. Until then stick to the same times).
Don’t make sweeping changes and allocate yourself a maximum of 15 minute intervals as you work towards your goal bedtime and waking up time.
If insomnia is a problem for you, I urge you to try this, you have nothing to lose.