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Published on August 3, 2018

5 Insomnia Causes and How to Combat Them to Crush Sleeplessness

5 Insomnia Causes and How to Combat Them to Crush Sleeplessness

The alarm clock numbers change again.

12:06 AM.

“Well”, you think to yourself, “not the worst.” But here’s the problem — you went to bed over two hours ago.

There aren’t many feelings worse than watching your alarm clock work flawlessly with no emotion, showing you little mercy in counting time upwards.

Insomnia isn’t anything to take lightly, and no matter how good your sleep schedule is, we’ve all been struck by its merciless rage. Unfortunately for some, they suffer from it consistently.

The bad news? You may not realize it, but you’re feeding the insomnia directly by some of your habits.

The good news? You can change these habits and enjoy better, more fulfilling sleep on a regular basis.

The following is a list of the most common causes of insomnia, and what you can do to flip the script and lessen the bags showing themselves front and center under your eyes:

Cause 1: Technology

Do I even need to go here?

How many times have you been told to stay away from anything with a screen at night? It almost feels like it’s one step away from a parent scolding their stepchild.

Yet, just like the stepchild, you push the envelope and do it anyway. Why not, right? It’s not physically hurting you or causing any damage, so off you go.

But it is hurting — and it’s hurting big time. Whether you like it or not, we have certain biological tendencies that have been adapted through thousands of years of human existence.

Technology and blue light screens have only been around for 40 (or even less) of those years, and smartphones have cut that number to maybe ten. So now, as you browse Instagram and Facebook in bed, you’re effectively resisting thousands of years of biology by pitting ten years of technology against it.

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Who do you think is going to win this one? Here’s a hint — it’s not you.

While you joyfully laugh at the latest viral Facebook video, your brain’s ability to secrete melatonin is suppressed as a result of the blue light from the screen.[1] Melatonin, it turns out, is the sleep regulating hormone.

So put the tech away. You’ve had all day to stare at it, and you can definitely handle the one hour before bed without it.

Having trouble simply putting it away? Try any of the following:

  1. If you normally plug your phone in on your nightstand, move it away to your desk. If even having it on your desk is too tempting, put it in another room for the night.
  2. Replace the habit of browsing social media or checking email on your phone late at night (because let’s be honest, that’s generally what you do) with another activity, such as reading. Give the eyes the break they deserve.
  3. Put your phone on airplane mode for the night so no one can distract you.

Cause 2: Stress

Work. Family. Relationships. Life.

Rinse and repeat.

Any combination of those, or even all of them, can cause undue stress in your life. We all know stress is bad. Yeah, yeah… yeah. We’ve heard it ten thousand times in ten thousand different ways. But what are we doing about it?

Unfortunately, not much. Out of any of those categories, work is one of the biggest sources of stress. It boils down to three reasons:

  • There’s pressure on you to perform well on a regular basis.
  • Your coworkers are hard to work with or even get along with.
  • You probably don’t even like your job that much.

Mix those together and you’ll get a pretty potent shot of cortisol, courtesy of your own body. What is cortisol exactly? It’s the hormone that’s released during stress.

If you’re feeling the full force of it, spend a little time doing any of the following:

  1. Meditate. The science behind it is proven, and I know you’ve heard it’s beneficial. Give it a shot. Start with sitting still in the mornings for a few minutes. Expand from there. There are a ton of useful guides online, here’s one: The 5-minute Guide to Meditation: Anywhere, Anytime
  2. Unplug for a bit. Similar to meditation but without actually meditating. Put your phone away, don’t talk to anyone, and just unwind for a few minutes. Let your thoughts go wild if you need to. Take a few deep breaths. It’s ok to spend a little time alone. Don’t feel like going out Friday night? Then don’t.
  3. Enjoy a little downtime without the guilt. Downtime is in fact very important to your overall performance. We’re so “go go go” in our mentality these days, we almost feel guilty when we take a minute to slow down. Well, I’m here to tell you — slow down more and don’t feel guilty about it. Watch a TV show or a movie. Read a freakin’ book. Veg out on the couch.

Cause 3: Unregulated sleeping hours/pattern

One of the worst things you can do is keep odd hours with your sleep schedule. Your body is a fine-tuned piece of equipment and thus needs to be treated like one. But like all things, it isn’t foolproof.

