Tips to help manage sleep problems without medication

September 28, 2015

You probably know how essential sleep is to your health. No doubt, when you don't get it, you feel it. With sleep being so important, and lack of sleep being such a discomfort, in addition to being a health hazard, experiencing sleep difficulties often means experiencing related problems throughout your day.

Tips to help manage sleep problems without medication

1. Sleep problem causes

Some people don't stay in bed long enough to get a decent night's sleep. For others, insomnia prevents them from getting the sleep they wish they could. Sleeping problems come most commonly in the following forms.

  • Not being able to fall asleep: This happens for a variety of reasons, including being too alert, stress and/or worry, being cold and being hungry at bedtime.
  • Being disturbed during the night: This is when you can fall asleep, but are woken by pain, noise or the needing to go to the bathroom.
  • Waking up too early in the morning and being unable to get back to sleep: While there are various reasons for this, among them is the possibility of this being a symptom of depression. If it happens frequently it's worth mentioning to your doctor.

2. Establishing healthy sleep hygiene

When you are laying awake exhausted but still too alert to sleep, it can feel like insomnia is an insurmountable problem. In fact, for many people it is easily resolved — without a prescription. You just need to pay attention to what experts call "sleep hygiene." Here are some recommendations for ensuring that you sleep soundly.

  • Make sure your bedroom is dark, quiet and sufficiently warm, but not too warm — slightly cooler than your other living areas is ideal.
  • Reserve your bedroom for sleep (and sex). Don't watch television or work in bed.
  • Step up your daytime activity. Regular exercise, preferably in the fresh air, promotes night-time sleep. If you are tired during the day or having trouble dropping off at night, try exercise in the late afternoon. About five or six hours after exercising, there is typically a slight fall in body temperature, which helps to promote sleep. Don't exercise in the two or three hours before bedtime though, or you may be too alert to drift off.
  • Go to bed at the same time every night and get up at the same time every morning.
  • Establish a consistent wind-down routine in the evenings so that you are properly relaxed by bedtime. Avoid stimulating television or movies and boisterous activities for at least two hours before bedtime.
  • Avoid caffeinated drinks such as tea and coffee in the evenings. Don't smoke (nicotine is a stimulant) and limit your alcohol intake.
  • Don't eat large meals late at night.
  • Try herbal remedies to help you relax, like chamomile or valerian tea.
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