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How to Beat Insomnia

January 18, 2010

I noticed that many of my friends have sleep problems. A few years ago I wrote a brief guide to help my friend and wanted to publish it for a while, but it never happened for various reasons. This weekend I found the document, edited it a little, and here is the result🙂 These are some tips that might help, but if you have difficulties with sleep, it is best to visit a doctor.

General Tips

Go to sleep and wake up at a regular time everyday. Now, this is not very easy to do, but it will be very helpful. When you establish a regular schedule, falling asleep will be an effortless experience. The key to this is to set a waking up time first and foremost and stick to it. It will be hard at first ( kind of like this😛 ), but you can do it!🙂

Develop a bedtime routine. Effects of classical conditioning are not limited to dogs😛 If you follow a consistent pattern, falling asleep will be a natural response.

Schedule a worry time. Find about 10-15 minutes to worry about things. You could start a diary and write things that happened to you or worry you, and, most importantly, what you can do about them. If you explicitly write down your worries, they will not bother you when you are trying to get some sleep.

Art by Nishiwaki

Meditate. Meditation can help you calm your mind and teach you how to observe and let go rather than ruminate on your thoughts.

Art by Misaki Kurehito

Exercise in the morning. Physical activity, especially in fresh air, will help you to fall asleep faster. You don’t have to exercise intensely for a very long time – do what you can, as long as it is consistent.

Keep a sleep diary. Write down how your night went and describe your day in details if it was particularly difficult to fall asleep. This way you may find additional causes of sleep difficulties.

Before Sleep

Art by Gayarou

Do not drink caffeine containing beverage 4-6 hours before sleep. It takes some time for your body to get rid of caffeine effects, which can prevent you from falling asleep. Common sources of caffeine are coffee, tea, and carbonated soft drinks such as Pepsi and Coke.

Do not eat shortly before sleep. Full stomach may prevent you from falling asleep quickly. It is best to leave at least two to three hours between your supper and sleep.

Do not exercise at night shortly before sleep. Exercise will shift your body to the next gear and change your circadian rhythm. It is better to exercise in the early morning or around 1800.

Get off the computer at least 30 minutes before going to sleep. People follow circadian cycles and light is one of the major zeitgeibers (external cues). Try to limit and reduce light from various sources. Moving away from PC can also help you to calm down and prepare for sleep. It is not easy to fall asleep right after playing a difficult game, seeing an emotional movie, having a heated conversation, or any other involving experience that keeps thoughts running through your head. Allow some time to think about your experience and let your emotions to subside a little.

The reason is that no matter how passively we watch television, or how innocuous the book we read is, our minds are still being stimulated. And an overstimulated mind — along with anxiety and stress — is what keeps us awake. It’s all those thoughts in our head we have to get rid of before we can get to sleep. The last thing we need is more input into our heads from television or books. You definitely don’t want to see this one😛

Art by j.2

Take a hot shower 90 minutes before sleep and wash your feet with warm water right before bed. When people are ready to sleep their body temperature decreases. Many people who have insomnia have too high body temperature. Taking a warm shower about 90 minutes before bed will warm up your body and then the temperature will decrease right by the time you will go to bed. I find that washing my feet with warm water right before bed is very helpful because  my feet tend to be cold in the winter, and I can’t fall asleep unless they get somewhat warmer.

Drink milk and honey 30 minutes before sleep. Do it if and only if you are not allergic to honey and can process lactose well (some people are lactose intolerant). Another good alternative that can help you to fall asleep is chamomile, a nice beverage that can also help with stomach problems.

Your Room, Your Bed, and Ways to Fall Asleep Faster

Art by Marihana

Sleep in a well-ventilated room. Fresh air and a room temperature around 60-65 F will give you the best sleeping conditions. Also open the blinds when you turn off the light to allow sunlight enter the room in the morning to help with waking up.

Hide your clock. Set the alarm clock an hide it – the less you know about time the less reasons for you to worry.

Block the noise. If some noise is disturbing you, turn on a fan to block it. You can also try earplugs.

Art by Punchiki

Your bed is for sleep and sex only. Bed is not for working, reading, watching television, doing crossword puzzles, or whatever else occupies you in the evening. Let your mind and body identify bed with sleeping.

Sleep on a firm bed as it will help your entire body to relax and your spine to straighten. This is a very important point. The level of firmness that is comfortable for each person varies, but it is worth investigating and choosing a good mattress. Even though it might cost $300 or more, you’ll be using it every night and how you feel in the morning will, in part, depend on it. Ikea has a wide variety of mattresses.

Sleep on your back because it’s the best position for relaxing, and allows all your internal organs to rest properly. If you must sleep on your side, do it on your right side, not your left. Sleeping on the left side causes your lungs, stomach and liver to press against your heart, causing stress on an organ that most of us find quite useful. Never — ever — sleep on your stomach. It causes pressure on all your internal organs — including your lungs, which results in shallow breathing. It can also, as you’ve no doubt discovered, cause a stiff neck and upper back problems.

