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Overcome Insomnia in 7 Easy Steps

Overcome Insomnia in 7 Easy Steps

The inability to get adequate sleep is a serious concern for the average person. Insufficient sleep not only makes you look like a character from The Walking Dead, but can have some serious health consequences.

HOW LACK OF SLEEP AFFECTS YOUR HEALTH

It has become a kind of badge of honor to proclaim how we are functioning on minimal amounts of sleep. If you realize the damage it can do, you might not be as inclined to stay up watching a Duck Dynasty marathon late at night.

If you like to Eat.Sleep.Rave.Repeat you should be aware that lack of sleep is seen as a stress to the body. Your body is unaware if you are under some sort of environmental or famine-related stress, or it is just that you have been up all night “killing it” at the club. In either case, your body feels something is not right and the hormone cortisol can be released.

Cortisol, along with other stress hormones, can cause a substantial negative impact on the body over time, along with diseases such as:

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  • anxiety
  • irritability
  • ADHD
  • stroke
  • increased heart rate
  • hypertension
  • irritable bowel syndrome
  • digestive disorders
  • weight gain and obesity
  • depression

This list just scratches the surface. The truth is that stress is a very real thing and lack of sleep can be a big cause of it. In order to make sure we get adequate sleep, and to combat insomnia, here are 7 tips to get you on the right track to restful sleep.

1. Avoid alcohol and caffeine late at night

Alcohol has the potential to put people to sleep, but a deep sleep might be out of the question. The REM stage of sleep occurs during this deep sleep and alcohol can affect our ability to reach it. Not getting into this restorative section of sleep can happen due to alcohol.

You may fall asleep, but the second half of your sleep cycle–where real rest and recovery happens–will be compromised due to alcohol and caffeine consumed too close to bedtime.

2. Get into a regular routine

Your body likes balance and regularity. This is called homeostasis, or stability, and we respond and function better from it. This pertains to sleep as well as the body needs to recognize a consistent pattern to help itself unwind and, essentially, accept sleep.

Going to bed at the same time every day can create that regular habit. Consistency reinforces your body’s sleep-wake cycle and allows for better sleep throughout the night. Creating a wind-down routine will get your body into that consistent mode. It might be a hot bath at the same time each night, reading before bed, or writing a “to do” list for the next day to get your thoughts under control. The important part is to create a routine and stick with it.

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3. Don’t exercise close to bed time

It has always been thought that exercise before bed could lead to disrupted sleep, but newer research into the issue is shedding light that it may not be the issue it was thought to be. It is probably not the best idea to run sprints just before hitting the hay, as it can take the body a while to wind down after high intensity exercise, however lighter exercise can contribute to quality sleep.

If exercise is within 3 hours of when you go to bed, you will be all right. A lower temperature is what helps you sleep and exercise increases body temperature. Well-trained athletes are able to return to a lower resting heart rate and body temperature quicker than the average person. If you are new to exercising, keep some time between exercise and bed by a few hours. The main thing is to listen to your body and see how you feel. This is where keeping a sleep journal is helpful; you can keep track of things like exercise in relation to when you go to bed to keep an eye on how it might be affecting your sleep.

4. Avoid TV and blue light at night

You might be reading this right now in bed on your laptop, tablet or smartphone. This is something you really want to be looking to cut out, as all of our electronic devices emit blue light which can have a negative effect on our melatonin levels and, ultimately, our sleep. Melatonin helps control our sleep and ability to stay asleep; unnatural, artificial blue light significantly suppresses it in our body.

This can be difficult as we live in an artificially-lit world. However, greatly reducing our exposure 2-3 hours before bed will allow your natural melatonin levels to work efficiently and allow proper sleep. If you must use your laptop late, there are great programs (such as f.lux) that can reduce the blue light of your electronics. This will give it a more natural light effect.

5. Practice relaxation techniques

Relaxation and breathing techniques allow your body to focus on allowing itself to sleep.

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Breathing technique:

  1. Slowly relax your body while in bed.
  2. Slowly inhale through your nose over 8-10 seconds.
  3. Hold your breath for a few seconds.
  4. Slowly let the air out over at least 4 seconds.
  5. Continue as long as you like, or until you fall asleep.
  6. If feeling dizzy, slow down and take your time.

Progressive muscle relaxation: This is also known as the Jacobson method where you tense groups of muscles all over the body one by one, and then consciously relax them.

Toe Tensing: This one might seem a bit strange, but the idea is to draw tension away from the rest of your body.

  1. Lie on your back and close your eyes.
  2. Pull back your toes towards your face. Slowly count to 10.
  3. Relax your toes.
  4. Count to 10 slowly.
  5. Repeat the cycle 10 times.

6. Avoid eating a lot before bed

Several books could be devoted to this topic, so I will keep it simple. Going to bed after eating too much can make you feel bloated, and digestive upsets can keep you awake. Your body goes into overdrive when it has to burn off a large amount of food.

