Dear Insomnians, what’s the worst feeling in the world?
Of course, it is being exhausted at the end of the day… and yet unable to sleep.
It is lying on your bed, eyes closed but mind wanders all over the place, running at the speed of bullet train, unable to stop.
It is tossing and turning left and right, pulling blanket over your head, then kicking it away. It is being aggravated by your neighbor’s dog barking at the end of the street and pulling out your clock’s battery so its tick-tock sound won’t keep you from falling asleep.
It is constantly worrying over how many hours of sleep you’ve lost today, while trying to sleep, and worry how you’re going to face tomorrow.
But almost every sickness has its cure, and thankfully insomnia is one of them.
Sleeping pill for quick fix
There is one hassle free method to fall asleep easily: sleeping pills.
Just one chew and one gulp of water, and before you know it, you’ll off to dreamland. Free from frustrating night and restless sleep.
But it comes with cost. Do you know that the sleep you have with sleeping pills is actually different from natural sleep?
Sleeping pills don’t actually make you sleep, they actually sedate you.
What’s the difference? You’re unconscious in both instances anyway.
Well, the difference is huge. In natural sleep, your body and brain are working to restore itself. Your brain is active when you’re sleeping, that’s why during sleeping you actually experience four stage of different brain activities.
In natural sleep, your brain removes toxins that build up during the moment you’re awake. It also strengthens your synapses, enhancing your memory.
That’s why when you’re a student, you’ll often hear people say that the best time to study is before sleeping, because you’ll be more likely to remember what you’ve learned.
All of these internal activities do not happen when you’re sedated. True, you’ll be unconscious, and you can rest, but you won’t wake up feeling refreshed and ready.
In fact, many sleeping pills users report that even after they wake up from long pills-induced sleeping, they feel lethargic and want to sleep again.
Also, there are several others side effect. This does not happen to everybody, but still, there are chances that you might get it.
First, you’ll likely be dependent on the pills to keep you asleep for the rest of your life. Second, there have been finding of correlation between sleeping pills consumption with cancer and early death. The causation is not yet found, but there’s no harm in being cautious.
That’s why you should treat sleeping pills carefully. even if OTC sleeping pills are available, you should use it only as the last resort, after you speak to your physician and get an OK for that.
Sometimes you can’t get away from sleeping pills, if your medical condition truly requires you to consume them. However, if your doctor says that you’ll be okay without sleeping pills but you find yourself still unable to sleep at night, here are several alternatives of sleeping pills you can get.
None of them are chemistry-based, and the effect are not instant, but they do works. But, before that, we must now why you can’t sleep in the first place.
Why do you can’t sleep like normal?
Some people may wonder why insomnia happens to them.
Actually, unable to sleep is normal occurrence. When you are stressed, when you are too busy, when you are having a big problem, not being able to sleep because your mind keep getting back to what you are worrying is normal.
Later, when you solve the problem you’re facing, your sleeping pattern will go back to normal.
However, people with insomnia doesn’t experience the same thing. For them, the unable to sleep condition goes on and on, whether they have other problems or not. It goes long enough to make it qualify as a disorder.
Experts agree that insomnia is a psychological problem. They are usually accompanied by anxiety, depression, shock, or both. However, it can also accompany other physical sickness like nasal or sinus problem, cancer, diabetes, asthma, and others. Hormone fluctuation caused by consumption of certain medication is also a listed causation.
For the luckier people, insomnia may cause by less than ideal environment. For example, a bad bed that causes you to feel tired more than rested after sleep. Or probably because you are living in a place without air conditioner or heater.
Thankfully, no matter what is the cause, you can make your insomnia better. How? Check out our alternatives below.
Relaxation is the gateway to sleep
Relaxation for the key to sleep early sounds like old and repeated mantra. Yeah, everybody knows that. But does everybody actually practice what they know?
When you are tense, it is harder to sleep because your body thinks you are in dangerous situation, that may potentially harm you if it lets you go to sleep.
Relaxing your body is how you can send signal to your mind that nothing is dangerously fatal.
This can also work two ways. If you relax your mind, then your body will naturally follow and relax itself. However, most of the time, relaxing your body is easier than relaxing your mind. That’s why these alternatives below are deemed as more effective.
Do breathe exercise
Breathing exercise is simple but many people are too skeptical whether this simple practice will be able to lull them into sleep.
Why don’t you try it yourself? When you lie on your bed, inhale for four seconds. Then, hold your breath for seven seconds, and finally exhale slowly for eight seconds. This is called 4-7-8 breathing method and has been used widely to calm people when they are having panic or anxiety attack.