At the end of the day, we aren’t robots; we don’t have a switch that we can turn on and off. Do you consider that a pro or a con? I happen to think it’s a pro, but that’s just me.

Your body becomes a well-oiled machine when you give it routine and habits. Ultimately, it’s up to you if those habits are good or bad.

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If you’re looking to get ahead in life, you might want to make them good:

I’ll even give you one good habit to get you started: Keep your bedtime to a pretty consistent time frame.

The idea is simple:

Aim for a certain time and then keep the bedtime to within 30 minutes, even on the weekends.

Trust me, going to bed one night at 11 PM, the next night at 9:30 PM, and then 1 AM on Saturday night won’t do you much good.

Your brain picks up on these habits, and when you get into a routine of going to bed at the same time, you’d be surprised at how much more quickly you’re capable of falling asleep.

Cause 4: Bad diet and caffeine

We love dessert. We love greasy, cheesy, carb-loaded meals. We could literally eat this every day and not blink an eye. If only it was healthy for you.

What is it about the salt and the sweet that has us craving absolute crap a lot?

I won’t get into the science of why we love to eat everything that’s bad for us, but I will get into the science of why eating unhealthy on a regular basis will absolutely affect your sleep.

Let’s start with the physical discomfort you’ll probably get when you eat a heavy meal close to bedtime. That bloated, gassy, full feeling is never appetizing, let alone when it hits you as you lay in bed.

There’s also the aforementioned weight gain that comes with eating trashy foods all the time. And in turn, your chances of developing sleep apnea increase.

For those unaware, sleep apnea is where you stop breathing for short amounts of time overnight, causing your body to lose out on precious REM sleep. Many times, even after a full night’s sleep, you wake up feeling tired.[2]

Those who suffer from acid reflux due to bad diets can also suffer from nighttime heartburn as well, making it hard to fall asleep.[3]

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So, still want to eat a bunch of junk food? I hope not, but either way I’ll add another complex layer: caffeine, and your penchant to ingest a lot of it.

Here’s what I mean:

You’re tired on a regular basis, so you decide that caffeine was your drug of choice to combat the constant sleepiness. That’s cool. It works for a bit.

But as you begin to ingest more caffeine, you have a harder time falling asleep at night because you’re still wired. In turn, you wake up even more tired, and so you decide that more caffeine is the answer.

Get where this is going?

Try the following tips to start a healthy diet:

To start, try ingesting less caffeine. If you drink three or more cups a day, try replacing one of them with green tea, or cut that last cup out completely. Slowly backtrack down to one or two cups a day if you can, and don’t drink any caffeine past lunch time.

If your diet needs some improvement, try to start small again. If you happen to love sugar and find yourself eating or drinking the deliciously sweet stuff on the daily, try to cut out one source of it for the day. In other words, if you drink two sodas a day, try to cut one out and replace with sparkling water or some other non-sugary beverage.

This isn’t rocket science and is more than likely advice you’ve heard before.

If you eat dessert after every lunch and every dinner, try to skip one of them. Then, like with the caffeine, backtrack until you either completely eliminate it or have just a tiny amount.

I’m a firm believer in moderation — nothing wrong with enjoying a little coffee shop rendezvous with caffeine or a midnight meeting with chocolate…but when given an inch, we take a mile. Regulate your intake.

Cause 5: No exercise

Exercise has been proven as one of the most beneficial sources of stress relief, but more importantly, as a way to regulate your sleep.[4]

Just think about it — exercise means you expend a ton of energy in a short amount of time. Naturally, you get tired from this expense of energy and it follows you throughout the day even if you don’t actively feel “tired”.

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When you don’t exercise, you’re robbing your system of a chance to release this energy. With nowhere to go, it stays bottled up, and you guessed it — your sleep cycle takes the hit.

Try the following ways to get out there and get moving, people:

The source really doesn’t matter, but here’s what does:

Finding some physical activity that you enjoy. The fastest way to fall off the wagon is to do something you don’t enjoy and get bored (here’s to looking at you, career sufferers).

If you enjoy playing a sport, get more involved. If you enjoy the feeling of lifting some iron, get a membership to a gym. If you enjoy both, then guess what…do both.