Hunger pangs can also keep you up. A light snack might take care of that and promote restful sleep. Stick to things like proteins, nuts and seeds, or celery and carrots sticks with some almond butter. Teas such as chamomile and green tea can help have a calming affect on the body as well.

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7. Don’t fight sleep

Have you been lying in bed with your eyes clenched, trying to force yourself to sleep? Or trying to tell yourself if I fall asleep RIGHT NOW I will still get X number of hours of sleep?

If you find yourself still awake after 20 minutes, you could be better off getting up and engaging in something that is mildly distracting. The chairman of the National Sleep Foundation, Russell Rosenberg, say worrying about how long you have been awake sets you up for disaster when it comes to drifting off to dreamland. The harder you try, the less likely you will fall asleep.

This can be a good time to find a chair and read, listen to some quiet music, or try some more of those relaxation techniques. The point is to try to distract yourself and allow the wind down effect to take place again.

If you find yourself with sleep issues, you are not alone. Over one half of Americans experience insomnia at least a few nights each week.

Fortunately, these simple steps can help you get back on the right track to la la land.

Now, if you will excuse me, I will be winding down with a cup of chamomile tea and a nice book. Wait, I meant a plate of ribs and watching Die Hard

Featured photo credit: Sleeping Lion Cub/William Warby via flic.kr

More by this author

Jamie Logie

Jamie is a personal trainer and health coach with a degree in Kinesiology and Food and Nutrition.

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Last Updated on May 25, 2019

20 Spaghetti Squash Recipes For Anyone Who Is Looking For Delicious, Healthy Comfort Food

20 Spaghetti Squash Recipes For Anyone Who Is Looking For Delicious, Healthy Comfort Food

Spaghetti squash is similar to cucumber. It has a shell which is difficult to pierce and this hard flesh surrounds a hollow cavity filled with seeds. When you cook this vegetable, the squash flesh falls away from the inner cavity and only the reminiscent of spaghetti remains. You can get surprised and delighted to see how this vegetable transforms with cooking.

It can act as a great substitute to pasta. It tastes as delicious as the traditional pasta and is equally satisfying but healthier. It is gluten free and contains many nutrients like vitamin A, potassium and folic acid.

This incredible vegetable can be boiled, baked or steamed. And, a lot of recipes can be prepared with spaghetti squash as the chief ingredient. I’m sure the following recipes will make your mouth water.

Breakfast

1. Spiced Coconut Squash Breakfast Porridge

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    This unconventional porridge, prepared for breakfast, is a perfect dish to start your day. The ingredients include spaghetti squash, organic coconut milk, ginger, coconut flour, maple syrup, cinnamon, sea salt and vanilla extract. It has a comforting and creamy texture and is best served with fresh fruit topping. (Click here for recipe)

    2. Egg and Avocado Spaghetti Squash Boats

    2

      If you’re looking for a light, healthy, gluten free, vegetarian breakfast then avocado spaghetti squash boats is the best option. Besides chopping the squash, breaking the egg and slicing the avocado, this recipe doesn’t require much effort in its preparation. It tastes amazing with egg yolk and salsa and has a rich decadent texture. (Click here for recipe)

      3. Spaghetti Squash Frittata for One

      3

        This frittata, if prepared perfectly, can be an excellent choice for a healthy meal. It is a combination of lots of spaghetti squash, a few white eggs, some red pepper for color and texture, few onions and garlic for flavor, and some fresh herbs for brightness. This dish is usually served large in size and tastes great with tomato sauce and bean balls. (Click here for recipe)

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        4. Ingredient Spaghetti Squash Brunch

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          It’s a fast and easy breakfast that contains a poached egg and feta on a pre-roasted pile of spaghetti squash bed. The yolk from the egg floods through the scraps of squash underneath. It almost tastes like an Italian pasta and the light crumble of feta adds more calcium and protein. (Click here for recipe)

          5. Spaghetti Squash Hash Browns

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            A very healthy take on hash browns in which spaghetti squash is used in place of potatoes and coconut oil in place of butter. This reduces stress, inflammation and starch, making it healthier than traditional hash browns. It helps lose water weight as well which is helpful for weight loss. The final product is fluffy on the inside but crispy on the outside. It is best served alongside some dippy eggs. (Click here for recipe and image source)

            Lunch

            6. Spaghetti Squash Chow Mein

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              Spaghetti squash can not only replace Italian pasta but it can also replace the Chinese noodles. They are a delicious, satisfying dish, prepared by stirring and frying spaghetti squash with a rainbow of other vegetables along with a sweet smelling mixture of fish sauce, rice vinegar and soy. They are gluten free and grease free which makes them healthier. (Click here for recipe)

              7. Parmesan Zucchini and Spaghetti Squash with Pine Nuts

              7

                This dish is a marvelous combination of garlic, spaghetti squash, parmesan, toasted pine and zucchini nuts. It’s super healthy, gluten free, full of vegetables and delicious. Tossed with olive oil, this dish meets all the dietary needs and is perfect for light lunch. You can also add some chicken to increase protein.  (Click here for recipe)

