Healthy Body

How to beat insomnia

Insomnia is a classification of sleep disorders in which a person has trouble falling asleep, staying asleep or waking up too early. It is the most commonly reported sleep disorder. It's a big problem amongst college students, increasing levels of anxiety and depression.

The knock-on effects in terms of academics are unsurprising, too. According to a study of nursing, psychology and medicine students by the University of Colorado, 69.7 per cent of those with low GPA scores had difficulty falling asleep.

It's important to see a doctor when your restlessness begins to affect your life, but here are some steps to see you through until the appointment date arrives, or to handle those rare, less chronic bouts that are more commonly experienced.

Mellow out by fixing your melatonin

Blue light, a part of the visible spectrum in solar rays, keeps us perky during the day by suppressing the release of melatonin, the hormone that causes sleepiness. If you don't have a change in melatonin levels during the 24 hours of the day, your body doesn't know when to rest and when to stay awake.

'College schedule' is, for many, a misnomer. It's very easy to stay indoors, and mooch around in a sedentary lifestyle of sleeping, relaxing with friends, and sitting in lecture halls or libraries. Being cooped up and inactive like this means our brains don't get the proper signals to sleep at the appropriate time. Result- you're exhausted, lacking focus too often, yet still can't sleep.

This blue light is emitted from computer, television and phone screens. It's imperative to reduce your exposure to these sources in the run-up to bedtime if you want to rejig your body clock to facilitate a physical recognition of the need for sleep. Save a section of your reading homework, go to your room early, and have a nosey. It'll be a welcome break for your brain from the harsh lights and sensory assault of social media and what you've read will be fresh in your mind the next day.

Put it to paper

In college, I theorised that Sunday nights are THE biggest cause of insomnia on the planet! When deadlines are looming, or you're dreading going to class because you didn't get the assigned reading done, the anxiety will fire up your brain making it nigh on impossible to drift off.

Just before you go asleep, write down everything you have to do in the morning. It’s won't need to be on your mind from that moment on – you know it's officially on paper, it’s planned for and you’ll tackle it.

Liaise with your faculty

 If you are becoming stressed with your workload, or are struggling with any issue pertaining to your degree for that matter, open the channels of communication with a senior member of the department. Email your tutor, a lecturer, or if you want to make sense of the predicament in a neutral, removed environment, make an appointment with the Welfare officer or campus counsellors.  

"There's an App for that"

Do Androids dream of electric sheep? They can, thanks to the many iPhone, iPad, iPod Touch, iOS, Android and Windows apps that can help you fall asleep at night.

Top rated apps include Ambiance, White Noise, and Relax Melodies; a quick Google search will provide you a little more information to aid in your purchase. There are free (Lite) versions of each, but for a mere 2 dollars or so, it's well worth an upgrade when the payoff will be much required ZZZs. One of the UK’s leading hypnotherapists, Darren Marks has developed a library of hypnotherapy apps that aim to recreate a live session with a hypnotherapist. Relax Completely, therefore, isn't a white noise app per se, but the effectiveness of this freebie should surprise some sceptics.

Essential measures

Lavender's oil contains compounds that help to slow brain waves which helps relieve anxiety, and depresses the central nervous system.  Radox, Lush and This Works have lavender-based ranges to aid relaxation, but there's no need to buy high-end products when a simple pillow spray recipe will yield a concoction just as effective. The act of spritzing itself will establish a pre-bed routine, helping you begin the switch-off, time-for-sleep process.

Simply fill a small spray bottle (you can get them at Muji but Penneys recently had some lovely, dinky pink ones as part of a travel set) with water and add 10-20 drops of pure Lavender oil. You can control how strong the scent is by adjusting the amount of essential oil you use.

Cut the caffeine

Now we're not crazy and don't assume you are, so we really mean 'restrict' as opposed to 'cut'. It's a safe bet that coffee will be a valuable crutch now and then, but tolerance builds up and dependencies do form over time. In addition, some people are naturally more sensitive to caffeine than others; while insomniacs are recommended to stop caffeine consumption by mid-afternoon, you may need to stick to morning-only hits. Sub with de-caff for the rest of the day, and experiment with herbal or fruity teas, too, when evening comes. Chamomile tea is renowned to help sleep. We defy you not to be soothed by a vanilla and chamomile cuppa.

Have a pre-bed snack

Without Mum's cooking, students are often slow to realise just how inept they are at feeding themselves. Your body won't let you sleep if it's chronically low on fuel. It’s really important to keep your blood sugar regulated by eating frequently – up to every 2 hours if you’re stressed. Choose snacks and meals that have protein and some good fat to feed your brain. The amino acid tryptophan helps the body create niacin and serotonin, the calming feel-good hormone. Other serotonin-inducing foods include poultry, bananas, oats, and honey. Try a sliced banana, sprinkled with oats, honey and cinnamon, and warmed up in the microwave. Add a dollop of Greek-style yoghurt and it’s a nutritious, perfectly pro-sleep dessert. Warm sweetened milk with an oatcake spread with your favourite nut butter is also a winner.