If you prefer working out in groups, join any number of gyms that offer group classes. Your choices are pretty much unlimited. Go move.

You can flip the script

There are a number of factors that can trigger insomnia but lucky for you, most of them have solutions and ways you can tackle them to lessen their impact. A lot of them require discipline and effort, though.

Are your waking hours spent in a daze, full of brain fog? Are you getting mad that you can predict the mid-afternoon slump that accompanies you on a daily basis?

These five ways are some of the most time-tested, easiest solutions to implement.

Give it a go, because I can guarantee you one thing if you don’t: nothing will change.

Want to know more about hacking your sleep cycle, check this out:

Your Sleep Cycle And How To Hack It For Better Sleep

Featured photo credit: Unsplash via unsplash.com

Reference

More by this author

Adam Bergen

Adam Bergen is the founder of Monday Views, a movement dedicated to showing that with focus and self-discipline, your potential is limitless.

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Last Updated on August 15, 2018

7 Amazing Things That Will Happen When You Do Plank Every Day

7 Amazing Things That Will Happen When You Do Plank Every Day

Bodyweight exercises are gaining ground in the fitness world due to the practicality and simplicity of getting in shape using your own body weight. Planks are one form of bodyweight exercises that will never go out of fashion. Planks are one of the most effective exercises you can do. Why? Because they require a small time investment on your part, and offer the chance to achieve substantial results in a relatively short span of time.

Video Summary

Why is it important to train up our core strength?

There are numerous sites and blogs which detail ways to build your core muscles or core strength. Often though, these sites neglect to explain what your core muscles actually are, and why building them is important.

This is quite surprising, as core muscles are quite easy to explain. Your core muscles are a series of muscles in your midsection, and are used in most forms of movement. Though they aren’t housed in your arms or legs, your core muscles can help transfer force from one limb to another, or are used in addition to muscles in your arms or legs to increase their effectiveness. As such a strong core will make a big improvement on your ability to move and exercise further.

Also they are great for helping other muscles in your midsection such as your abdominal muscles. Your abdominal muscles are important for supporting your back and spinal column, and as such are important aids in preventing injuries. However for them to be most effective you need to spend a lot of time developing your core muscles.

In short, planking exercises can make a huge improvement in your muscles down your whole body. Making them a hugely effective exercise to perform.

One Exercise, multiple benefits

There are few forms of exercise as effective at building your core as planking exercises. However, planking exercises benefit far more than just your core strength.

By holding yourself in the position for a planking exercise, you’ll notice that your biceps, neck, and shoulder muscles are also being tested and strained. This this encouraging their buildup and development. This is great news if you like to do press ups, developed shoulder muscles will have a big impact on your press up performance.

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When planking, you are holding yourself up through your arms and biceps and so by holding a planking position, your arm muscles are being toned and developed. Making planking a great alternative exercise to other forms of bicep developing exercises.

Moving down your midsection, successful plank exercises actually develop the muscles in your butt! These muscles tend to be ignored by a lot of exercises, so this is another great benefit of plank exercises.

In much the same way as you develop your biceps and arm muscles, holding the planking position helps develop the muscles in your thighs too.

What is even better is that planking exercises don’t take much time at all. In fact you should probably only spend about ten minutes max per day in the planking exercise.

What will happen when you start doing planks every day

    1. You’ll improve core definition and performance: 

    Planks are an ideal exercise for the abdominal muscles exactly because they engage all major core muscle groups including the transverse abdominus, the rectus abdominusthe external oblique muscle, and the glutes. The importance of strengthening each muscle group cannot be underestimated either, for all of these groups serve their own purpose. If you strengthen these muscle groups you will notice:

    • Transverse abdominis: increased ability to lift heavier weights.
    • Rectus adbominis: improved sports performance, particularly with jumping. This muscle group is also responsible for giving you the renowned six pack look.
    • Oblique muscles: improved capacity for stable side-bending and waist-twisting
    • Glutes: a supported back and a strong, shapely booty.

    2. You’ll decrease your risk of injury in the back and spinal column

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      Doing planks is a type of exercise that allow you to build muscle while also making sure that you are not putting too much pressure on your spine or hips. According to the American Council on Exercise, doing planks regularly not only significantly reduces back pain but it also strengthens your muscles and ensures a strong support for your entire back, especially in the areas around your upper back.

