It’s the middle of the night and you’re awake. Tossing and turning, weary eyes staring out into the dark room. This isn’t the first night you haven’t been able to sleep, and (unfortunately) you’re sure that it won’t be the last.
If insomnia is a word you know all too well, then this article is for you. Read on to find out what may be getting in the way of your sleep, and press play on our relaxing guided meditation (for when counting sheep doesn’t work).
What Causes Insomnia?
Insomnia is the inability to sleep, having difficulty either falling or staying asleep. If you experience insomnia, you’re not alone: 30 percent of U.S. adults suffer symptoms of insomnia. While many people experience a poor night’s sleep from time to time, recurring sleeplessness becomes a real problem for your physical, emotional and mental health.
Poor Sleep Habits
This includes not having an established sleeping routine or lacking ideal sleep conditions. Your body likes consistency, especially when it comes to sleep. Being erratic about when you go to bed and wake up can confuse your circadian rhythm, which means that your body doesn’t know when it should be asleep or awake. Trying to sleep in a light, noisy room, or on an uncomfortable mattress, will also impact the quality of your shut eye.
The fix: Stick to having a consistent wake-up time every single day, even on weekends, and improve your sleep hygiene with these 6 sleep hacks to sleep like a baby.
Anxiety or Depression
You may be familiar with that feeling of being extremely tired, only to go to bed and have your mind light up with worry. Unfortunately, it’s quite natural for your mind to wander when your body is resting – you have no other distractions, after all.
The fix: Having quiet time earlier in the day allows your mind to analyze these thoughts before you go to bed. Activities such as journaling or meditation can help you sort out confusing thoughts and help you rest easier when it’s time to sleep.
Lack of Exercise
As a reader of PaleoHacks, chances are that know just how important exercise is for the body and mind. And when it comes to sleep, science is a big fan of that daily workout to reduce symptoms of insomnia (1). On the flip side, over-exercising, or doing high intensity exercise too close to bedtime, can have a negative effect on your sleep, so keep the HIIT workouts for earlier in the day.
The fix: Make a commitment to move your body every day. This will boost energy during waking hours and help you physically feel the need to sleep.
Physical Ailments or Chronic Illness
Being uncomfortable in your body, or battling an illness, makes it very challenging to sleep peacefully through the night.
The fix: While this can be hard to work around, lifestyle habits may help to improve your condition and aid your sleep. Stretching or foam rolling and other mobility exercises can help release chronic muscle pain that may be keeping you up at night. Combine this with following an anti-inflammatory diet to help heal you from the inside out.
Some medications also impact the quality of your sleep, disturbing your body’s natural clockwork.
The fix: If you feel your medication is affecting your sleep, discuss this with your primary care physician. They may be able to recommend an alternative brand that’s more natural, a different dosage, or have you take it at a different time of day.
Want even more remedies to relieve insomnia? Check out these nine natural tips.
How Insomnia Impacts Your Health
Muscle growth, cell and tissue repair, and detoxification are processes that happen during sleep. Without enough sleep, this regeneration process is disrupted, which can wreak havoc on your physical body, your hormones and your mood.
Sleep is also the time that the brain is getting a cognitive reboot, with neural pathways forming that will improve your ability to learn and remember new information. Studies also link lack of sleep with anxiety, depression, and even an increase in suicidal thoughts (5) (6).
As you can see, not spending quality time sleeping has far more serious consequences than yawning in that 3pm meeting. But saying that you’ll “get more sleep” might not be enough, especially if it’s the act of sleeping, not the routine of going to bed, that you’re struggling with.
The guided meditation below is one that I’ve found great success with for myself, my clients and my Pilates groups. It uses a mindfulness-based technique to relax your body and your mind, and creates a good physical environment for rest. In fact, a study in the journal JAMA Internal Medicine (7) links mindfulness meditation with reduced insomnia and fatigue, so let’s give it a try.
A 5-Minute Guided Meditation for Healthy Sleep
You can complete this exercise when you go the bed, or to relax any time of day.
>>> Click here to listen to the guided audio for this meditation <<<
- Start by lying comfortably on your back and closing your eyes.
- Take a deep breath in through the nose, and exhale through the nose (nose breathing activates the parasympathetic nervous system, which calms your body).
- Breathing softly, you’re going to move your attention through each body part. As you think of that body part, you’ll feel it relax. Allow it to rest heavy against your mattress or the floor where you’re lying.
- Starting with your left big toe, think about the toe, soften the toe, let it relax.
- Now focus on the left second toe, feel it relax.
- In your mind’s eye, continue to work through your body in the following order:
- Left Foot: third toe, fourth toe, baby toe, all toes, left ball of the foot, whole left foot, left ankle
- Left Leg: calf, shin, knee, back of thigh, front of thigh, inner thigh, left hip
- Right Foot: big toe, second toe, third toe, fourth toe, baby toe, all toes, right ball of the foot, whole right foot, right ankle
- Right Leg: calf, shin, knee, back of thigh, front of thigh, inner thigh, right hip
- Pelvis + Lumbar: front of pelvis, right buttocks, left buttocks, right side low back, left side low back, whole low back
- Ribs, Shoulders + Arms: back of right waist, back of right ribcage, right shoulder blade, right shoulder, right upper arm, elbow, forearm, wrist, right thumb, first finger, second finger, ring finger, little finger, whole right hand; repeat on the left side
- Stomach, Chest + Head: stomach, right side chest, left side chest, whole chest, throat, jaw, lips, eyes, eyebrows, forehead, crown of head, back of head, back of neck
- Whole Body: whole right body, whole left body, whole back body, whole front body, whole body
Sending your breath to your whole body, feel it relax even more, feel it lying heavy, so heavy as if it could melt through the floor, softly, gently, calmly. In that relaxed state, stay and rest.
(Read This Next: Yoga for Insomnia: 5 Easy Poses for Better Sleep)