Health Literacy

How to Cope with Insomnia


Insomnia is a debilitating condition that makes it extremely difficult for people to get to sleep and maintain a restful sleep. This habitual sleeplessness is generally a long-term condition and can be caused by anxiety, depression and heart conditions. It can eventually have a detrimental impact on an individual’s daytime performance and cognitive aspects such as memory, reaction time, concentration time and productivity. Fortunately, there are many ways to optimize the chances of falling asleep.

Avoiding naps

Though it can be tempting to take a nap during the day, the process of short bursts of sleep can be counterproductive as it can knock a person out of their regular sleeping rhythm. A strict schedule for sleeping, for going to bed and waking, can promote a routine that aids restful sleep. Any naps during the day should be restricted to a maximum of 30 minutes and it is best not to nap after around 3pm.

Sleep friendly bedroom

A cool and dark bedroom is best for a restful sleep. Experts believe the bedroom should purely be a place for bedtime activities so computers and TVs should be banished immediately. Any windows should also be covered completely with blackout blinds and curtains, and the room should be comfortable and not too hot. Studies show that cooling caps can be a great means to reducing the amount of time it takes to fall asleep and increase the quality of length of sleep. Turning on a fan or using a mobile app to create ambient noises is also recommended, as this will drown out any inconsistent and loud noises during the night and early morning.

Melatonin and valerian root

Sleep deprived individuals, to promote a healthy sleep, use supplements such as melatonin and valerian. Consulting a doctor before taking any supplements is the best course of action and he or she will be able to offer other advice regarding insomnia. Melatonin, which can regulate sleep cycles, is best taken around 30 minutes before bed. Valerian root is a herbal remedy that acts like a mild sedative and should only be taken in small doses shortly before bed. Both of these options are only designed to be short-term methods.


Improving diet and fitness can boost mental health and have a positive impact on sleeping quality. Water is perhaps the most important factor for promoting a better sleep as it hydrates the body significantly. Doctors recommend drinking two liters of water a day at regular intervals. Other natural water products such as vegetables and fruits are also ideal for hydration and staying healthy. While water is vitally important, coffee and alcohol can both have a detrimental impact on your ability to sleep so cut down on the intake of those during the day.


Small meals offering burst of energy throughout the day prevents people from ‘crashing’ and keeps them alert and wake. The types of food consumed are also important when trying to combat insomnia. Breakfast is the most important meal of the day because it provides an energy boost: enjoy a bowl of oats and fruit and cut back on the coffee. A certain amount of fat in food is okay early in the day as it will give you energy and can be burned off before the evening. Fiber from tortillas, wholegrain pitas and bread are ideal for lunch while small meals with yoghurt, berries and granola, and peanut butter as sides, are also recommended. In contrast, large meals consumed late at night can leave people feeling sluggish and bloated – avoid!


Exercising for at least 30 minutes each day will significantly increase your ability to relax at night and improve the chance of falling asleep. Going for a daily run will boost the mitochondria in your cells and release lots of other feel good endorphins that can give you a pleasant high. Short bursts of activity are also ideal for managing fatigue.


After vigorous exercise, take a shower and relax with your favorite TV show or music collection. When bedtime draws near, have an action plan to prepare for sleep. It is best to shut down all computers, mobile phones and other devices, and screens that keep you awake at least an hour before bed. Reading a book during this time can relax the mind so it is ready for sleep. Working, playing and relaxing smarter is the best way to combat insomnia. Try to not worry about any lack of sleep and always be positive and proactive in order to optimize sleep time and its quality.

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Paul Tomaszewski is a science & tech writer as well as a programmer and entrepreneur. He is the founder and editor-in-chief of CosmoBC. He has a degree in computer science from John Abbott College, a bachelor's degree in technology from the Memorial University of Newfoundland, and completed some business and economics classes at Concordia University in Montreal. While in college he was the vice-president of the Astronomy Club. In his spare time he is an amateur astronomer and enjoys reading or watching science-fiction. You can follow him on LinkedIn and Twitter.

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