      Check out this article if you would like to find out about how doing planks on different surfaces can impact the effectiveness of this exercise in strengthening your core.

      3. You’ll experience an increased boost to your overall metabolism

        Planking is an excellent way of challenging your entire body because doing them every day will burn more calories than other traditional abdominal exercises, such as crunches or sit-ups. The muscles you strengthen by doing this exercise on a day-to-day basis will ensure that you burn more energy even when sedentary. This is especially important if you are spending the majority of your day sitting in front of a computer. Also, making it a daily 10- to 1 minute home exercise before or after work will not only provide an enhanced metabolic rate but it will also ensure that that metabolic rate remains high all day long, (yes, even while you are asleep).

        4. You’ll significantly improve your posture

          Planking exercises have a great impact and improvement on your posture. This is great news as a strong posture brings with it a huge number of fantastic benefits .

          A good posture keeps your bones and joins in the correct alignment which means both your bones and joints will be better maintained and more healthy, but also means the overall effectiveness of your muscles will be improved.

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          A good posture will ensure your back or spine is in the correct position and so you will suffer less back pain.

          On top of everything, someone with good posture looks better, healthier, and more confident.

          5. You’ll improve overall balance

            Have you ever felt that when you tried standing on one leg, you couldn’t stand up straight for more than a couple of seconds? It’s not because you were drunk- unless you happened to be at the time!-  but rather, it’s because your abdominal muscles weren’t strong enough to give you the balance you needed. Through improving your balance by doing side planks and planks with extensions you will boost your performance in every kind of sporting activity.

            6. You’ll become more flexible than ever before

              Flexibility is a key benefit of doing planks regularly, for this form of exercise expands and stretches all your posterior muscle groups – shouldersshoulder blades, and collarbone – while also stretching your hamstrings, arches of your feet, and toes. With a side plank added in to the mix, you can also work on your oblique muscles. This will provide you with further benefits when it comes to hyper-extending your toes, a movement that is crucial for supporting your body’s weight.

              7. You’ll witness mental benefits

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                Plank exercises have a particular effect on our nerves, making them an excellent means of improving overall mood. How? Well, they stretch out muscle groups that contribute to stress and tension in the body. Just think about it: you are sitting in your chair, at home or at work, all day long; your thigh muscles get tight, your legs get heavy due to being bent for several hours; and tension develops in your shoulders due to being forced to slump forward all day. These are all circumstances that put too stress on the muscles and nerves. The good news is that planks not only calm your brain, but they can also treat anxiety and symptoms of depression– but only if you make it part of your daily routine.

                How to hold a plank position

                1. Get into pushup position on the floor.
                2. Now bend your elbows 90 degrees and rest your weight on your forearms.
                3. Keep your torso straight and rigid and your body in a straight line from ears to toes with no sagging or bending.
                4. Your head is relaxed and you should be looking at the floor.
                5. Hold the position for as long as you can.
                6. Remember to breathe. Inhale and exhale slowly and steadily.
                7. When your form begins to suffer, pull the plug. You’re only benefiting from the plank by actually doing the plank.

                Watch the video if you have any doubt!

                Here is a great infographic that shows the best plank variation exercises to evenly target all abdominal muscle groups:

                  How to improve your plank time gradually

                  1. Start with the easier variation if needed. You can start with a bent-knee plank if you can’t perform a regular plank yet. If you can hold a plank for more than two minutes with ease, you can move on to these tougher variations.
                  2. Practise every day. Space your planking exercise throughout the day and do 3-4 times every day. Try to hold the position 10 seconds longer each time.
                  3. Perform other body-weight exercises at the same time. Push-up and squat will improve your core strength too.

                  Are you ready to devote 5-10 minutes of your day, every day, to stay fit, healthy and, most importantly, strong as a bull? Then jump in and make doing plank exercises a part of your life.

                  Who Should Be Cautious Doing The Plank?

                  You need to be cautious doing Planking exercises if any of these risks apply to you:

                  • Prolapse
                  • After prolapse surgery
                  • Pelvic pain conditions
                  • Weak or poorly functioning pelvic floor muscles
                  • Previous childbirth
                  • Overweight

                  Choose an alternative pelvic floor abdominal exercise or consult your doctor before performing plank regularly.

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