Many insomnia sufferers don’t seek treatment, and others find the commonly doled out treatment ideas to be unsuccessful. Anyone who has experienced insomnia knows that most “sleep advice” doesn’t really do much good when you are lying in bed desperately tossing and turning. But that may be because the cure to insomnia should involve a more holistic, preventative approach.
Here are some behavioral shifts proven to help you keep stress at bay and reduce the odds of suffering from insomnia — before bedtime even begins.
1. Write down tomorrow’s to-do list before bed.
Research from Baylor University, published in the American Psychological Association’s Journal of Experimental Psychology, showed that the simple act of writing down your to-do list for the upcoming day can do you a world of good when it comes to falling asleep that night.
“Most people just cycle through their to-do lists in their heads, and so we wanted to explore whether the act of writing them down could counteract nighttime difficulties with falling asleep.” Michael K. Scullin, Ph.D., director of Baylor’s Sleep Neuroscience and Cognition Laboratory, explained.
2. Meditate during the day and/or right before bed.
A study published in JAMA Internal Medicine showed that participants who were taught a meditation program for six weeks had greater reductions in their insomnia symptoms than participants who attended a basic sleep education class for the same duration. Meditation can be simple and quick. Even a few minutes can work wonders, and you can even download an app on your phone to help you try it.
“Concentrate on your breath while lying in bed for an evening mindfulness ritual,” explains Deb Cichon, a Licensed Mental Health Counselor and Talkspace therapist from New York. “It is fine if your mind wanders, but try to keep bringing it back to your breath.”
3. Address your concerns with a therapist.
Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT) is a modality that has been proven to work in treating insomnia. In fact, a specific type of CBT for insomnia — appropriately called CBT-I — focuses on helping you identify the thoughts and behaviors that affect your sleep, and teaching you tools to change them.
Now, with Talkspace Sleep Therapy, CBT-I is available without the hassle of weekly appointments and schedule changes. Our 8-week program is designed as a powerful jump-start to help you clean up your bedtime rituals, maintain a daily sleep diary, and shift unhealthy sleep habits. And get this: CBT-I has been deemed the most effective and long-lasting treatment for insomnia by the National Institute of Health, the American College of Physicians, and the American Academy of Sleep Medicine.
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4. Practice good daily “sleep hygiene.”
If insomnia has become a chronic problem for you, it is helpful to make positive choices throughout your day that will help you sleep. Experts have begun calling these habits “sleep hygiene” because they are something that must consciously practiced, and integrated into your life.
Kimberly Brown, a Licensed Clinical Social Worker and Talkspace therapist from Alaska, has some answers. “We talk to our clients often about good practice behaviors such as limiting naps during the day, avoiding screen time of any kind, especially the phone about an hour or so before bed, avoiding drinking any stimulants, a bedtime stretch or exercise that increases the heart rate, and have a calming environment,” Brown suggests.
Even if you have been dealing with insomnia for months or years, it is never too late to tackle the issue proactively — and, of course, with as much help and support as you need. We all deserve the benefits of a good night’s sleep, and there are simple and effective ways to make that a reality.