Sleep disorders are very common, and, in an overcrowded, stressful, fast-paced world, often accepted as inevitable. They are not. Insomnia is not natural; neither is it harmless. Lack of sleep affects everything from relationships and work performance to physical and mental health: poor sleepers tend to be more irritable, impatient, and short-tempered; they are more likely to suffer diabetes, strokes, high blood pressure, and are more vulnerable to depression.
Uncover the root cause.
When confronted by an insomniac, physicians usually send them away with a packet of tablets. For some, tranquilizers and sleeping pills can be a lifesaver. But in the longer term, they are no solution. For a start, such medications have side effects. Those who use them frequently complain of headaches or a drowsy, groggy, drunken sensation that lasts into the next day. And if the root cause has not been addressed, such pills are little better than bandaids plastered over an infected wound. You must get at the root cause. Keep a notepad next to your bed, and if you awake at 3am, heart pounding, pour onto the page every fear and worry passing through your mind. Do not worry about punctuation or grammar. And don’t analyze what you are writing; make it as spontaneous as possible. Keep this up for a week or two and then, in the cold light of day, consider what you have written. Change what you can, and learn to accept what you cannot.
Consider your pre-bed routine.
Many people watch TV or play computer games in bed, then switch off the light and wonder why they cannot go to sleep. Such activities overstimulate the brain. Try a new pre-bed routine. First, eat nothing after 6pm, except warm milk. Take a hot bath, and lay there for as long as possible listening to soft, gentle music. Switch off all phones, TVs, and computers at least an hour before going to bed, and read something light and cheerful instead, or do some meditation.
Begin an exercise regimen.
Even if you do exercise, it may not be the right sort. Excessive, brutal exercise, such as weight-lifting or martial arts, cause inflammation in the body. To increase your chances of sleeping, try long, brisk walks instead. Natural light helps regulate sleep patterns. But be careful where you take these walks. Don’t walk through a noisy part of town: the flashing lights and honking traffic will inflame your nervous system. If possible, get out into quiet, peaceful countryside, or walk along the beach. Swimming and cycling are also recommended. Whatever you choose, do it at least 4 or 5 hours before climbing into bed. Never exercise just before sleeping.
Change your diet.
Everyone knows that caffeine should be avoided, but other foods could be keeping you awake as well. Do not eat anything that could aggravate the gut or stimulate the nervous system, such as wheat and sugar. People vary, and what affects one does not affect another, so experiment. For the first week, try cutting dairy from your diet and seeing if that helps. During the second week, return to dairy, but cut out wheat. Then, in the third week, try cutting out sugar. Your insomnia may be due to a simple intolerance or allergy.
Do not dwell on your sleeping problems.
Many insomniacs become angry and obsessive. They tell everyone they know about their problem and worry about it endlessly. This is fatal. The more you dwell on your insomnia, the more likely you are to lay awake all night. Your body isn’t an enemy. Many find their anger turns to bitter pessimism: they expect to sleep poorly, and so, of course, they do.
Insomnia is deeply unpleasant, and its impact on people’s lives should never be underestimated. Take the steps outlined in this article, and then forget about it. Have faith. You don’t have to trick your body into sleeping. Do what needs to be done, and, eventually, nature will take its course. Sleep is natural; never forget that.