Art by Tsukushi

Find a good pillow. Consider some orthopedic pillows and determine what feels the most comfortable to you.

Wiggle your toes. ^_^ Lie on your back and wiggle your toes up and down 12 times, wiggling the toes of both feet at the same time to relax your body.

Escape the vicious cycle. Since you know you have some difficulty falling asleep, you anticipate it and worry about not being able to fall asleep at the slightest sign that you may not be able to fall asleep. The more time you spend in bed worrying and watching the clock, the more anxious and sleepless you become. To break that cycle get out of bed if you can’t fall asleep for 30 minutes. Sit on a chair or do some kind of relaxing boring activity until you feel sleepy.

Sweet Dreams! ^_^

Source: Many of the tips are from 42 Simple Tips to Help You Get to Sleep

Further Reading:

36 comments

  1. The red-head is a Misaki Kurehito art. Love love.

    I guess that chocolate bar I’m eating won’t be beneficial to my sleep, whenever I get around to it.

    Chamomile is a wonderful substance.


    • Ah, thank you for mentioning the artist🙂

      hehe I hope that bar won’t disturb your sleep too much.

      Indeed, I also enjoy chamomile tea🙂


  2. teeehehe sleep and sex only in the bed😄

    this is a very interesting list. I wish they worked for me😄


    • Try them and some might help🙂


  3. Getting off the computer? Good luck to us bloggers to that.

    You did forget that taking a refreshing bath also entitles you to a good sleep.


    • haha Yes, going away from a computer can be quite difficult for some people🙂

      Indeed, refreshing bath is awesome🙂 (I mentioned hot shower)


  4. Your ‘tutorial’ is great! I only have occasional difficulty with sleeping, but I’m going to implement some of your tips anyway😉


    • Thank you🙂 Hopefully, some of these tips will be useful🙂


  5. Funny, drinking caffeine actually put me in a good mood and enhance sleeping.
    A very useful post. Toe wiggling is totally new to me! (this reminds me of a scene in Kill Bill movie when the Bride tries to wiggle her toes and recovers from paralysis)


    • Yes, caffeine has unusual effects on some people. My relative feels similarly to what you describe🙂

      Thank you🙂

      haha Toe wiggling is a fun technique🙂 Ah yes, I recall that scene🙂


  6. Bed for sleep and sex….Hahahahahaha! Good read!

    The problem with me is my irregular sleep habits due to work/school/other interests. Caffeine to stay awake or alcohol to fall asleep don’t have much effect on me at all.

    If anything, it’s the state my thoughts are in. If I can muster myself completely and decide to sleep, I will fall asleep. But if the smallest bit of thought does not cooperate with the rest of my head, then I’ll simply fail.


    • Yes, managing all these things can be difficult. I try to set a specific time when I have to go to sleep. It can be very difficult to force a certain schedule when there are so many interesting things to do (need more anime!), but I if I say up late I feel horrible and unproductive the next day.

      Ah, it seems you might benefit from some cognitive approaches🙂 Meditation might help🙂


  7. First, hot milk before going to bed or counting sheeps dont work in all cases. Lol


    • Never tried counting sheep, but it seems to work nicely for Horo😛


  8. I am definitely going to show this to my friend who has been having sleep problems for the past month. From what I can tell it seems very useful, thanks!


    • Ah, that is very nice of you🙂 You are welcome, I hope your friend will get better🙂


  9. I have trouble sleeping every night and quite frankly I know some of these tips but just never follow them.

    After all, someone is wrong on the Internet. How can I ignore that!


    • Yes, it can be difficult to implement them in practice sometimes😦

      haha I am sure you can ignore it😉 I hope you’ll be able to sleep well eventually🙂


  10. very useful advices thank you for it🙂
    Recently I’ve got very much problem with sleep😦
    The most useful advice for me:
    >> Get off the computer at least 30 minutes before going to sleep.
    Wish I could be strong enough to do it…


    • You are welcome🙂
      😦 I hope you’ll get better!

      Yes, it is not easy, but you’ll succeed eventually🙂


  11. omg toe wiggling! These are great tips. I’ve been a terrible for the past year or so, mainly because I keep working on projects and ideas late into the night without the feeling of “fulfillment” (induces a lot of restlessness).

    Lately, I’m trying to browse through my Japanese dictionary or other similar [paper] resources to relax before sleeping. Definitely gets me tired.

    On top of that, I think getting to sleep earlier allows the body to rest more. I find that going to bed after 2am tends to wear, and I end up sleeping for 10-12 hours to feel charged up. If I go to bed before 11 or 12, I feel great with 7-8 hours of sleep.

