During period of stress in our lives -- such as living with an abusive partner, or after you have escaped one -- sleep can become compromised by a seemingly endless stream of anxious and worrisome thoughts. Sleepless nights do more than cause unsightly bags under our eyes. Over time, insomnia can lead to health concerns, such as depression, anxiety disorder, slowed reaction time (which can put you at a higher risk for accidents), weight gain, substance abuse and an increased risk for heart disease, high blood pressure and diabetes.
Ignoring your insomnia will not make it magically disappear. It’s time to take action and reclaim your peaceful night’s rest. Below, five at-home remedies that could help lend themselves to some better Zzzzzzzzzs.
1. Unload. If you are currently experiencing domestic violence of any type—even if you’re unsure if what you’re going through is abuse—you are no doubt under stress. Regardless of whether or not you’re ready to leave your partner, talking about your situation and your options with a trained advocate who is there just to listen to you can do wonders for relieving some of your stress. From a safe location, call the National Domestic Violence Hotline at 800-799-SAFE. Advocates are available 24/7, and you can remain completely anonymous. You can also chat with an advocate online between 7 a.m. and 2 a.m. central time (click the “Chat” button at the top of the page). If you are not up for talking to a person, try journaling your thoughts and worries and vow to let them go until tomorrow.
2. Create a Routine. Do you rush through your day only to jump in bed at the end of the day, worrying that you’re only going to get seven hours of sleep instead of eight? Try taking at least 30 minutes before lights out to calm your mind and body with a routine. This might include a warm bath, reading, a cup of [decaf] tea, yoga or meditation. Stay off electronic devices and avoid TV—they can make you more awake by stimulating your brain. If you aren’t feeling sleepy, get out of bed and try one of the above activities. Return to bed when your eyelids feel heavy.
3. There’s an App for That. Yes, we said not to use your phone in bed, but if it’s to turn on a quick sound machine app, then that’s OK. There are plenty of free sound machine applications to choose from that come with plenty of happy, and sleepy, sounds. Those that come highly recommended include the White Noise Free Sleep Sounds and Free Bed Time Fan. Another app, called Digipill—Sleep, Relaxation and Mindfulness is like a guided meditation that will lull you to dreamland and ease your anxiety.
4. Devices and Gadgets. If you want to make a small investment in a good night’s sleep, there are some highly rated sound machines that promise a better night’s sleep. (Hint - these work great to keep babies and kids asleep, too). One machine is the Dohm ($49.95) that creates natural, white noise. A more budget-friendly option is the HoMedics Sound Spa ($19.95) that gives you a choice of six different, relaxing nature sounds.
5. Stop Smoking. This harmful habit is doing more than upping your risk for cancer—it’s also keeping you awake. Nicotine in cigarettes is a stimulant. Studies show smokers are 4 times more likely not to feel well rested in the morning compared to nonsmokers. Experts say the withdrawal from quitting will only interfere with your sleep, on average, for three nights. After that, you’ll be getting a better night’s rest.
6. Nix Coffee, Cocktails and Cardio. …before bed that is. Exercising earlier in the day is actually beneficial to a better night’s sleep (try to get in at least 30 minutes of some activity that raises your heart rate). But within four hours of sleep, do not start an exercise routine—it could keep you awake. After 2 p.m., go with decaffeinated beverages and take your last sip of alcohol at least two hours before bedtime.
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