Top 10 Tips to Overcome Insomnia
At The Sleep School, we understand that it’s natural to want to fight against your insomnia. However, it can be the very thing that fuels it. That’s why we pioneer the use of Acceptance and Commitment Therapy (ACT) for the non-drug based treatment of chronic insomnia. ACT recognises that to overcome your insomnia you need to change the way you relate to it, rather than battle against it.
These Top 10 Tips will set you on the path to good quality natural sleep by changing the way you think about insomnia.
Don’t battle insomnia
Sleep is a natural biological process that can’t be controlled. Battling against it could be likened to an endless game of tug of war that wakes you up even more! Learning to let go of the battle is the first step towards recovery.
Let go of the sleep aids
Sleep aids such as pills, potions, rules and rituals may offer some short-term respite. But they are NOT a long-term solution. Dependency on sleep aids weakens your trust in your own natural ability to sleep and fuels sleep anxiety. Remember, good sleepers do nothing to get to sleep and neither should you.
Worrying about poor quality sleep you’ve had in the past, or imagining how bad things will be in the future if you don’t sleep only increases nighttime wakefulness. Choose to mindfully observe the movement of your breath, whilst noticing and letting go of your worries as they arise.
Welcome thoughts and emotions
Endlessly struggling to get rid of unwanted thoughts and feelings fuels nighttime wakefulness. By contrast, objectively describing and welcoming thoughts and feelings can transform them from enemies to friends. Greeting their arrival with comments such as “My mind is telling me that sleeplessness story again”, changes the way you relate to such thoughts, lessening the power they have over you.
Keep it regular
When we can’t sleep, we try to catch up by going to bed earlier, lying in, or napping for long periods during the day. Whilst this may help you cope in the short term, it weakens your sleep/wake cycle, making it harder to sleep at night in the future. Going to bed and getting up at ‘roughly’ the same time most nights will help you keep your body clock on time and promote the natural drive to sleep.
Wind down for sleep
Aim to start winding and darkening down at least 30-40 minutes before going to bed. Get into a gentle routine of dimming the lights, switching off all your devices, preparing for the next day, brushing your teeth, washing your face and then reading in bed (ideally a print book), before turning out the light.
Stay in bed at night
If you are awake at night, choose to stay in bed and conserve your energy by lying still and being calm and relaxed. Be mindful and welcome your thoughts and emotions. The key is to learn how to be in bed with all of your fears, instead of spending all night struggling with them or getting out of bed to avoid them.
Nap on it
Traditional sleep therapy says “Don’t nap during the day as it will weaken your drive to sleep at night”. Whilst avoiding naps may increase your sleep drive, it can also make you feel overtired and anxious, leading to even worse sleep. If you haven’t slept, be compassionate to yourself. A 20 min nap between midday and 3 pm can help boost your energy, quell rising anxiety, and promote night-time sleep. If you can’t sleep, then use the time to lie down and rest, as even this will help.
Live your life
The fear of not sleeping drives us to stop living our lives. For example, it can drive us out of our bedroom and into the spare room, or make us avoid nights out with friends. Whilst experiencing your insomnia, commit to making small actions every day that take you closer to what is important to you in your life. Doing so can help lessen resentment and paradoxically promote sleep.
Drink caffeine and alcohol
Yes, you read correctly! So many clients get caught up with giving up caffeine and alcohol to control their sleep, only to find themselves resenting insomnia even more. Take insomnia off the pedestal by enjoying a coffee or having a glass of wine, but in moderation. Aim to limit caffeinated beverages to 1-3 cups per day and avoid them after 3 pm. Drink alcohol in moderation, avoiding it 2 hours before bed.
If you need help overcoming insomnia , we recommend our Sleep School for Insomnia App. It contains proven tools to help you fall asleep quicker, stay asleep and wake up feeling refreshed.