Most people experience short periods of insomnia at some point in their life. But for some, sleepless nights become the norm.
For months on end, getting rest can feel like a burdensome task that is impossible to complete. If this sounds like your reality,.you may be someone who battles chronic insomnia.
The good news is that how to beat chronic insomnia might not be as hard as it sounds. Keep reading to learn what you can do to get some rest.
Get a Diagnosis
The first part of beating chronic insomnia is to get a diagnosis and acknowledge your condition.
Insomnia is a complex condition that varies between individuals. Your doctor can assess you to see what type of insomnia you have and what might be causing it.
To do this, you may need a physical exam. Fining a diagnosis may also include a sleep habits review or a sleep study. Once you have a diagnosis you can start to work towards a treatment plan that makes sense for you.
Consider Treatment Options
There are many options when it comes to treatment for chronic insomnia. Most people use a combination of therapies to find relief from chronic insomnia.
Changing sleep habits and identifying issues that may cause insomnia may be necessary to see any changes. If these measures still don’t work then your doctor might recommend cognitive behavioral therapy or medications. They could recommend them alone or together to help you relax enough at bedtime to beat chronic insomnia.
Cognitive Behavioral Therapy
Cognitive behavioral therapy, or CBT-1, can help control and regulate thoughts related to falling asleep.
Negative thoughts and actions can keep your brain and body stimulated. The stimulation from these negative thoughts can keep you awake. CBT-1 is usually the first recommendation by doctors for patients who are seeking treatment for insomnia. It is usually at least as effective, if not more effective, than treatment with medication.
This therapy option teaches insomnia patients to recognize and change beliefs that may negatively affect sleep. It can help them learn to quiet their mind and dispose of unnecessary thoughts that keep then awake. If done right, it can break the cycle of worry that keeps people awake long-term.
Cognitive behavioral therapy also addresses behavior related to sleep. It focuses on developing good sleep habits and avoiding bad ones. There are a few different strategies that are used to achieve this.
Stimulus Control Therapy
This is a method of therapy used in CBT-1 treatments that helps remove certain things that might condition the person’s mind to stay awake.
For example, stimulus control therapy might involve setting a consistent bedtime routine that happens at the same time every day. It might also include setting the same wake time every morning. And there may be additional parameters to the stimulus control, like avoiding naps and using the bed for only sleep or sex.
A common part of stimulus control therapy is leaving the bedroom if you can’t fall asleep. A time is usually set for trying to sleep, like 20 minutes. If a patient doesn’t fall asleep in this timeframe then they are supposed to get out of bed and leave the bedroom. They are only supposed to return to the room when they are feeling sleepy.
Relaxation techniques are something everyone can do at bedtime. Even without insomnia, they can be great for inducing calmness and bringing on restful sleep.
Progressive muscle relaxation, biofeedback, and breathing exercises are all simple and effective practices that may reduce anxiety at bedtime. Practicing them can help you become more skilled at controlling breathing, slowing your heart rate, and releasing muscle tension.
The goal is for you to become better at improving your mindset and mood so that you can relax.
Sleep restriction is basically just like it sounds. This therapy limits the amount of sleep time for people with chronic insomnia.
The idea behind this therapy is that if you limit the amount of time you spend in bed, and the number of daytime naps you take, you may reach partial sleep deprivation. This should cause you to feel more tired the next night. Hopefully by being a little more tired than the night before, you will be able to shut off your mind and allow it to slumber.
After sleep cycles improve, the overall time in bed can be gradually increased again until a proper balance is achieved.
Remaining Passively Awake
This sleep therapy method is also called paradoxical intention. It is best for patients with learned insomnia.
It is aimed at reducing the worry and anxiety some people feel about being able to get to sleep. The way this is achieved is through having patients try to stay awake. The shift in focus from stressing about not falling asleep to trying to stay awake is sometimes enough to remove the pressure that keeps people awake.
Light therapy is used for those who fall asleep, perhaps a little too early, and then wake up too early. Light therapy may be able to push back the internal clock that regulates someone’s sleep patterns.
One way to practice this is to go outside if it is still light in the evenings. Or you can use a lightbox to imitate the sun. Your doctor will speak to you about the best way to try this therapy if they think it is right for you.
Your doctor may also recommend other strategies to improve your sleep and help you beat chronic insomnia. They may be strategies that are related to your lifestyle and sleep environment. Or they may focus on your daytime activities and alert hours.
It is common to try a variety of the above options before taking sleep medications. But if you have tried some of these therapies already and are still struggling then a sleep drug may be your next step. Your doctor may talk with you about the possibility of getting relief through the use of a prescription med.
Prescription sleeping pills are formulated to assist people with falling asleep and staying asleep. Doctors generally try to warn patients not to rely on sleeping pills for more than a few weeks.
But, if they are necessary, there are a handful of sleeping medications that are approved for long-term use. Some of the most common examples include: Eszopiclone (Lunesta), Ramelteon (Rozerem), Zaleplon (Sonata), and Zolpidem (Ambien)/
There are some real risks associated with taking prescription sleep aids. They can have negative side effects such as grogginess, increased risk of falling, or dependence.
