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Almost half of adults experience insomnia at some time, with around 10% of people experiencing chronic insomnia at some point in their lives. Insomnia causes poor sleep, and includes problems with: getting to sleep, getting back to sleep after waking in the night, and waking too early.
Does Insomnia Matter?
When we don't get enough sleep, it leads to poor health. Insomniacs have been found to be at greater risk of anxiety and depression, gastrointestinal problems, obesity, cancer, and even heart disease.
A good night's sleep is important to keep us in good health. Insomnia can lead to symptoms such as forgetfulness, lack of energy, lack of concentration, and a higher risk of accidents due to exhaustion.
Become an early riser
It's time to reset your body-clock. Humans are designed to be awake in daylight and sleep when it's dark. So, if you're a bit of a stop-in-bed, it's time to become an early-riser. Set your alarm fifteen minutes earlier every day until you're rising at six, and then reward yourself with something fun when you're up as an incentive to not hit that "Snooze" button and sink back beneath the warm sheets.
Exercise early in the day
A 2010 study found that consistent daily exercise helps chronic insomniacs to get some sleep. A further 2011 study by Appalachian State University compared sleep quality in people who exercised at 7 a.m., 1 p.m. and 7 p.m. They found that those who exercised at 7 a.m. had 75% more restorative sleep than other groups.
Work in the Light
Sunlight is essential. It tells your brain to release serotonin (that happy healthy neurotransmitter that helps regulate your body clock). It tells your hypothalamus that it's time to wake up. When you're exposed to natural light in the day, it's easier for your brain to get the message that darkness equals bedtime.
To get the benefit of healthy sunshine, put your desk by a window, and take a walk in the sunshine.
Have Your Last Coffee Before 2 p.m.
Caffeine is a stimulant. You know that, of course. But did you know that caffeine can stay in your system for eight hours? A 2005 National Sleep Foundation poll found that those who consume four caffeinated drinks per day were more likely to experience insomnia than those who experience insomnia than those who drank no or one caffeinated drinks per day.
Stick to 250mg of caffeine per day, and then switch to decaf.
Don't Smoke Close to Bed (Or Quit)
Nicotine is a stimulant. Analysis of 52 studies by Jaehne and colleagues (2009) found that consumption of nicotine led to poor quality sleep, more sleep disturbances, and breathing disturbances that further damage sleep quality. These problems are worse early in the night, when nicotine levels are highest.
To combat these problems, stop smoking several hours before bed, or see a doctor about smoking cessation.
Have a Screen Curfew
Screens cause multiple disruptions to our sleep:
- Being constantly "on" leads to the increased production of cortisol, which makes us more alert and increases stress. Being stressed makes it harder to fall asleep.
- Looking for things on the web, receiving messages and feeling loved triggers our dopamine and opioid centres. We feel loved, we feel wanted, we feel involved. The dopamine wakes us up. We feel we could go on forever. This is not conducive to good sleep.
- The blue lights interfere with the production of restorative melatonin. A 2014 study at Brigham and Women's Hospital in Boston found that patients who read on iPads at night take longer to fall asleep than those who read with traditional books.
To combat these problems, banish all screens (laptop, TV, iPad and phone) from your room at least a full ninety minutes before bed.