*** If you suffer from insomnia, consult your doctor. This does not replace a medical consultation.
Did you sleep well?! Insomnia affects the quality of life of so many people on a daily basis … This summer I spent 13 weeks in Salluit, a small Inuit village in Hudson Bay. (If you look at a map of Quebec, it is the top of Quebec). Here, in June, it is daylight during practically 24h. The sun goes down and gets up again at about 2am.
For the first year since I’ve been working in Salluit, I have had a hard time falling asleep and waking up in the morning for weeks. I felt my system very disturbed mainly by the light and 24-hour guards where my sleep was fragmented (maybe you know!). I had three sheets in my window to prevent the light from coming in and a eye mask with seeds and herbs that smell good … But that was not enough.
Several factors can contribute to insomnia: the environment (light, noise, spouse who snores , sleep in an overcrowded place), personal or family crises, anxiety, depression, grief, stimulants, etc.
Here are some non-pharmacological tips to fight insomnia (not exhaustive!) (The best ones are towards the end 😉):
Avoid drinking stimulating drinks (redbull, tea, coffee, soft drinks), cigarettes and chocolate after 5pm.
I often see patients who consume more than 10 coffees a day and who consult me for insomnia and want a sleeping pill … First, let’s start by a change in our lifestyle! For some, a coffee even earlier in the afternoon will have an impact on sleep. It is therefore important to get to know our body. (Drinking alcohol or weed to put you to sleep is not recommended!)
Avoid screens (cell phone, television, computer) at least one hour before sleep.
This is technically difficult knowing the tech era in which we live. We often use our cell phone as an alarm and keep it near our bed. It’s too easy to take it in our hands and start surfing the internet when sleep does not come. This is the worst thing to do for sleep! We enter into our subconscious full of undesirable images of our Facebook feed (sometimes even images of violence that we would rather not see …). Using a dial and leaving the cellphone outside the room to sleep is a healthy alternative.
Cut the cell phone ring and notifications overnight.
You can even put it on airplane mode and cut the wifi so you will not be tempted to go on the internet if you wake up or have trouble falling asleep.
Do something non-stimulating (almost annoying) an hour before you fall asleep.
This is super difficult for me because I love the end of the evening, it is often a very creative moment for me and my brain is full of creative ideas before going to sleep, which hurts my sleep … I started reading the Bible before sleeping and it helps me. (I am not religious but it is an interesting personal culture reading). You can also do crossword puzzles, puzzles, sudoku or any other activity of the type.
Go to sleep with a positive mind !!
That makes all the difference. Negative thoughts before sleep are really toxic. You can, for example, take out your journal and write down your 5 successes or good shots of the day or your 5 gratitudes of the day. (This may have a stimulating effect for some, so test it and see for yourself!).
Do a 5 minute cardiac coherence exercise before you fall asleep.
You do not know cardiac coherence? Discover this simple and effective practice to decrease stress and anxiety here.
Do a body scan.
I personally love doing a bodyscan before I fall asleep. For some, this can have a stimulating effect and for others, it promotes sleep. I often fall asleep through the different parts of my body consciously. You can find a bodyscan here!
I started doing Yoga Nidra in India in 2009. Yoga Nidra is a meditation that promotes sleep, relaxing and that puts the body and mind in a state of relaxation conducive to sleep. I JUST LOVE IT.
Get out of bed if you can not fall asleep.
If you can not fall asleep after 20 minutes, get out of bed, do a boring activity (and avoid screens) and go back to bed when sleep takes you.
I could go on for a long time but your time is precious! There are so many non-pharmacological alternatives to help sleep. Do you want to try some of them?
Wishing you a restful sleep,