Sleep Hygiene

Insomnia comes in many forms - difficulty falling asleep, difficulty staying asleep, waking early in morning, and worst-case scenario, not sleeping at all.

The common Western medical approach is to prescribe sleep meds (Ambien, Sonata and Lunesta). Unfortunately, these medications only increase total sleep time by 28 minutes compared to a placebo, according to a 2005 NIH study. They may be habit-forming, cause next-day drowsiness, and memory loss. They also may mask other underlying cause of sleeplessness like depression and anxiety, in addition to poor sleep hygiene. 

No matter what type of insomnia you are experiencing, acupuncture can help. However, it's still important to be mindful of your sleep hygiene - your routine leading up to bed time. 

Here are a few simple ways you can improve your sleep hygiene and get a little closer to a deeper, more restful night's sleep. 

Get up and go to bed the same time every day - Even on weekends! 
When your sleep cycle has a regular rhythm, you will feel better and your sleep will become more consistent.

Stay away from caffeine, nicotine and alcohol at least 4-6 hours before bed. 
Caffeine has a half-life of almost 6 hours. So, refrain from the afternoon double latte. Alcohol may seem to help you sleep in the beginning as it slows brain activity, but you will end end up having fragmented sleep - due to dehydration and fluctuations in blood sugar levels.

Refrain from exercise at least 4 hours before bedtime. 
Regular exercise is recommended to help you sleep well, but the timing of the workout is important. Exercising in the morning or early afternoon will not interfere with sleep. Vigorous exercise too close to bedtime will increase your cortisol levels and potentially throw-off your sleep.

If you're gonna eat, keep it light. 
If your stomach is too empty, that can interfere with sleep. However, if you eat a heavy meal before bedtime, that can interfere as well. Fats and proteins are more sedating than energizing sugars and carbs.

Develop a sleep ritual. 

It is important to give your body cues that it is time to slow down and sleep. Listen to relaxing music, read something soothing for 15 minutes, have a cup of caffeine free tea, do relaxation exercises. 

Step away from the light.
Studies have shown that even the tiniest light across the room can disrupt your melatonin levels, effecting the quality of your sleep. Ideally you want to start moving away from your TV and computer at least an hour before your head hits the pillow. For those of us who are on the computer late at night download f.lux. This program will automatically adjust the color of your screen so that it doesn't wreak havoc on your melatonin production. You can also try blackout curtains or wearing an eye mask. 

Focus on your feet.
Massage or put lotion on your feet. Rubbing the soles of your feet, vigorously (counting to 50 for each foot), creating a nice warmth on the bottoms of the feet can help you get out of your head. This simple grounding exercise can help you decompress from a stressful day.

Only use your bed for sleeping and sex. 

Refrain from using your bed to watch TV, pay bills, do work or reading. So when you go to bed your body knows it is time to sleep.

Make sure your bed and bedroom are quiet and comfortable. 

A hot room can be uncomfortable. A cooler room along with enough blankets to stay warm is recommended.  If noise bothers you, wear earplugs or get a white noise machine. 

Sleep only when you're sleepy. 
This reduces the time you are awake in bed, stressing about not being able to fall asleep.

If you can't fall asleep within 20 minutes, get up and do something simple until you feel sleepy. 
Try a little deep breathing or mindfulness practice, quietly in the dark. Don't watch TV or get onto the computer. The light gives cues to your brain that it is time to wake up.

Use sunlight to set your biological clock.
As soon as you get up in the morning, go outside and turn your face to the sun for 15 minutes.

Get Acupuncture!
Acupuncture can be very very effective at dealing with all types of insomnia and sleep disturbances - So get acupuncture...frequently!

adapted from http://www.stanford.edu/~dement/temp.html