Expert Sleep Tips for Insomniacs

Sarah Jio, Glamour magazine

Suddenly ... I can't sleep. I toss and turn. I stare at the clock. It's so frustrating! After years of sleeping like a baby, I'm puzzled. What's going on with me? I asked an expert for some tips so we can figure this out together...

The diagnosis? Acute, sudden-onset insomnia. And, apparently I'm not alone. As many as 50 million Americans are up at night unable to get to sleep. I asked Dr. Catherine Darley, ND, founder of Institute of Naturopathic Sleep Medicine, for some advice, and here's what she had to say: "Acute insomnia can be a normal response to a life event such as getting married, losing a loved one, a job change. In this case usually as you adjust to the new situation your sleep will improve. Other times, sleep will worsen for no apparent reason. It may be an underlying change in stress hormones or for women a change in their reproductive hormones. Recently, with the heat wave this summer, people may find it more difficult to sleep."

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OK, while I haven't experienced any major life changes, I have had a lot of stress. I've finished my fourth book recently and have been working away on my fifth, and my baby son is starting to nurse a little less, which could contribute to some hormonal changes. But how long will this go on? Dr. Darley says I may be psyching myself out.

"When you have difficulty sleeping, keeping calm about it will be very helpful," she said. "Focus on the fact that you've slept well most of your life and will again. Then put a plan in place to help you get back to sleeping well."

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Her tips for me:
*Don't spend more time in bed "trying" to sleep. Instead, decide on a consistent bedtime and wake time that give you slightly less time in bed than you usually get. Do this by moving your bedtime somewhat later.

*Spend about an hour in wind-down activities, but not longer. Just enjoy your evening and think about other things until wind-down time.

*Good sleep is also highly dependent on good nutrition. Deficiencies in magnesium, melatonin and vitamin D-3 have been shown to negatively impact sleep.

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*As soon as you get into bed, do something that actively puts you to sleep. There are many options, from breathing exercises to progressive muscle relaxation to a visualization of sleep to telling yourself a gentle story.

*If you are awake at the beginning of the night more than 30 mins (or more than 10 mins in the middle of the night), get up and do something boring in low light until you feel sleepy. This stops you from developing an association with your bed as someplace to be awake.

Great tips! Thank you, Dr. Darley.

Tell me, do you struggle with insomnia? What do you do about it?


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