If you suffer from insomnia, you probably already know all the common tips and tricks for beating it. For people who’ve tried warm baths, earlier bedtimes, and meditation with no results, the battle for sleep may seem hopeless.
What do you do for insomnia help when nothing works? Use techniques that are specifically aimed at the type of insomnia you have.
From my experience, it helps to analyze your sleep patterns and determine what to do to give yourself the best chance at a good night’s sleep. Spending hours staring at the ceiling, willing yourself to sleep is much different type of insomnia than waking up every few hours throughout the night. By focusing on the type of insomnia you have, you can choose better strategies to help you cope.
Are There Different Types of Insomnia?
There are actually a few different types of insomnia and a key to finding the right way to cope is figuring out which one you have.
Onset insomnia is when you have trouble falling asleep, whether you toss and turn for hours or you just can’t seem to turn your brain off. The other kind is maintenance insomnia is when you can’t stay asleep. Maintenance insomnia can either be frequent waking or waking up in the middle of the night and being unable to fall asleep again. Each of these is its own problem but it’s certainly possible to suffer from both at the same time.
Insomnia can also be acute or chronic. Acute insomnia is if you have a hard time getting to sleep every Sunday night before the new work week begins or if you have a bad few bad nights in a row when you just can’t sleep through the night. Acute insomnia isn’t quite as bad as chronic but can still be quite severe and disruptive.
Chronic insomnia is when you have trouble sleeping at least three nights a week and it lasts for three months or longer. This can be especially difficult to get through and can really impact your life and overall health.
What Causes Different Types of Insomnia?
Before you can figure out the right strategy to beat your insomnia, it’s important to know what causes it.
Acute insomnia is often a result of environmental factors like noise, uncomfortable temperatures, or bright lights. Sudden change in your schedule, like jet lag or switching from day to night shift, can cause it, too. Some medications can also keep you from sleeping, including those that you’d take for a cold, allergies, or asthma. Significant stress is a trigger, too, like what you might experience after a job loss, the death of a loved one, or financial difficulties.
There are a lot of things that can cause chronic insomnia, including some that may indicate other health problems. Possibilities include arthritis, asthma, Parkinson’s disease, fibromyalgia, GERD, and even some kidney disorders. It’s important to pay close attention to any other symptoms you’re experiencing while suffering from chronic insomnia.
Things to Try When You Have Trouble Falling Asleep
If your insomnia presents as difficulty falling asleep, there are a lot of things you can try. I know you may have heard some of these before but, from my research, a combination of these methods is usually successful.
Caffeine can have a huge impact on your ability to fall asleep so start by keeping a caffeine journal. If you’re tired and relying on coffee to get you through the day, it’s entirely possible that you’re getting a lot more caffeine than you think you are. Plus, caffeine affects everyone differently so while you may have only had one cup of coffee after lunch, it might be enough to keep you up at bedtime. Keep a log of when you have caffeine and how you sleep that night to see if there’s any correlation. Moving your cup of coffee to the morning instead of after lunch might do the trick or you may have to cut caffeine out altogether.
Don’t nap. I know that probably sounds difficult but, from my experience, it helps. Rather than giving your body small bits of rest throughout the day, try pushing through until the evening. Chances are you’ll be so tired, you’ll fall asleep pretty quickly. You don’t have to make it until your normal bedtime. If you’re ready to call it a night at 8 pm, go for it!
Try a white noise machine. Even though loud outside noise may not be the cause of your insomnia, it certainly isn’t helping. Sometimes when you can’t sleep, your brain fixates on things that make the problem worse. A white noise machine can help mask noises like your partner’s snoring, people making noise outside, or loud traffic outside your window. Earplugs are another option but some people find them uncomfortable. Plus, you won’t be able to hear your alarm clock when it’s time to get up in the morning.
Things to Try When Have Trouble Staying Asleep
Frequent waking is a much different kind of insomnia and can be hard to beat if you’re using the wrong approach. Here are some things you can try to sleep through the night or at least fall back to sleep more easily.
Don’t look at your clock. We’ve all had that experience when you wake up in the middle of the night, check the time, and think, “If I fall asleep right now, I’ll get 4 more hours of sleep.” That quickly becomes, “If I fall asleep right now, I’ll get 2 more hours of sleep.” Just don’t do it. The truth is, this mental math adds a lot of pressure and constantly thinking about how much you need to fall asleep isn’t actually going to help you fall asleep.
This goes along with not looking at your clock but you should also avoid looking at your phone. Smartphones give off blue light which your brain interprets as daylight. So, when you look at your phone in the middle of the night, your brain thinks that you’re looking at sunlight and starts to wake up. This is the last thing you want when you’re trying to sleep.
A lot of smartphones have a setting that allows you to turn off the blue light but it’s still a good idea to avoid them at night. There’s always something on your phone to distract you and keep you awake which is exactly what you should be avoiding.
You can also try a weighted blanket. Weighted blankets send a message to the brain that you’re safe. In a way, they dull the anxiety response and can help keep your mind at rest. When you wake up in the middle of the night, a weighted blanket tells your brain, “Look, we’re safe, go back to sleep.”
What to Do When Nothing Works
When insomnia lasts longer than four weeks or starts to interfere with your daily life and ability to function normally, consider talking to your doctor. There may be an underlying health issue to address.
It might help to keep a sleep diary so you have as much information as possible for your physician. Do you notice that you’re waking up gasping for breath? Are you experiencing heartburn? Are you in pain? Have you noticed changes in your mood or appetite? Do you have to get out of bed multiple times a night to go to the bathroom? Any of these things can signify a broader health issue.
If health issues are affecting your sleep, there are a lot of possibilities for treatment. Some people require medication to treat the underlying problem while others benefit from cognitive behavioral therapy. Sleep aids are also an option. Talk to your doctor about any other symptoms you’re experiencing so you can come up with a treatment approach that works.
Remember, no one experiences insomnia the same way. Warm milk and a hot bath might work for some people but they certainly won’t work for everyone. Determine the kind of insomnia you have and work on specific ways to manage it. If you’ve tried everything and still can’t sleep, a visit to your doctor can help.