Plus, sleep medications are notoriously habit-forming. So you should always talk to your doctor about your experience using these medications. Share any changes to your sleep cycle, or any side effects you experience with them.
Over-The-Counter Sleep Supplements
Over-the-counter sleep supplements are another alternative to prescription medications. Some of these contain antihistamines which can cause drowsiness. But they are not meant for long-term use.
You can get non-prescription sleep aids from a pharmacy, but it is still smart to speak with your doctor before doing so. OTC sleep supplements still come with some risks. They have the potential for negative side effects that may include: Daytime sleepiness, dizziness, confusion, cognitive decline, and difficulty urinating. These side effects can be worse for older adults.
One OTC option that is well-tolerated and comes with little risk is CBD.
This cannabinoid gets extracted from hemp and is legal throughout the country. Many people take CBD and report experiencing a variety of benefits. One of the things CBD may help with is sleep issues. Small doses of CBD may promote alertness and provide energy, while larger doses may cause sleepiness.
Some people prefer to take a small amount of CBD (around 15mg) in the morning for natural energy and a larger dose (around 30mg) in the evening for more relaxing effects.
No matter how bad it may seem now, insomnia is almost always treatable. What may seem like insignificant changes to your routine can have an huge impact when it comes time to close your eyes at night.
Here are some tips for developing healthy sleep habits during your entire day:
- Stick to a sleep schedule
Pick a bedtime and a wake time that works for your lifestyle. Then stick to it. This includes weekends and holidays. This is one of the best ways to train your body for unwinding at the right time.
- Stay active
To fall asleep at night you need to have depleted your body’s energy stores enough to feel the need to recharge. If you are not using enough energy during the day then it is only natural your body might not feel like it needs to rest yet in the evening.
Get regular activity so you don’t store too much energy before the night falls. Schedule exercise for a few hours before you plan to fall asleep if you can. You don’t want to engage in too much stimulating activity right before bed or you might have too many endorphins to fall asleep.
- Check your medications
If you take any medications, you should talk to your doctor to see if they may be contributing to or causing your insomnia.
If you are taking OTC medications, you can check the label for any warnings. See if caffeine or other stimulants like pseudoephedrine are on the ingredients list. If there are they may be keeping you awake at night.
You can always bring OTC supplements with you to your next doctor’s visit and discuss those with your doctor as well.
- Avoid or limit naps
Taking a nap during the day when you are tired from insomnia keeping you up at night might seem like a saving grace. But it can actually worsen insomnia.
Naps make it harder to fall asleep at night. If you can skip the nap do it for the sake of a better night’s sleep. If you absolutely need to take one then limit it to 30 minutes. And set time aside for it before 3 p.m. so you have plenty of time for stimulating activity before the evening.
- Avoid or limit caffeine, alcohol, and nicotine
All of these substances are stimulants. That means they arouse your body and mind. They make it hard to feel tired or fall asleep.
The effects of these and other stimulants can last for several hours. If you do have a cup of coffee or other stimulants try to limit it to the first half of your day.
- Seek support for pain
This may seem slightly unrelated to insomnia, but chronic pain is a comorbid condition that can very well keep you up at night. Many people who experience regular pain report suffering from insomnia.
Perhaps talking to your doctor about pain management options can alleviate your insomnia without the need for further types of treatment.
- Avoid large meals and drinks before bed
Drinking too much liquid before bed can cause wakings for nighttime urination. Avoid waking up for trips to the bathroom by drinking your water an hour before bed.
Some people like a little snack before bed. This is fine, as a small bite may help prevent heartburn while you sleep. If you wake up with a fiery esophagus then this might be a habit worth forming.
But keep it small. Large meals before bed can make falling asleep uncomfortable.
- Make your bedroom comfortable for sleep
Our sleep environments have a monumental impact on the quality of our sleep. Only use your bedroom for sleep and sex.
Keeping your sleep space clean, dark, and quiet is important for creating a calming environment. Also, keep the temperature comfortable.
Some sleep experts recommend hiding your clocks, including watches and phones, so you don’t worry about what time it is while you are resting.
- Find ways that work for you to relax
Planning is an important life skill that prepares people for success, but if you are an aggressive planner you may need to find a way to hang up your schedule and go with the flow.
Change things up and take a warm bath before bedtime. Light a soothing candle, play some ocean sounds or try a massage. You can create a bedtime ritual that you enjoy like meditation and stretching that doesn’t require a plan. Just enjoy the moment you are in and relax.
- Don’t try too hard to sleep
For some people, the harder they try to fall asleep the harder it becomes for them. Don’t try too hard. If you can’t doze off in 20 minutes or less then get out of bed and read a book in the living room until you feel your eyelids getting heavy.
Get out of bed when you are not sleeping. As soon as you wake up in the morning get out of bed.
Find High-Quality CBD for Sleep
We hope this article has been helpful to you if you are looking for ways to for how to beat chronic insomnia. Start off by speaking with your doctor to find a personalized plan that will work best for you.
While you are meeting, you can ask them about incorporating a high-quality CBD product into your routine, like our full-spectrum Sleepy Mint CBD oil. Pairing that with some of the tips above might be just what you need to finally get the sleep you want!