Insomnia can happen to all of us from time to time, but if the problem becomes chronic, it’s important to deal with it before your body suffers the effects of prolonged sleep deprivation.
An adult needs anywhere between 7 and 9 hours of sleep a night, but insomnia isn’t just a question of a shorter night’s rest. The quality of a night’s sleep is also an issue, which leads us to the first sign to consider: waking up tired.
Five signs of insomnia:
- shorter sleep cycles
- difficulty getting to sleep
- waking up frequently in the night
- waking up far too early
- agitated sleep, with nightmares for example
Mastering the sleep cycle
Sleep isn’t a solid, consistent affair: a night is comprised of a succession of cycles of deep sleep (non REM) and dream sleep (REM). An understanding of these cycles and of your internal clock enables you to better measure the quality of your sleep and to find ways to improve it.
Four things to remember about sleep cycles:
- deep sleep is predominant during the first half of the night: it’s a good idea to get to bed early to make the most of this phase
- sleep is regulated by your internal clock: sleepiness happens at the same time every night, which explains the importance of regular bedtimes
- the quantity of deep sleep depends on the duration and quality of a wakeful period: exercise in the day time encourages good deep sleep
- a sleep cycle lasts around 90 minutes: depending on the individual, needs are anywhere from 4 to 6 cycles a night
Fighting insomnia: good habits can help
Insomnia is often linked to stress, to bad habits, or to an environment that isn’t conducive to sleep. A few good habits can help you get a good night’s rest.
- fight the stress and anxiety behind insomnia through relaxing activities like yoga or sophrology
- help your body get its rest by eliminating stimulants like coffee and tea, but also alcohol, particularly after 3pm.
- help your body cool down before sleep by ensuring that your bedroom isn’t too warm, below 19°C is best
- avoid putting strain on your digestive system, which discourages sleep, by eating a lighter and earlier evening meal
- respect your biological clock by limiting your nap time: more than 20 minutes in the day will disturb your night’s rest
- encourage the secretion of melatonin, a sleep hormone, by replacing a screen with a book before bedtime
Plants that help with insomnia
Natural solutions help you get to sleep and improve the quality of your sleep. During periods of insomnia, certain supplements can be very useful.
Five plants with recognized benefits for treating insomnia:
- Valerian: reduces nervousness and anxiety and has sleep-inducing properties
- Lemon balm: used against anxiety
- Orange flower: it is recognised for its stress-busting properties
- Lime blossom: a natural sedative, it helps you get to sleep quickly
- Oat: used for nervousness and sleep disorders