When you are doing this method, it’s important not to question its efficacy. Questioning it will just make you worry, and your attempt to relax will be botched. Instead just think that you have nothing to lose when trying this exercise, and then just focus on breathing. Repeat until you fall asleep.
Progressive Muscle Relaxation
Combine the breathing exercise with this PMR (Progressive Muscle Relaxation), and it will be twice more effective.
Even if the name sounds difficult, PMR is just you tensing and relaxing your certain muscle, from head to toe, progressively. It requires low effort yet immensely effective to relax your body and eventually, your mind.
On your bed, lie on your back and straighten your legs. Put your hand on its natural state on the either side of your body.
Now, starting from your head and neck, tense your muscle. Hold it for several seconds, and then relax. Continue with your shoulders, repeat the movement of tensing and relaxing. Continue with both of your arms, and move downwards progressively.
You’ll find a big difference in your state of relaxation. You may not notice how tense you are before, but by this time you’ll notice how nice it is to have all of your muscle relaxed.
Now, in this state, continue with your breathing exercise. In no time, you’ll find yourself fall asleep without notice.
Actually, even before start lying on your bed, you can already start your relaxation project. How? With various way, and you can choose which one you love the most.
The key is to allow yourself to relax. Sometimes, when you’re too busy, you feel guilty when you spend your time relaxing. You feel like you should use that time to do something productive. But remember, relaxation is a necessary part to sustain your productivity. All work and no play can crash your body.
So, one hour before sleep, do something calming that you like the most. The choice is unlimited. You can draw a bubble bath, read a book, or meditate. However, just make sure what you’re doing isn’t too exciting (like exercising) or involving screen (watching TV, scrolling social media feed on your smartphone).
It’s important to maintain your relaxed state throughout the night. So, having an ideal bedroom is a must if you have sleeping disorder. What is ideal bedroom? It doesn’t have to be luxurious or Instagrammable, but it does need several conditions to be checked.
First, make sure it’s a place you love to be in. Associate your bedroom with a place of retreat, where you are safe from danger, and nothing from the outside (including your work) can disturb you there. You can do this by never taking any work inside your room. You can make sure to leave your work in the office, or if you really have to take it home, do it on your study, or living room, or dining room.
Second, maintain its temperature. Science said people sleep better in slightly cool environment instead of warm one. Invest on your air conditioner, or if you don’t have any or can’t afford any, just make sure your room has good ventilation.
Third, sleep in the dark. Darkness lulls you to sleep better. If you can’t sleep pitch dark, you can buy special sleeping light that give you enough light to see everything, but dim enough so it won’t distract your attempt to sleep.
Fourth, invest in good bedding. Mattress, pillow, and blanket are all essential items to keep you comfortable in your sleep. Bad mattress can tire you out instead of keeping you well-rested. Good pillow will support your head and neck during sleep, so you’ll be less likely to get a crick on the neck when you wake up.
Natural sleeping pills
The next alternative is consuming something that will make you sleep better. But the catch is, it must be something natural, and does not come with prescription or side effect.
The efficacy of chamomile is still debatable, but many users have reported that chamomile does help them relax, which in turn makes it easier for them to fall asleep. The mildest and safest form of chamomile to consume is chamomile tea, and you can even incorporate it on your bedtime routine.
Chamomile essence and supplement in the form of liquid or capsule is also available, but you should consult your physician before consuming them, especially if you have certain health condition and is consuming another medication.
Melatonin is a hormone your body produce when night time comes. It ties closely to your circadian rhythm, or your body’s internal clock. Consuming supplement containing melatonin will increase this hormone, and your body will take it as a clue to relax and preparing yourself for sleep.
Again, for your own health and safety, please consult your doctor before deciding to consume this regularly.
Valerian is another natural sedative, with stronger effect than chamomile. However, it has more side effect compared to chamomile, such as headache, dizziness, and stomach problem. This doesn’t affect everybody, of course, but it’s still unclear who should and should not consume valerian. If you are pregnant or breastfeeding, you should avoid any risk taking this. This is not safe for children under 3 years old as well.
Also, as is with another herbal supplement, the right dosage for valerian to consume is unclear, especially because there is no massive study of this plant yet, compared to other commercially produced medicine. Also, everybody has different needs and tolerance, so, always consult your doctor before purchasing the product.
Now, if you’re already tired with sleeping pills, or actually really don’t want to consume it but have to because you need to sleep more than four hours a day, you can give these alternatives a chance and let the experience speaks for you.
Most of these alternatives, you can practice for free, or purchase at affordable price, so there’s no need to worry whether they really work for you or not. You have nothing to lose when you’re trying these methods.
Also, even if you have, getting quality sleep every night is something worth to pursue.
Remember that you deserve a good night sleep and have a good night!