- Creating a schedule to sleep and wake up helps to create a routine that will benefit the hours of sleep.
- The artificial light of monitors or screens alters the brain’s perception and activates it.
- It is important to try to reduce the factors that cause stress by not being able to sleep.
Insomnia is a common disorder in which the patient has difficulty falling asleep, staying asleep, or even achieving good-quality sleep. As this situation is common in many people, Dr. Yoaly Arana Lechuga, a psychologist specializing in sleep disorders at ABC Medical Center, gives you the following recommendations to achieve restful sleep.
“The Mexican Academy of Sleep Medicine reports that around 40 million Mexicans suffer from some type of sleep disorder, although the most common is insomnia.”1
1. Create a sleep schedule
When suffering from insomnia, it is fundamental to have a regular schedule to go to bed and wake up. This is because our brain will begin to learn certain times, which will result in us being able to sleep and wake up more easily.
2. Avoid the use of screens
Using artificial light during hours close to sleep will inhibit the release of melatonin, the sleep-initiating hormone. This is because electronic devices such as television, cell phones, or even computers are loaded with blue light frequency, the same one that occurs naturally at dawn, resulting in our brain receiving the wrong stimuli before sleeping. Therefore, Dr. Arana recommends stopping using this equipment at least an hour and a half before going to sleep.
3. Avoid exercising at night
It is normal to have the belief that vigorous exercise close to bedtime will help you fall asleep as this means tiredness.
However, the reality is that exercise will cause a generalized physiological activation including an increase in our temperature and the release of hormones and neurotransmitters that will keep us alert and with a lot of energy, causing a reaction contrary to what is expected.
On the other hand, sexual activity can be performed at night. Various studies have shown that people benefit from this activity to sleep.
4. Analyze your food
Coffee, green tea, or black tea are drinks that help stimulate the brain due to their caffeine. Consuming it close to bedtime will result in taking much longer to fall asleep. Ideally, you should suspend the consumption of these drinks after noon.
Eating before bed can affect sleep. If we have a heavy dinner it can affect our sleep.
Additionally, Dr. Arana suggests controlling the consumption of liquids before going to sleep to avoid having to wake up and get up repeatedly to use the bathroom.
5. Do not smoke before bed
It is ideal not to smoke, but in case you do, it is important to avoid smoking close to bedtime, at least one hour before going to bed and gradually increasing the time between the two activities.
On the other hand, if you wake up during the night, it is important not to light any cigarette, because it can condition the brain to continue waking up to smoke the following nights.
6. Reduce your time in bed
By using the bed only for sleeping and sex life, it will help your brain to condition itself in its use, in such a way that, when you lie down at night, naturally, our brain will begin to relax little by little and this will help you to sleep well.
Thus, activities such as watching television, working on the computer, or reading should be performed in other areas of the house.
7. Don’t look at the clock while lying down
Patients suffering from insomnia tend to get a lot of anxiety watching time fly by while lying without sleep, which will result in stress and keep them active without being able to fall asleep.
On the other hand, some watches that make a lot of noise or have very bright lights can also disturb the person’s rest. In these cases, it is important to consider leaving them out of the room.
8. Take 20-minute tests
In case you have not been able to fall asleep after 20 minutes, it is advisable to leave the room and perform an activity that you consider monotonous and boring but that, at the same time, helps you relax.
When choosing such an activity you should avoid one that requires a lot of light, excites you, or that you enjoy a lot.
Once you feel relaxed and feel physically and mentally fit, you can go back to bed and try to sleep again.
Something very important is that, if 20 minutes have elapsed again and you still do not sleep, you should repeat the previous steps until you fall asleep.
9. Don’t take naps
Generally, taking a 20-minute nap helps our brain improve reaction times, motivation, attention, and memory, among other benefits.
But in people who suffer from insomnia, it is very important not to do this, because by sleeping during the day, your sleep needs will decrease, you will be less sleepy at night, and it will be much more difficult for you to fall asleep.
It is also necessary to avoid naps longer than 20 minutes because the brain will enter a phase of slow wave sleep, which is the deepest sleep, and when you wake up in this stage you will feel more tired, irritable, and in a bad mood, needing a lot of time to be alert again and be able to perform your daily activities.
10. Create a structured bedtime routine
It is important to have a sleep routine, which can include small activities like putting on your pajamas, brushing your teeth, and going to bed at a certain time.
The important thing is that this routine always starts at the same time and you always do the same activities in the same order. By having this routine you will create a conditioning to sleep, where the brain will begin to learn that after step A, step B continues, and then step C until you get to sleep. This way, when you start with step A, the brain will begin to prepare for sleep.
In the case of children, this routine mustn’t take more than 20 minutes, because if it lasts longer, the association that their brain has to relate the different activities will be lost.
Some examples of activities that you can include in your sleep routine are listening to relaxing music, painting mandalas, or warming your body with seed cushions. Increasing body temperature in a non-active way is a great method that helps fall asleep.
At ABC Medical Center’s Neurology Center, we can provide you with specialized care. Contact us!
Dra. Yoaly Arana Lechuga – Psychologist specializing in sleep disorders at ABC Medical Center