If you’re someone who deals with insomnia on a regular basis, you know what a torment it is to lie awake night after night, crazed with exhaustion yet unable to fall asleep. Insomnia can be extremely frustrating and, without adequate restful sleep, it could also be putting you at an increased risk of numerous health issues including high blood pressure, diabetes, stroke, and heart disease.
How to Overcome Insomnia and Promote Restful Sleep
Now the good news: insomnia does not have to be a lifelong struggle! Once you’ve figured out the root cause of your insomnia, you can work on incorporating some of the following diet and lifestyle strategies for promoting better-quality, more restful sleep.
Optimize your diet, especially for bed.
If you have GERD or other GI issues that are causing your insomnia, it is critical to optimize your diet to reduce reflux and other symptoms. Fried foods and other heavy, fatty, and spicy meals can exacerbate acid reflux, especially when consumed in large quantities right before bedtime. Drinking a lot before bed can also disrupt sleep due to frequent trips to the bathroom during the night. These interruptions could keep you from ever entering REM sleep, the most restorative type of sleep. You should especially limit or abstain from alcohol and caffeine if you struggle with insomnia. Alcohol disrupts sleep and increases the number of sleep apnea events, and the acidity of alcoholic and caffeinated beverages can worsen GERD. Caffeine also delays your circadian rhythm and exacerbates anxiety, while alcohol can lead to depression, which we know is a major factor in insomnia.
Reduce your inflammation.
Most chronic illnesses are caused by systemic inflammation. Our modern day diets are full of toxic foods (including sugar, alcohol, and processed junk) and inflammatory foods (gluten and dairy in particular) that trigger or worsen the symptoms of these conditions. Eating an anti-inflammatory diet and taking supplements such as curcumin that fight inflammation can help you work your way down the autoimmune spectrum and reverse the painful symptoms of autoimmunity and other inflammatory conditions including asthma, rheumatoid arthritis, fibromyalgia, and GERD.
Go for a walk.
Studies have shown that moderate-intensity exercise significantly improves the sleep of those with chronic insomnia.6 Staying active during the day (not right before bed!) reduces the amount of time it takes to fall asleep and increases the duration of sleep. Walking in particular can help with stress relief and management, which in turn has a positive impact on autoimmunity and other chronic conditions. Gentle exercise is also beneficial for depression, anxiety, and joint pain, all of which interfere with quality sleep. Interestingly, high-intensity exercise and lifting weights has no effect on insomnia, so keep it nice and easy with a long, brisk walk!
Ultimately, overcoming insomnia comes down to overcoming the underlying cause(s) of your insomnia. This may require modifying dietary and lifestyle habits that are contributing to your chronic illness and sleepless nights. Repairing your gut, optimizing your diet, taming the toxins, healing your infections, and relieving your stress will help you conquer insomnia and set you on the path to lifelong wellness.