                 8. Spaghetti Squash with Mushrooms Parmesan

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                8

                  Though spaghetti squash provides low calories, you can add meaty mushroom and a good amount of parmesan cheese to increase the amount of calories. It’s a healthy, full of flavor, vegetarian dish, and has cheap and easy ingredients which you can find in market. The final product is yummy and satisfying and can make your lunch, perfect.  (Click here for recipe)

                   9. Spaghetti Squash with Vegan Fire-Roasted Tomato Cream Sauce

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                    A pile of roasted squash is flavored with a sauce made from five ingredients. The vegan fire-roasted tomato cream sauce is made from the mixture of tomatoes, cashews, basil, salt and water. This spicy sauce makes it more delicious and some small amount of basil adds fresh green color and flavor. (Click here for recipe)

                     10. Thai Peanut Spaghetti Squash

                    10

                      Most of the dishes listed here are either Mexican or Italian. This recipe however will give you a fresh Asian feeling. To prepare this, all you need are spaghetti squash and peanut sauce, then by adding some ginger, lime and vinegar you’ll get one of the most delicious recipes. The texture of this dish reminds you of heavenly beaches in Thailand. (Click here for the recipe)

                      Dinner

                      11. Spaghetti Squash Comfort Bowl

                      11

                        This is the perfect kind of bowl that you want to have on a cold evening, sitting on a couch and watching TV. You’ll enjoy its lightly steamed veggies, allspice beans, and the strands of squash as well. It feels creamy but doesn’t seem too heavy. It’s a great dish with intense indulgence, with our best spaghetti squash, the warm beans, and the comforting steamed veggies. (Click here for the recipe)

                        12. Spaghetti Squash Crust Pizza

                        12

                          As you already know, spaghetti squash is a great substitute for pasta, but this dish here shows how these chewy shreds can make a great stand-in for pizza. You can add anything like meat or veggies to the base which is bound with egg whites and flour. The end product is a great gluten free dish. (Click here for the recipe)

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                          13. Spaghetti Squash Fried Rice

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                            Spaghetti squash works as a good substitute to the cauliflower as the base of a fried rice. This recipe includes almost all of the usual ingredients of a fried rice. With green onions, eggs, peanut oil, and some garlic, this dish gives a unique texture that you can never find in your local restaurants. (Click here for the recipe)

                             14. Roasted Garlic Spaghetti Squash Lasagna Boats

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                              If you’re looking for something delicious for the winter evenings, you’ll get fond of these cheesy spaghetti squash boats. To lighten it up, it is filled with tomato sauce, cheese, chicken sausage, parmesan and ricotta. You can easily complete its arrangement ahead of time and bake it before dinner. (Click here for the recipe)

                              15. Chicken Enchilada Stuffed Spaghetti Squash

                              15

                                This Mexican inspired dish has spaghetti squash as a serving bowl and inside it goes enchilada sauce, chicken, cheese, black beans and other veggies wrapped inside a corn tortilla blanket. You can also use spinach in place of the corn and black beans. Topped with sauce galore, this dish can be served as a family fun meal.  (Click here for the recipe)

                                Dessert

                                16. Sweet Spaghetti Squash Kugel with Apples and Raisins

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                                  If you can afford spaghetti squash, coconut sugar, some eggs and few other ingredients, then this dish must be your cheapest choice. This noodle is a delight in all seasons. The addition of some apples and raisins results in its fruity freshness. (Click here for the recipe)

                                  17. Spaghetti Squash Coconut Custard Pie

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                                    With the fine sweetness from vanilla extract and coconut, this dessert can be a great hit among guests. The spaghetti squash drowns in an egg batter to make it lighter than a cream pie. You can play and experiment with the ingredients and see surprising results.  (Click here for the recipe)

                                     18. Spaghetti Squash Cake With Cream Cheese Glaze

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                                      This desert will be a delicious treat to those who are a fan of carrot cake. Spaghetti squash is a vegetable with pleasant taste, lending fiber, potassium and vitamins. So, if you drape it in cream cheese frosting, you will end with this mouth- watering cake. This dessert has so many health benefits and is also great for a Thanksgiving dinner. (Click here for the recipe)

                                       19. Spaghetti Squash Kheer

                                      19

                                        Kheer is a rice pudding made by boiling rice with cow milk and sugar. But this type of kheer replaces boiling rice with noodles swapped out of spaghetti squash and cow milk with coconut milk. By pouring some ghee, you can add necessary richness in it. It is healthier than traditional kheer and can act as a great dessert for your evenings. (Click here for the recipe)

                                         20. Cinnamon Spice Spaghetti Squash Cake

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                                          By now, you must be surprised by the versatility of spaghetti squash. But your best surprise will probably come after you finish preparing this cake. This cake is a game changer. You’ll have the taste of lots of veggies like cinnamon, allspice maple syrup and ginger, all inside a single cake.  It’s a perfect treat for picky eaters. (Click here for the recipe)

                                          Featured photo credit: Spaghetti Squash with Fire Roasted Tomato, Olive and Baby Spinach Sauce via commons.wikimedia.org

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