sleepless nights and sleep aids

Sleepless Nights? The Science Behind Insomnia

Mee Staff

First things first, having sleepless nights isn’t fun. We’ve all been there when we’re lying awake counting sheep and Googling “how to cure insomnia in 12 minutes?” or "sleep aids" but it just doesn’t work. Then once you finally get to sleep, you wake up too early then you’re tired and irritable the next day. Well, when you have sleepless nights over a three-month period, that’s insomnia.

There are a range of factors that cause the very common condition that is insomnia, something even sleep aids can’t fix. Obviously, the exact cause depends on the individual, but it can be physical, psychological, and even environmental. You can read a little more about that here.

What is the science behind your sleepless nights?

Firstly, it is important to understand what a circadian rhythm is. It’s a natural, internal process that regulates and changes our sleep–wake cycle and repeats roughly every 24 hours. It’s our internal clock. Conveniently (or inconveniently) the most general and common cause of sleepless nights is a disrupted circadian rhythm.

Our circadian rhythm is primarily controlled by this thing called the suprachiasmatic nucleus (SCN) that is found in the hypothalamus of our brains. It receives input from light receptors in the eyes and sets our sleep-wake cycle. But when this cycle is disrupted by exogenous zeitgebers, it can lead to insomnia. These exogenous zeitgebers? Well that can be jet lag, shift work, and even exposure to artificial light at night.

However, as you’ll find out about more in this article about the causes of insomnia, the circadian rhythm can be impacted by many other things.

In fact, the first man to discover the circadian rhythm was a French man called Michel Siffre. In1962, he took off his watch and descended into some French caves. With a torch as his only light source he was deprived of any exogenous zeitgebers. For 63 days he lived underground, alone, and when he emerged, he realised had been living on his own schedule. That is where the circadian rhythm was born, and its helped us solve problems from space travel to sleepless nights.

What should I do about sleepless nights?

Well, let’s be positive. You’re in the right place to sort your issues. There are many ways to cure insomnia, but each depends on you and your body. You can read more about solving your sleepless nights here, but here’s a short list for your ease.

  • Starting a regular sleep schedule should help you sleeper sounder. Go to bed and wake up at the same time every day – including on weekends – and it should help get your circadian rhythm back on track.
  • If you create a relaxing bedtime routine like reading a book, listening to soothing music, or taking a warm bath it should signal to your body that it's time to bed! Sleepless nights? Goodbye!
  • It’s best to avoid stimulating activities before bedtime. Stop scrolling through your phone – especially with the harmful blue light – and certainly don’t exercise too much before sleep.  
  • If you make your sleep environment comfortable, like by finding the perfect temperature or using comfortable bedding, your sleepless nights should be a thing of the past.

Sleep aids are also used by many people as an effective treatment. A number of them are legal in the UK, so we’ve compiled a list below.

What Sleep Aids Can Help?

Its generally recommended that the average person requires between seven or eight hours of sleep a night. Sleep aids can certainly help, but its also worth consulting your doctor first. However, some are available over the counter or even in supermarkets. Here’s a list of legal sleep aids available in the UK that might help with sleepless nights,  including:

  • Over-the-counter sleep aids include antihistamines like diphenhydramine (found in Nytol, Diphenhydramine and Sominex) and doxylamine (found in Nytol and Sleep Aid). Some very long words there!
  • Prescription medications – for which you need approval from your doctor – include medications like zolpidem (Ambien), zopiclone (Imovane), and diazepam (Valium). Use them only on a short term basis.
  • Melatonin is a hormone that regulates your circadian rhythm. It can be purchased over-the-counter in the UK as a dietary supplement, but also works very well as a sleep aid.
  • Herbal remedies are also effective sleep aids. They include valerian (not like Game of Thrones) and passionflower.

It’s definitely worth knowing that sleep aids should only be used as a short-term solution for sleepless nights. Speak to your doctor or a healthcare professional before taking any. But hopefully, if nothing else works, they help and you’ll be good and back to normal soon.

How to cure insomnia in 12 minutes?

Finally, just to save you from Googling it in the future, “how to cure insomnia in 12 minutes?” Look, we can’t promise this will work. Insomnia boils down to a variety of factors and falling asleep quickly is never easy. However, if you’re really desperate (and really tired) perhaps this is worth a shot.

There’s this breathing technique called 4-7-8 breathing. It involves a characteristic pattern of inhaling, holding the breath, and exhaling to reduce anxiety and promote relaxed sleep.

  1. Empty your lungs completely and audibly exhale.
  2. Keep your mouth closed then inhale quietly through your nose while counting to four.
  3. Then, hold your breath for a count of seven.
  4. Slowly exhale through your mouth for a count of eight.
  5. Repeat this cycle six times and then return to normal breathing.

From Mee CBD, fingers crossed this works then you can wave your sleepless nights goodbye.

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