Everyone has one or two nights where they just can’t manage to get much sleep. But if you have insomnia, being unable to sleep isn’t an occasional struggle — it’s a constant battle
“Insomnia is the inability to fall asleep, stay asleep, or waking up too early that results in daytime dysfunction (fatigued, tired, trouble focusing), and occurs 3 nights a week for 3 months to be considered chronic,” says Vikas Jain, MD, sleep medicine physician at Northwestern Memorial Hospital.
According to the University of Pennsylvania School of Medicine, approximately one in four Americans develop insomnia each year. The most common causes of insomnia are anxiety, stress and poor sleep habits.”
Chronic insomnia affects roughly 6-7% of men between 20-40,” says Hrayr Attarian, MD, medical director of the Sleep Disorders Center at Northwestern Memorial Hospital.
Often, guys will take sleeping pills to try to combat insomnia. But pills shouldn’t be your first line of defense. Try one of these sleep tips to beat your insomnia.
Get rid of the TV in your bedroom.Sounds like a bummer, but if you want better sleep, you better do it.”Having a TV in the bedroom is a no-no for people with insomnia,” says Dr. Attarian. “It’s stimulating, from the noise to the light it emits.”And research backs him up.A 2017 study published in the Journal of Clinical Sleep Medicine found that watching TV before bed and binge-watching led to more cognitive arousal that resulted in poorer sleep and insomnia.
1 Read a (hard copy of a) book.
If you have insomnia, you’re often waking up multiple times in one night. Instead of tossing and turning, read a book.”If you’re unable to go back to sleep after 20-30 minutes, get out of bed and go out into another area and do relaxing activity,” says Attarian. “Or do another ‘unproductive’ task that is not work-related (like emails, cleaning the house, etc.) Reading or listening to music are good options.”That said, you should definitely skip your iPad or Kindle for a paperback. A 2014 study had participants read on an e-reader for 5 nights, then had them switch to a paper book for 5 nights and tracked their sleep each night. Researchers found that the nights e-readers were used, it took participants longer to fall asleep and they had lower quality sleep than those who read actual books. The reason? The blue light emitted by the e-readers has been found to interfere with melatonin production, which is why Attarian recommends getting the f.lux software to help minimize blue light.
2 Use your bed only for sleep and sex.
“Insomnia is a learned behavior. When you get into bed, you want your brain to have a simple decision–to fall asleep or have sex. If you use your bed to do 30 different things, your brain has to figure out what it wants you to do, and it becomes more and more difficult to fall asleep,” says Jain. So reserve your bed just for sleeping — or sexing.
3 Try some melatonin-rich kiwis.
“Melatonin helps you to fall asleep. Foods with more melatonin may be more conducive for sleep,” says Jain. Try a melatonin-rich fruit like a kiwi: one study found that those who ate 2 kiwis an hour before bed for 4 weeks showed improved sleep onset, duration, and efficiency (i.e., less waking up in the middle of the night).
4 Try some tart cherry juice.
A recent 2018 study found that those who drank 1 cup of tart cherry juice twice a day for 2 weeks increased their sleep time by 84 minutes compared to those in the placebo group.
5 Try a relaxation technique.
Chilling out is key to prepping for a peaceful night sleep. “Avoiding doing work/emailing/mentally stimulating activity before 20-30 minutes before bed and dedicating it to relaxing activities is key to beating insomnia,” says Attarian. “Studies have shown that breathing exercises, mindfulness/meditation, and muscle relaxation are all helpful.” Attarian recommends the Calm app for guided meditations.
6 Eat an early dinner.
There is such a thing as a food coma — but stuffing your face before bed may leave you waking up more often in the middle of the night.”Try to eat dinner 3-4 hours before bed,” says Attarian. “If you have a lot of food in your stomach when you go to bed, especially food heavy in fat, you can get reflux, which disturbs sleep. Reflux may not be burning acid, it could just be food content from the stomach that comes up, which will wake you.”
7 Get rid of the TV in your bedroom.
“Having a TV in the bedroom is a no-no for people with insomnia,” says Attarian. “It’s stimulating, from the noise to the light it emits.” And research backs him up.A 2017 study published in the Journal of Clinical Sleep Medicine found that watching TV before bed and binge-watching led to more cognitive arousal, which resulted in poorer sleep and insomnia.
By Emily Shiffer