Lifestyle Effects on Your Sleep
It is known that about half of all insomnia cases are related to the bad lifestyle and psychological problems, such as depression, anxiety and tension. These are often brought by a bad marriage, unsatisfying job, or other emotionally stressful conditions. There are also outside stresses of society, like dense population, traffic, noise, corruption, war, pollution and climate change... The list goes on. You may feel overwhelmed, and when you go to bed, your mind keeps spinning. You just can't sleep.
There are different kinds of stresses that are caused by:
a) A hard, challenging, or demanding, but satisfying life, and
b) A meaningless, unfulfilling, and frustrating life.
The first type is beneficial. It keeps you active, brings purpose to your life, and makes you feel fulfilled and needed.
The second type builds anger, tension and frustration, damages your personality, and ultimately, causes sleep problems. This is the type of stress that you have to learn how to deal with.
It isn't the stress of hard work that gets us into insomnia trouble, but, rather it is being in a situation over which we feel that we have no control.
Research also shows that often, it is not big problems, like divorce or death, that drag us down; but it is the small, irritating daily hassles, lile traffic, spilled milk, flat tire, argument at work, etc.
Dealing with Stress
When you are confronted with stress, your adrenaline level raises, heart beats faster, blood pressure raises and muscles become tense. This a is normal reaction that our body developed to deal with temporary emergencies (like running from a predator or fighting fire), and it is designed to last short periods. It is not designed to deal with prolonged stresses, like problems in family, financial issues, or an unfair boss.
Nevertheless, your body still reacts that way, breaking down its defense mechanisms, wearing you down without you realizing it, eroding your self-esteem, and leading to headaches, ulcers, and insomnia.
You can reduce stress by changing how you look at things. "Awfulizing" (reacting to everything as if it is a catastrophe) is at the root of many psychological problems that lead to poor sleep and insomnia.
Often, there are ways to fix many problems if we only give ourselves time to think about them logically. Many of them aren't that big after all, and thay are not worth losing sleep over.
If you have the kind of insomnia in which you lie in bed with thoughts buzzing through your head or you find yourself worrying in bed without sleep, the Worry Time Solution may work for you.
- Set aside a half hour in the evening, long before bedtime, to work on your worries so that you don't have to deal with them at bedtime.
- Go to a quiet place; write down list of things that worry you.
- Then, think what you can do about each worry item and write the solution beside it. For example, to make a phone call, to finish task, or to have a friendly talk with your boss. There are some worries that you have no control over, at least at the moment. In that case, acknowledge that fact and write down something like, "I will deal with it when so-and-so comes to town", or "I have done everything I can at this time, now I have to wait".
- Later, you can go to bed knowing that you have dealt with your worries for today, and nothing you can do until tomorrow.
- In the morning, you will have a list of action items to do.
The trick is to write the solution down, not just keep it in your head. Writing down the solution releases the worry and helps it go away. Your goal is to face each worry squarely and decide what you will be doing about it.
Think about your worries before you go to bed and are still thinking clearly. Prepare a to-do list for the next day to actively do something about those worries.
Schedule your Worry Time every night for a week or two. If it helps, continue it. If it doesn't work, give it up. As a benefit, it will at least help you to better organize your life matters.
Learn to Relax
- Withdraw from your world for a mental break once or twice a day. Put your feet up, close your eyes, relax your muscles and breathe slowly and deeply.
- Take a three-minute vacation each day. Imagine yourself on the beach or another place where you feel comfortable and relaxed. Or try some relaxation techniques during this time.
It is important to note that not all insomniacs are overly stressed. The opposite may also be true. Some sleep problems could be due to boredom and a lack of stimulus during the day.
Other Lifestyle Notes
- Personal fulfillment in life is important. Research has shown that one of the main causes of heart disease and other illnesses like insomnia are:
- job dissatisfaction, and
- low sense of personal happiness.
- Ability to deal with stress and have a positive attitude in life is paramount. It's not just necessary in curing sleep problems but for the health and quality of life in general.
As a joke, I used to quote Dilbert: "Humans are natural pain collectors. Happiness is the art of self-delusion".
As a pragmatic person, I see how that statement may be true to at least some extent, but you have to adopt a positive attitude towards life.
- Don't worry about things you can't change. Do something about things you can change.
- Life should be a balance of activity and rest. Don't neglect time for leisurly activities and hobbies. For most people with insomnia, the activity portion of life is overemphasized at the expense of the leisure time.
- If you are retired person or a live stay-at-home lifestyle, ensure that your days are filled with a sufficient amount of physical and mental activity. Do something important to you, live a varied life, and occasionally have an exciting late evening.