FIRST THINGS FIRST, WHAT IS INSOMNIA?
Insomnia is the inability to fall asleep or stay asleep at night. This results in poor sleep, instead of the restorative, quality sleep that we need to function properly.
It’s a very common problem, with huge knock-on effects. But because different people require different amounts of sleep, insomnia is defined by the quality of your sleep (and how you feel), and not the number of hours you sleep for. You may be spending eight hours in bed at night, but if you feel tired and drowsy during the day, you could still be experiencing insomnia.
Whilst insomnia is the most common sleep complaint, it is important to remember that it is not a single sleep disorder. It’s better to think of insomnia as a symptom of another issue. What is actually causing the insomnia differs for each individual. For instance, it could be something as simple as drinking too much caffeine during the day. On the other hand, it could be the result of a more complex issue, for instance an underlying health condition or stress.
Luckily, many people’s insomnia can be improved by identifying and addressing the underlying causes, and making simple changes to your habits and daily routines (with no need for sleep specialists or medication).
RECOGNISING HABITS THAT DISTURB SLEEP
Whilst addressing any underlying health concerns is a good place to start, it may not be enough. This is because some of the things you are doing to cope with insomnia (i.e. your daily habits) may be worsening the problem.
For instance, you may be using sleeping tablets, or even an alcoholic drink at night to fall asleep, both of which will worsen the problem in the long-term. Or maybe you need a lot of caffeine to get you through the day, because you feel so tired, which makes it hard to fall asleep or sleep deeply in the evening. Other habits which can negatively impact sleep are irregular sleep schedules, naps, poor diet choices, a lack of exercise and exercising too close to bedtime.
In a nutshell, a vicious cycle exists: not only do poor daytime habits contribute to insomnia, but a bad night’s sleep can make these habits harder to change:
Often, altering the habits that are reinforcing the problem is enough to overcome your sleep difficulties. It can take a few days for your body to adapt, but once it does, you will sleep better.
IF YOU ARE STRUGGLING TO IDENTIFY YOUR HABITS
It can be tricky to recognise which habits are contributing to your insomnia. Some are so ingrained that it’s easy to overlook them as a possible problem. Maybe your 4pm double-shot latte impacts your sleep more than you realise, or maybe you’ve not made the connection between your after-dinner glass of red and tossing and turning later on. Keeping a sleep diary is a useful way of making connections between daytime activities and sleep quality and quantity.
Once you have identified any habits which impact your sleep, you can then look to replace them with positive habits, for example switching your afternoon coffee for something caffeine-free, or building a relaxing bath into your evening routine. Including a warm bath (or shower) in your evening routine raises and then cools your body to the perfect sleep temperature. But the timing here is important – make sure you’re out of the bath about an hour and half before you want to sleep, giving your body enough time to cool to that optimum temperature. Adding a bath to your pre-sleep routine also forces you to slow down before you try to sleep, making you more likely to drift off peacefully and quickly.
Our new Sleep Signatures Bath & Shower Elixir, packed with sleep-inducing essential oils, is the perfect addition to your pre-sleep routine.
NB: This article is for information purposes, and does not constitute medical advice. If you are experiencing difficulty sleeping, or have symptoms which prevent you from sleeping well, you should contact your medical practitioner.