It happens every night. You open your eyes in the middle of the night, frustrated that what feels like hours of lying fruitlessly in bed has yet to lull you to sleep. Your eyes feel heavy and your body aches, but you can’t drift off like everyone else does. Chronic insomnia can have major, negative consequences on your life. If you’re struggling to figure out how to knock yourself out, or you feel like you’ve been counting sheep for hours, you may feel like you’re doomed to another sleepless night.
Doctors and scientists have developed a number of drugs and therapy methods meant to help aid sleep in insomniacs. Here are five strategies to tackle your nightly insomnia struggle.
1. Relaxation training
Relaxation training, also known as mindful thinking and generally recognized as meditation, is a stress-relieving technique meant to help prepare your body to relax. The exercise involves carefully exploring and sensing your entire body, often with the aid of a gentle guiding recording.
The exercise is typically done laying down on a bed, and asks participants to slowly follow steps such as breathing through your nose, feeling the aches of your body and keeping your eyes shut. It’s ideal for insomnia and is recommended by the National Sleep Foundation. The soothing, gentle voice of a narrator can often provide some gentle white noise stimulation as well as relaxing instructions that can help someone struggling with insomnia slowly drift off to sleep.
2. Cognitive behavioral therapy-insomnia
Another popular behavioral treatment is cognitive behavioral therapy-insomnia (CBT-I therapy), designed to help an insomniac. The National Sleep Foundation describes it as safe and effective. CBT-I will often require documenting your experiences in a sleep journal and discussing them regularly with a therapist. The goal is to help patients learn methods for good sleep hygiene behaviors such as putting screens away at least an hour before bed, recommending a cool dark room, and asking participants to avoid consuming alcohol or tobacco near bedtime.
3. Sleep medication
The market for sleep medication is saturated with less effective medications as well as medications used off-label, such as Bendaryl, which comes with associated health risks. As a result, many insomniacs find themselves with a large collection of ineffective bottles of pills or liquids they’ve bought in an attempt to go to sleep. The best medication for insomnia, however, is going to need a prescription and a doctor’s visit, as well as close monitoring for signs of abuse. Prescription sleeping pills or benzos, an anti-anxiety class of sedatives, can help you fall asleep and stay asleep, but they typically come with side effects and are only approved for short-term use.
4. ASMR and white noise
In recent years, ASMR—autonomous sensory meridian response— videos have popped up everywhere on the Internet. Relatively calm videos featuring people gently talking, completing tasks or creating a rhythm or pattern with items around them, ASMR videos use white noise and gentle sounds to promote relaxation in listeners. Although little research has been done in the field, anecdotal evidence suggests that it can be an effective relaxation technique to treat insomniacs, according to the University of Florida College of Medicine. Videos are posted on YouTube by ASMR bloggers, like Youtube user, GentleWhispering.
One of the most natural supplements available for sleep aid is melatonin. Naturally produced in your body, melatonin is a sleep-encouraging hormone that is available over the counter in pill form. Insomniacs looking to treat their sleep problems naturally but tired of behavioral attempts can turn to this gentle medication to induce a gentle sleepiness. According to the National Sleep Foundation, research suggests it’s most effective when taken regularly to follow a schedule, rather than to induce immediate sleep.
Insomnia can be a major hassle and interfere with many aspects of your life. Rather than lying awake night after night, try one of these sleep aids, and see if they can help knock you out for a peaceful night’s sleep.
Featured photo credit: Ciocci via flickr.com