How can I control insomnia?  - Forbes Health

How can I control insomnia? – Forbes Health

Because our daily routine has a profound effect on the biological functions that help us sleep, we can influence that nocturnal process in important ways. You’ve likely heard some (if not all) of them before – the science is well documented. It can be easy to dismiss it as too simple to be of interest to you, but the evidence suggests that playing with these variables can help reduce some of your late-night misery.


Before the invention of the light bulb, humans slept shortly after sunset. Some naturally sleep later than others. (According to Dr. Walker, night owls naturally come by their rhythms.) But people didn’t have light streaming through their corneas after dark like we do now, especially blue LED light. This exposure to light delays the natural flow of melatonin and the circadian rhythms that would otherwise drive us to sleep.

Try dimming or removing light sources in the hours before bed. Choose warm, dim light for bedside lamps, and stay away from screens if possible. I know… it’s easier said than done.


To sleep well, your basal body temperature must drop. Studies show that a room temperature of about 65 degrees Fahrenheit is an ideal temperature for sleeping. If your feet get cold, wearing socks can help draw body heat away from your heart and out through your feet. (This easy trick was news to me.)

Playing sports

Sleep is healing, and it can be hard to fall asleep if there isn’t anything your body needs to recover from. Exercising for 30 minutes a day helps increase sleep stress and can boost your ability to drift off. If you can exercise outside, you will also be exposed to daylight, which helps regulate your circadian rhythm. Everyone’s body is different, but experts advise avoiding exercise two hours before bed to prevent a rise in core body temperature.


Feeling full or very hungry can make it difficult to sleep. Dr. Walker points out that severe calorie restriction makes it difficult to fall asleep and reduces REM sleep. Eating a large meal before bed doesn’t help either, as it can cause indigestion and reduce the deep sleep itself. (On the other hand, small, low-sugar snacks can be helpful if you’re really hungry.) Caffeine and high-sugar diets, especially late in the day, also cause more interruptions to sleep.

Note to alcohol drinkers: Alcohol acts more as a sedative than a sleep aid and can cause wakefulness and reduce REM sleep similarly to the effects of sugar.


Stress is my cockpit as a coach. When you are stressed, it ends up in your nervous system. To relieve stress before bed, you can try the usual shady things like taking a shower or meditating, or creating a small ritual after brushing your teeth—like a specific series of stretching exercises or dumping your thoughts on paper, not the machine—before you dispense with a light one.

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Sleeping pills

Dr. Walker shreds sleeping pills like Rottweilers into a steak. Bottom line: The effect of sleep medicine is closer to sedation than to restful sleep. The pills do not allow natural brainwave activity to enhance learning and restore balance overnight. They can also cause insomnia rebound, which can make it more difficult to fall asleep on subsequent nights after taking the pills.


Melatonin is found naturally in most people’s bodies. It signals to the brain that it’s time for bed, but the other factors I mentioned above (circadian rhythms and sleep stress) are what actually make sleep start. Dr. Walker suggests that melatonin supplementation has a placebo effect for many people, adding that the initial signaling function can be helpful for getting a healthy schedule while traveling across time zones.

2022 report in Journal of the American Medical Association It supports these findings, showing that use of melatonin in adults in the United States has increased significantly over the past 20 years, but there is little evidence that it helps people sleep. Also, some people have reported mild side effects from melatonin supplementation, including daytime drowsiness, headache, and mood swings.


The most important thing researchers say can improve sleep is getting up and going to bed at the same time each day. I wrote in my book Habit Journey I find this tip “a bit infuriating” because it’s hard to achieve in real life. As a well-meaning nocturnal person with a job and a child at home, my natural sleep cycle isn’t an option for me, and sticking to a weekday schedule on weekends feels like a special kind of torture. However, according to Dr. Walker, adjusting even a few minutes can have a profound biological effect, as it allows for full sleep cycles throughout the night.

Working with my sleep patterns, I’ve discovered that I can push my weekend nights to sleep a little earlier, and on weekend mornings, I wake up a little earlier than I would normally. Regardless of the timing, sticking to a ritual bedtime routine (as you might with a child) is one of the most effective things you can do to let your brain know it’s time to drift off.

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