Sleepless in Saudi: Reason & Remedies for When You Can’t Sleep
Most if not all of us have had problems with sleep at least once in our lives. Many people have chronic insomnia and have just given up on the idea of blissful sleep. Others have turned to less than desired methods that are extremely unhealthy and harmful in the long run. Either way, a good night's sleep is a blessing and necessity that helps us go on in life. There are a good number of reasons why we can’t sleep. Here is a list of common reasons why we might have difficulties falling asleep, as well as some common remedies and tips. However, this list shouldn’t be taken as a substitute for medical advice. Use your discretion and find what healthy remedies work for you. If all remedies have failed, you might want to consider seeing a medical doctor to rule out any physiological issues or perhaps talk with a professional.
Reasons You Might Not Be Able To Sleep:
- Medical Reasons: Sleeplessness could be related to illness, inflammations, chronic pain, sleep apnea, reaction to medication …etc. While these issues might be physiological in nature, there still might be a remedy for it.
- Mineral Deficiencies. These include deficiency in calcium, magnesium, vitamin B12 vitamin D, Vitamin C., etc.
- Hormone issues and the stages of menopause. Both estrogen and progesterone act directly on the sleep centers of the brain.
- Lifestyle choices. This could include a variety of things such as watching the news or exercising before bedtime, smoking, and sleeping during the day.
- Mental Well-being & Psychological issues: this could include anxiety, depression, overthinking, worry, stress, intense emotions such as anger and hurt.
- Excessive coffee, smoking, or alcohol drinking before bedtime. This gets a category on its own because a lot of people claim coffee doesn’t affect their sleep. Think about it. Nicotine and caffeine can disguise our exhaustion and stimulate the brain and nervous system. When we go to sleep, we want to avoid any stimulus and instead help the body release the proper sleep hormones.
- Eating food that takes a long time to digest before bedtime. This list includes fatty food, sugary stuff, red meat and raw vegetables.
- During a transition period such as in between jobs, awaiting major news, or right after Ramadan when our bodies are used to staying up late, or if we are jet-lagged.
- FOMO: Fear of Missing Out whether it's career or fun related.
- Enjoying the house to yourself especially if the household is fast asleep and you finally have time for yourself.
- Putting too much pressure on yourself to fall asleep.
- Feeling guilty for going to bed because you still have a ton of work to do.
- It’s been said the placement of the bed and what we store underneath it affects our sleeping. If this idea resonates with you then perhaps it’s something you might want to look into.
Common & Not-So-Common Sleep Remedies:
Note: This is a general list of remedies that appear to be harmless so make sure to use your discretion.
- One popular method that DOES NOT help sleep is counting sheep. Counting anything will not help you fall asleep. That is because by counting, we start to activate the brain whereas for sleeping we want to get to a relaxed state.
- Do a blood test to rule out any deficiencies. Also, learn about side effects to your medication, if you are taking any.
- Drink warm milk with honey. Supposedly, this has more of a psychological affect than a physiological one.
- Eat a banana, popcorn or almonds before bedtime. They help the release of melatonin, the hormone that helps us fall asleep.
- Have a small snack such as a sandwich – this was my first psychology instructor’s favorite insomnia remedy. Sandwiches contain protein and carbs that help the release of serotonin, another sleep hormone.
- Take melatonin or magnesium-based sleeping aid. These are meant for short time use.
- Put all electronics away at least 30 min before bedtime. These electronics emit blue light, a short wavelength that blocks melatonin (the sleep hormone).
- Give yourself a transition. A lot of times people have a hard time falling asleep because they go from a brain-stimulating activity such as working, watching a movie, having a heated conversation, gaming …etc. to going to bed right away. Let there be a calming transition between the two.
- Instead of long and deep day sleeps, take a power nap. Sometimes we need that nap to help us regenerate our energy to help us get through the day. To avoid taking turning a power nap into a long afternoon nap, set up the alarm or ensure the sleep setting isn’t very comfortable. For example, don’t turn on the AC or dim the room.
- Listen to binaural beats, sound waves which influence the brain waves. These beats came into controversy a few years ago but there are no evidences that support this controversy. In any case, do your homework to decide how you feel about it. If you find these sound waves annoying, you can find them mixed with music.
- Sleep to relaxing shamanic drumming or to sounds of nature especially water-based sounds.
- Mindful Breathing. This is my favorite and most effective remedy. Set an intention that you want to go to sleep now. if you have lots of thoughts roaming around in your head, ask them to stop and in return, you will address them tomorrow. Close your eyes and be aware of your deep breathing. That’s all.
- Practice mindfulness breathing throughout the day: While mindful breathing before bedtime is definitely a good remedy, breathing throughout the day helps enhance this superpower. Plus, it is very helpful in calming the busy mind down which in turn helps reduce anxiety and overthinking.
Finding a good remedy to your insomnia is personal and might be an interesting journey of self-discovery that would reveal a lot to you about yourself. For starters, examine what current beliefs you have about sleep. There are a lot of beliefs tied to sleep. Many believe that sleep is a privilege or is for lazy people. Do you agree? Of course neither belief is accurate or healthy but beliefs are personal issues that are deeply rooted in our psyche. Other questions to consider: Do you wish people didn’t have to waste their time with sleep? Do you think you are worthy of sleep? Also, what would you like to do instead of sleep?
I would love to hear from you. Are you suffering from insomnia? What remedies have worked for you? what hasn’t? Any remedy that works for you and wasn’t mentioned in the article?