Sleep deprivation is a well-known torture technique, so when we talk about insomnia we have to be aware of the damage it really does not only to the body but also to the psyche. People who simply can’t understand why you’re so “cranky” after a long restless night probably have never experienced the agony that is lying awake the whole night, tossing and turning, your brain going into overdrive. 

You don’t need us to tell you about the harmful effects lack of sleep can have on your health, you’re probably stressing about it enough as it is. Sleep not only helps regulate your cortisol levels (the levels of your stress hormone) making you both more mentally and physically resilient, it’s also important for regulating your metabolism so you can deal with your hunger cues and maintain a healthy diet. 

We at FindMeCure care about your health and like to give you useful tips on how to feel your best whatever you’re going through. So if you can’t fall asleep well into the night but you’d rather try something less invasive before you turn to sleeping pills, read on. 

You might just be a night owl.

Okay, hear us out. We’re not using the term figuratively. Well… not in the way you think. ‘Night owl’ is used in the scientific community to describe a person whose internal clock doesn’t match the social one. If you have always been the type to stay late and wake up way past what most people consider appropriate, it might literally be encoded in your genes. 

The circadian rhythm or internal clock is the system that roughly tells our bodies what time of day it is – time to sleep or time to wake up. Most people feel sleepy when it starts getting dark outside and naturally wake up when the sun rises. However, a relatively small percentage of people, up to 20% according to some studies, don’t really work like this. Melatonin, the hormone responsible for putting us to sleep (and sensitive to light sources), is slow to do its job in night owls, hence why they start feeling sleepy later into the night. In turn, they feel fully rested later into the morning. 

So before you diagnose yourself with insomnia, consider whether you might actually be a night owl. If sleep comes for you, just not when you want it to, you might not suffer from sleep irregularities. The healthiest thing you can do for yourself is to get enough sleep when you’re body naturally needs it. If you fall asleep around 2 a.m. and can sleep with no interruptions until 10 a.m., then it might just be your natural rhythm. If your lifestyle can accommodate your sleeping schedule, the best thing you can do is give in to your body’s demands. It’s easier than fighting against your DNA. If sleeping later than 8 a.m. is out of the question for you, you might want to turn to a specialist – there are some ways to influence your circadian rhythm. 

How tired are you really? 

Most of us work a full-time job or take care of a household and children, or spend the whole day at school. We’re far from trying to call you out. However, if most of your daily activity consists of intellectual tasks that engage your mind but not your body when the time comes for you to rest, you simply don’t feel tired enough. You might be mentally tired but you need your body ready for sleep too in order to enjoy your 8 hours a night. 

This is why physical activity cannot be substituted. You might not be the biggest fan of the gym, high-intensity training or even jogging around the neighbourhood and that’s okay. You don’t need to exhaust your body to its limit in order to enjoy deep sleep later that night. In fact, walking might be better than running when it comes to keeping your cortisol levels at bay, according to some trainers. Walking briskly for half an hour a day can make the difference between going to bed wide awake and resting your head on the pillow ready for sleep. 

Walking in nature has the added benefit of calming your mind and relieving stress, so if stress is part of your sleep issues, take one long nice walk at the local park every day. If you have the time to toss and turn at night, you have the time for a walk. And if half an hour of physical activity doesn’t do the trick, try something else as well – stretching, Pilates, Zumba… experiment until you find something that leaves you both tired and content. Exercise releases endorphins which can never hurt in this situation. 

Is something bothering you? 

Stress can sometimes be hard to detect. Everything might be going well on the surface, maybe even great. But sometimes both the good and the bad can overwhelm us and until we find a way to process, it might affect our sleep. 

You don’t have to seek out a counsellor or a therapist if you don’t want to or can’t currently afford to but paying attention to your mental hygiene is important if you’re suffering from insomnia. Oftentimes feelings of being “unsafe”, unable to “let go” and relax, or anxiety over having “too much to do” can keep you up at night. If those sound familiar, you might want to examine them. 

Keeping a diary can be a great way both to explore the stress you can be harbouring and to release some of those uneasy feelings. You can also introduce some changes in your life once you’ve identified your triggers. Is news too unsettling for you? Do you have the habit of checking social media and going into arguments in the evening? Do you get into disagreements with your partner right before bed? Think about your daily routine and change what doesn’t make you feel at peace.      

Melatonin supplements can be your friend

Some therapies for sleep disturbances include melatonin supplements as well as cognitive behavioural therapy and lifestyle changes. If you’ve already introduced the lifestyle changes, supplements can’t hurt, in fact, they can be really effective. Melatonin doesn’t immediately put you to sleep – it simply lets your body know it’s time for rest, so don’t expect it to work as sleeping pills do. Also, give it time to do its job – it might take a few days for your body to regulate its natural rhythm with the help of melatonin. 

On top of being useful for sleep disturbances, melatonin helps regulate your hormones, body temperature, and blood pressure. It helps reduce nerve activity, thus helping you relax. All of this makes melatonin effective in helping your body do its job and putting you to sleep. Keep in mind that melatonin can interact with some medications like antidepressants, so even though it’s widely available over-the-counter, talk to your doctor first if you take other medications. 

You might have chronic insomnia

If you have trouble falling or staying asleep for 3 or more days a week for at least 3 months, you might be dealing with chronic insomnia. This is a diagnosis for a doctor to make after examining you and taking into account your medical history, so we recommend you seek out professional advice if you’ve been struggling with sleep for more than a few weeks. 

Usually, in cases of insomnia, the underlying cause is treated, so if you have no other medical issues, your doctor might refer you to a cognitive-behavioural therapist. And if you’re curious about what other types of therapies and treatments there are for insomnia, you can check out clinical trials. 

You don’t need to test a new sleeping pill on yourself – there are novel therapies being researched right now that have nothing to do with drugs. FindMeCure comes up with 179 clinical trials for insomnia and one of them may not only be your answer but a groundbreaking new approach in and of itself. So if you want to further scientific progress while also getting access to innovative treatment, search for your preferred trial.  

1 Comment

  1. My mom has been having a lot of trouble sleeping through the night lately. I appreciate that you mentioned that chronic insomnia might be the problem. I think it would be smart for her to go in and get melatonin testing done so that she can figure out if that is what it is and then can better know how to deal with it.

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