Ever feel tired but you just can’t sleep? Insomnia hits everyone differently. For some, despite being at your most mentally fatigued state, sleep can be a challenge. I’ve experienced this for the last five years. Recently it seems to have worsened—perhaps due to day-to-day stress or the commitment of adulting becoming overwhelming. In my teens, it was almost always due to my night owl habits of “just another 5 minutes” scrolling through social media or watching a Youtube video, but now the chronic insomnia hits different.
Exercising seems to be the solution to many things nowadays. It’s been cited to improve mood, depression, bone density, and reduce joint problems. It’s also been said to help with sleep. Exercise is known for releasing hormones such as endorphins, and epinephrine that improves circulation, digestion, and other reasons that might be impacting your sleep. For myself, bloating and intolerance to certain foods can keep me up at night. Exercise seems to help.
Screen time is a culprit due to the blue light that emits from our LED or OLED screens. Blue light is said to disrupt our circadian rhythm (the internal biological clock that regulates sleep-wake cycles). I typically leave my phone in an area where I cannot reach. In the morning when my alarm from my phone rings, it also reduces my ability to hit the snooze button.
Ensure area you sleep in is only for sleep
Besides sleep and sex, the bedroom should not be associated with study or work. I had a bad habit of studying on a laptop stand while in the bedroom and that created an environment where I would take the stressors from studying into bed and create anxiety before going to bed. Prime your brain into thinking that the area is sacred and only for resting. Even if you’re not sleeping well, keeping this area restricted to sleep and sex will be a key first step. Ensure the bedroom is dark and at the optimal temperature for sleep.
This may sound like an adage from your parents. Eat early to avoid indigestion seems like a no brainer. However, after dinner many people will have snacks and more snacks. Especially in light of the recent Stanley Cup Finals, just grabbing a beer with fries and wings is commonplace. But when the games ended at 11 pm on some days, I ended up staying up until 2 am digesting my poor choices of fried foods earlier that night. If you’re really craving an evening snack, a light snack of fruits and vegetable dip might be a better idea than foods heavy in grease.
Contact a sleep specialist
When the insomnia becomes an unbearable part of your day and you’re waking up like a zombie that can’t focus on your schoolwork or work duties, then contacting your family physician might be a good idea. Certain clinics have a focus on sleep and have experience with managing insomnia. They might help you identify our root cause of insomnia. Moreover, it can help you have better insight into your sleep patterns that would be beneficial for the rest of your life.