    Exercise and caffeine… definite morning activities🙂


    • Thank you🙂

      You need to play some MMORPGs for easy fulfillment😛 Sometimes it happens to me too: I just keep writing a manuscript or reading some articles, and, when I look at a watch, it is three at night already! >.< I am just addicted to learning something new! One of the things you might try is to set up some smaller goals for yourself to accomplish everyday and reward yourself for achieving them🙂

      Ah, reading a Japanese dictionary sounds like a nice relaxing activity🙂

      Oh, you are definitely right about that! As they say, an hour of sleep before midnight is like two hours of sleep after!😀 I feel best when I go to sleep and wake up early🙂 Being a vampire never worked for me, but running under a full moon in the morning is awesome!😀


  12. I can definitely implementing a sleep schedule helps. ;]

    Thanks for the post! I suffer from insomnia myself, so this is helpful. ^^


    • You are welcome🙂 I hope you’ll get better!


  13. I can usually sleep pretty well-apart from those rare days when we were rushing our work like mad, but strangely enough it was only during our foundation year. However, I do keep a watch by my bed so that I’ve an idea on what time it is when I wake up because I might just continue sleeping without a care in the world! And I doubt that Sebastian could wake me up by simply shaking me, as my dad has done that before and it failed big time.

    When I’m really excited about something it takes me awhile to fall asleep. I was so keyed up the night before my first plane ride. But it was worth it! I didn’t mind the odd hour ride in a cab to the airport (because I’ve never been there before)!

    It felt like I’ve hardly commented here anymore D: Sorryyyyy. I haven’t been blogging much too-been resorting to Tweeting because I can update a little and continue to work😄 But Tweeting with you is never the same as chatting-I get instant replies! (:

    It’s tough to juggle assignments with a particularly attention seeking husband, I can assure you. You have no idea how many times I’ve been interrupted by him. What does he want me to do at times, I’m baffled.

    Have a great week!😀


    • Well, setting alarm clock usually takes care of waking up. The secret to waking up is putting your alarm far away from bed so that you have to get out of bed to reach it😛

      Ah, that must have been very sad!

      Mom: “Hey, is Cheri up yet?”
      Dad: “She should be – I shook her.”
      Mom: “Ok.”

      An hour later…

      Yes, excitement definitely hinders sleep. I tend to wake up several times per night before major exams >.<

      Oh, no problem – you are a very prolific Twitterer😛

      He should behave or else 😛


  14. Love the images in this post, but yeah.. I spoke with my doctor and she said don’t do things that would mean a lot of thinking before you go to bed.. but my issue is that soo many things, and so little time. >_< Trying to work on productivity and that doesn't seem to happen during the day time.


    • That is why setting a specific time to address all those things and limiting what you do might be a good idea.


  15. If any of this post is true, I’m fucked for life.

    Thanks for the insight.


    • 😦 I hope not! Things may improve eventually!

      You are welcome🙂


  16. “Find a good pillow.”

    I’ll need a whole mountain of them, though. I tend to have some difficulty falling asleep with only one (or even two) pillows underneath my head; usually I’d feel better if there were enough of them to support me in an almost reclining position.

    I remember staying in a budget hotel in Tokyo – nice place, except that there was just one pillow and not a very thick one at that. Had to roll up the yukata they provided into a bundle and use that for extra height.

    Pleasant dreams tonight.😉


    • Oh, that is an interesting preference🙂 Poor yukata😛


  17. I LOVE all the pictures haha, some are so funny xD especially the stick guy on the computer LOL, and all the sleeping ones are adorable!! ^^ I been having trouble sleeping lately mainly bc I stay up all night studying, do my exam the next day and then sleep for the rest of the day so my sleeping pattern is messed :S I’m drinking coke and just ate icecream so I’ll prob have some trouble sleeping xD I seem to do everything on here that doesn’t help with sleeping x_x I never sleep on my back either, its really hard, I either sleep on my left,right, stomach (often) and weird different angles xD haha anyways thanks for the tips ^^


    • Thank you🙂 I enjoy selecting pictures🙂

      Ah yes, high load classes can definitely mess up the sleeping schedule😦 I hope things will get easier later and you’ll be able to sleep well🙂


  18. I would totally be happy to be able to use Mokomoko-sama as my pillow. I think my fascination with silver haired bishies probably began with InuYasha and Sesshoumaru.

    In fact hubby theorizes the reason I love Tomoe so much is because his ears make me think of InuYasha. He may be right…

    As for sleep hubby does most of that. He can’t have caffeine anymore anyway and wakes up at the same time every morning since I make sure he does.

    But he sleeps terribly. He is bad about watching t.v before bed though.

    No caffeine for both of us, bed time varies, but wake up time is the same.

    Other than that I don’t follow any of the rules I should and yet I sleep so well. Hubby thinks I’m part neko.

    Its probably true, a sunbeam hits me and its lights out. I can sleep anywhere at anytime of day and night.

    If I knew how I did it, I would bottle it up and give it to hubby since he sleeps so poorly.


    • Well, such ears are just too cute😛

      Yes, keeping a consistent waking up time is one of the keys🙂

      Part neko! haha



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