Prevent Insomnia with the Perfect Sleeping Environment
Insomnia strikes most adults at some point in their life. If you are currently suffering from insomnia, use these tricks to fight it with the perfect sleeping environment.
If you suffer from insomnia, not only do you likely suffer from miserable nights and days, but you are also harming your health.
According to the National Sleep Foundation, about 10 to 15 percent of all adults in the United States report suffering from chronic insomnia or sleep disturbances of some kind. Suffering from chronic sleep disturbances can have a variety of undesirable health risks, including a higher rate for depression, weight gain, a poor functioning immune system, and a higher risk for getting into car accidents.
Although it is easy to push aside sleep issues in favor of more pressing health concerns (such as weight loss), addressing sleep issues can lead to many benefits in your overall mood and health. To gain the biggest benefits of sleep and minimize any sleep disturbances, creating the idea sleep environment is essential. Use the following tips to create the perfect sleeping environment that will promote healthy sleep and discourage insomnia.
In most cities and towns today, even the night is light. In the city, it is difficult to see any stars at all due to the influx of light from artificial sources. Although light at night is beneficial for preventing crime, it has a negative effect on your sleep. Even small light sources, such as the tiny light on your smoke detector, can disrupt your sleep.
According to studies, blue light is particularly bad for your sleep habits because blue light is the light we see during the day. Our bodies see blue light as “awake” light. When blue lights are present, it disrupts the production of sleep hormones such as melatonin. Melatonin is an essential hormone that is used to regulate sleep/wake cycles, cortisol production (the hormone produced from stress), and body temperature. Because melatonin production is so sensitive, even the small amount of artificial light in a bedroom produced by a cell phone or television can be enough to completely disrupt your body’s sleep/wake cycle.
Luckily, you can reverse the effects of artificial light by removing it from all bedrooms in your home. Implement the following steps to eliminate as much light as possible from your bedrooms:
Keeping things dark is one of the best ways to regulate cortisol levels, which are responsible for not only regulating stress levels, but also the sleep cycle.
According to Dr. Alan Christianson, author of The Adrenal Reset Diet, not only are too high cortisol levels dangerous, but too-low levels can also be dangerous. A 2011 study conducted by researchers from the UK found that an imbalance of cortisol hormones was responsible for more deaths than diabetes, heart disease, obesity, and smoking among study participants.
Simply eliminating all noise or adding in any kind of white noise will not solve sleep issues. Creating the perfect sleep environment is a little more complicated than that. Regular white noise machines typically are irritating to the human ear, so playing white noise or static all night may actually cause you to subliminally stress out at night, which is harmful to health. But not having any noise at night can also create a similar effect when sudden little noises cause sleep disturbances at night.
However, it is possible to find the right balance of sound without causing stress at night. Some apps provide ambient noise that is not stressful to listen to. You can also try running a fan or listening to a CD of calming music or nature sounds at night to provide the right balance of restful sleep. Just avoid the white noise systems that use static sounds.
Your sleep position plays a roll in the quality of your sleep. Sleeping on your back, for example, is more likely to cause you to snore and disrupt your sleep that way. Sleeping on your stomach can also cause digestive problems and back pain. Sleeping on your side is the healthiest position for blood flow, joint health, and reducing back pain.
Another way to promote healthy sleep is to prop your feet up before bed. Propping the feet helps regulate blood flow and triggers the body to produce hormones necessary for a good night’s sleep. Try propping your feet up for about 20 or 30 minutes before you go to bed at night. You can even do this while watching TV or using your phone or computer.
At night, your body temperature naturally drops a few degrees. The process is easier when you are sleeping in a cooled room. The ideal sleeping temperature is surprisingly cool and may feel cold to most people. In fact, sleep experts typically recommend a room temperature between 62 and 68 degrees. This is difficult to achieve in the summer, but switching to lighter blankets or even just sleeping in a sheet can help prevent overheating at night. If you are still not convinced to sleep in a cool room, the results of this study may convince you.
Researchers from the University of Pittsburgh School of Medicine in 2011 tested the temperature theory on study participants with chronic insomnia. The researchers gave the insomniacs cooling caps to use at night and tested their sleep results with those of study participants who had no sleep problems but did not wear cooling caps. The insomniacs actually slept just as well as the good sleepers while wearing the cooling caps.
Your diet plays a huge roll in how well you sleep at night. Hormone regulation is heavily influenced by the diet. Sleep researcher and author of From Fatigued to Fantastic, Jacob Teitelbaum, states that eating a diet filled with vegetables, fruit, protein, and healthy fats is absolutely essential for preventing insomnia.
“The majority of people with day-to-day insomnia could be sleeping like puppies if they made just a few [dietarty] changes,” he said in an interview with US News. He recommends individuals struggling with insomnia eat the following foods regularly:
Exercise is important for regulating the hormone system and the sleep/wake cycle. For best results, exercise in the day in full sunlight. Any moderate to intense exercise for 30-60 minutes three to five times a week will be enough to help prevent insomnia. Keep active and you will find yourself better able to fall asleep once you hit the pillow at night.
Several herbs are known for their sleep-promoting effects. Many of these herbs you can find in tea form, including valarien, passion flower, and chamomile. You may also be able to find skullcap and hops in tea form, but it is less likely. All of these herbs have calming effects and work with your body to regulate hormones and promote a restful night’s sleep.
Additionally, the minerals calcium, magnesium, and potassium, as well as B vitamins all work together to regulate hormonal cycles and the sleep/wake cycle. You may find that supplementing with these nutrients in addition to the herbs also helps prevent insomnia.
Most people are sleeping on terrible mattresses. Most mattress companies design their mattresses to last a maximum of 10 years (there are some exceptions), but many people continue to use their mattresses far longer. A mattress that is either too hard or too soft will both have negative effects on your sleep. The same mattress will not work for everyone.
When possible, look for a mattress made from inert, organic materials. Since each sleeper is different, look for mattress brands that allow you to try out a mattress and see if it works. Most companies will require you to pay a restock fee, but a small fee is worth it when you don’t have to spend years suffering from back, neck, and joint pain from a bad mattress.
Stress can cause you to worry and freak out all night long. Chronic stress makes you more jumpy, less rested, and irritable upon waking. Not all sources of stress can be eliminated (such as stress during a financial crisis), but if you work to push stressful thoughts to the back of your mind at night, you will feel more rested and have better sleep.
Try practicing stress-relieving techniques before bed, such as meditation, prayer, yoga, warm baths, drinking warm milk, having a hot cup of tea, listening to relaxing music, or reading a calming book (something with a positive message, not something with depressing themes).
Although some causes of insomnia are irreversible without medical intervention, much of what you believe to be chronic insomnia just may be fully reversible with lifestyle changes. Good sleep is incredibly important to your health, and is the foundation for a healthy, happy life. Just by making a few simple changes, you can reverse many of the common reasons for insomnia and reduce your risk for many of the common health problems that affect millions of Americans.
Kumari M, Shipley M, Stafford M, Kivimaki M. Association of diurnal patterns in salivary cortisol with all-cause and cardiovascular mortality: findings from the Whitehall II study.
J Clin Endocrinol Metab. 2011 May;96(5):1478-85. doi: 10.1210/jc.2010-2137.
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