The 10 Worst Ways to Deal With Insomnia

Martin Reed | Aug 18, 2017

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Life with insomnia can be miserable. As a result, many of us practice what we believe to be sleep-promoting habits and techniques — but some of the most common methods we try can have the opposite effect and make sleep more difficult. Read on to learn the most common mistakes and see if you recognize any of your own bad habits.

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Spending more time in bed

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It can be all too tempting to spend more time in bed in a bid to get more sleep. Unfortunately, this usually has the reverse effect on sleep — because you simply end up spending more time in bed awake, tossing and turning, rather than sleeping. The amount of time you spend in bed should closely match the amount of time you actually spend asleep in bed.

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Doing less during the day

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The fatigue associated with chronic sleep deprivation will make you feel lethargic and drained of energy. As a result, you may be tempted to avoid exercise and social activities. However, your body and mind requires daytime stimulation and without it, your sleep can suffer.

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Taking daytime naps

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A lack of sleep at night can increase your desire to catch a nap during the day. If you struggle with sleep at night, daytime naps aren’t usually a good idea since sleeping during the day reduces sleep pressure and can make it harder to fall asleep at night. If you feel you must nap, limit them to half an hour and never nap after mid-afternoon.

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Watching TV in bed

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You may be tempted to lie in bed with the TV on until you fall asleep — but this is a bad idea. Not only does the light emitted by televisions affect your sleep/wake cycle, but the content of the programming can have a stimulating effect on the brain. Regularly watching TV in bed also creates a link in your mind between the bed and wakefulness rather than sleep, and this can make the habit difficult to break.

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Watching the clock

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Constantly checking the clock during the night can make sleep feel impossible. Every time you check the time, you increase the level of stress and anxiety as you calculate how little time there is before the alarm will go off, and consider how tired you’re going to feel as a result of your sleep deprivation. Avoid the temptation to watch the clock by covering it or turning the clock face away from you.

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Catching up on sleep with regular lie-ins

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Ah, the weekend! A perfect opportunity for a lie-in so you can catch up on all your lost sleep, right? Wrong! Sleeping in for an excessive amount of time will only make it harder to sleep come nighttime, and weekend lie-ins make weeknight sleep more difficult, too. Stick to a regular sleep schedule every single night of the week to strengthen your sleep system.

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Drinking coffee during the day

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A lack of sleep makes the daily caffeine jolt feel compulsory rather than optional — but caffeine has a half-life of up to six hours, meaning that your body feels its effect for as long as 12 hours! Enjoy your morning coffee but switch to decaf as midday approaches.

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Taking melatonin supplements

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Melatonin is a hormone that helps regulate our sleep cycle. In the United States, melatonin is marketed as a supplement, so it is not regulated by the Food and Drug Administration. As a result, there is no guarantee of purity — and there is little in the way of scientific evidence to support the effectiveness of melatonin as an insomnia treatment.

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Drinking alcohol before bed

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Throwing back a few drinks before bed may help you fall asleep — but alcohol harms overall sleep quality. Alcohol has a stimulating effect as it is processed by the body, and studies have found that it can prevent the body from entering the deepest, most restorative stage of sleep.

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Trying to force sleep

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Sleep is a natural process and as soon as we try to interfere with that process,we make sleep more difficult to achieve. Attempting to fall asleep within a certain amount of time, or trying to get a set amount of sleep each night can make it harder to fall asleep and lead to poorer overall sleep quality. Stop worrying about sleep and accept that it is a natural process. When you get into bed at night, simply see it as a time for relaxation and see what happens.