Most people see insomnia as the inability to fall asleep. However there are many people who are unable to get a full or sound night's sleep. For example traditional sleeping pills knock you out so you don't actually sleep properly, leaving you exhausted the next day anyway.
Attribution: Wikicommons - Library of Congress
Failing to consistently have a good night's sleep leads to sleep deprivation and related health problems.
Attribution Wikicommons - Mikael Häggström
Let's look into some natural ways to have a good night's sleep.
People who exercise regularly sleep fewer hours than unfit people. However they sleep better and wake up with much more energy the next day.
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The best time to exercise to sleep at night is early in the morning, which is really painful if you are starting to do this and you didn't sleep well the night before. Otherwise exercise early in the evening after work.
Whatever you do, avoid late night exercise as this will energise your body and may prevent you from falling asleep.
Wind down in the evening
One of the problems is that we often spend the evening doing things, such as watching thrilling movies, reading fascinating books, playing computer games, having animated conversations on and offline, and so on. In the days before all these distractions we would tend to sit late at night for a while before going to sleep. Basically we would wind down.
To wind down just dim the lights in your house, sit down and relax. Even lying down in bed without the thought of trying to sleep, just trying to relax, can help.
Talking of relaxing, there are lots of ways that can help us unwind. Think of many relaxation techniques as stepping down from the thrilling part of the day.
One of my favourite relaxation techniques is simply going for a stroll. Often after a stressful day at work I will just walk to a different bus or train station to unwind, or closer to home I would get off one or two stops early to walk. By the time you get home most of the stress is gone.
Other people do various types of meditation or get a massage. I find that very often one massage can calm you for several days in most situations. Unfortunately unless you are living in Asia it is hard to find late massage places. (I spent four stressful weeks working in Shanghai, which was great because after finishing what I had to do late at night I could easily find a massage at ten or eleven at night.)
Attribution: Pixabay - rhythmuswege
Find a way that helps you relax. I often use aromatherapy to both relax and to sleep but this doesn't work for everyone.
Get into good sleep patterns
Get up early, no matter how tired you feel. The biggest problem with insomnia is that we often sleep late then subsequently rise late as well, especially on weekends. Having a consistent sleep pattern every day of the week will help us maintain a good night's sleep. So sorry, no more late parties on Friday and Saturday night.
Create the right sleep environment
Science fiction movies predicted a world full of flashing lights, even a future where there are lights flashing for no apparent reason. Fast forward to the present and everything electronic and most things electrical have lots of flashing LED lights.
The worst of this is the invention of the blue LED light. You see it is blue light that resets our body clock to wake up. Flashing lights are even worse. If you can't easily turn off all electronic devices with a LED on them, try covering them up with some black sticky tape.
Many medications and drugs can change your sleep patterns in unexpected ways. For example, drinking a cup of coffee before a nap can help you have a short sleep while sedatives taken at the wrong time of the day can result in night-time wakefulness. Alcohol is also bad medicine for sound sleep.
There are many foods that help with the production of the sleep hormone melatonin. Eat these during the day to have regular melatonin levels. These foods include wheat germ, sunflower seeds and bananas.
Foods that are high in magnesium are naturally sedative, such as dark leafy green vegetables, wheat bran, almonds, cashews and many whole grains.There are many more foods and natural therapies that assist sleep, too many to cover in this article.
Finally avoid eating just before sleep.
There are lots of reasons why people don't sleep properly for the whole night. Often we sleep in the wrong position, usually caused by having too many pillows, a too soft bed or some other bad sleep habit.
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If you often find yourself waking up at night, try changing pillows or even your mattress. A good firm, form supporting mattress will usually result in a better night's sleep than an over soft mattresses. Many people have switched to proper futons to fix sleep problems, though personally I find these too hard.
Everyone sleeps differently
A good night's sleep is a modern invention. There was a time when people went to bed not expecting to sleep right away or all night. The industrial age and the light bulb pushed away natural sleep patterns to focus on just one sleep a night.
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Maybe we need to acknowledge that everyone is a little different. Do you rise early and need a siesta in the middle of the day, or are you a naturally late night and late morning person? Recently I have been a very early riser, no matter how much sleep I had the night before. Which means I have to go to sleep early as well.
Deal with the root problem
Most issues with insomnia are due to stress in our life. A bullying boss, a financial problem or a relationship issue will ruin our sleep and our health as well. What is worse is that our lack of sleep will usually compound these problems.
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Deal with the problems as quickly as possible rather than avoid them because after not getting enough sleep for too long you will not be able to deal with them effectively.