Prednisone and many other drugs cause insomnia. This miserable side effect leads to a cascade of other complications, like high blood sugar, high blood pressure, emotional roller coasters, and difficulty healing from the underlying condition for which a person is taking prednisone. So what can we do about insomnia? How can we deal with insomnia naturally?
Would you like to hear Dr. Megan teach other pharmacists natural ways to deal with insomnia? Here are the tips she shared in that video.
Would you like a cheat sheet to print out?
#1 Limit Daytime Naps
Only take a nap that’s thirty minutes or less. Be sure it’s earlier in the day and not right before bedtime. Prednisone may make it difficult to take naps since it causes so much stimulation.
#2 Avoid Stimulants
Don’t drink caffeinated beverages close to bedtime.
Another type of stimulation is prescription or over-the-counter medicines:
- ADHD medications: talk to your doctor about using a lower dose, different time, or different type of stimulant.
Some people get indigestion from certain foods:
- marinara sauce
- other spicy foods
Avoid these foods if they keep you up at night in pain.
Timing: For some, the timing of foods is important as well, so see if eating an earlier dinner helps you fall asleep.
Alcohol: Avoid consuming alcohol at bedtime as it interferes with sleep cycles. It might be tempting to let alcohol drug you to sleep, but the sleep will not be restful.
Scroll down for more tips
- Benefits: Tires the body out so it feels more likely to fall asleep.
- Exercise that doesn’t increase the heart rate can help relax the body right before bedtime. Examples of exercises that keep a steady heart rate include yoga, stretching, meditation, and breathing techniques.
- Avoid doing aerobic exercises that break a sweat, increase the heart rate, or cause faster breathing within 2 hours before bedtime.
#5 Natural Lighting
If you are having trouble falling asleep at night, go outside right when the sun rises and stay out for 10 minutes. Exposure to first-morning sunlight can help set the circadian rhythm, the internal clock so that the body knows that 12 hours later is time to fall asleep. LED lighting can interfere with this rhythm, so turn off LED lights after dinner, only using incandescent “yellow” bulbs as bedtime approaches. As much as possible, follow Mother Nature’s lighting and be awake when the sun is up, and go to bed when the sun goes down.
I recently purchased amber glasses that block the blue light. I put them on once the sun sets until I go to bed.
#6 Screen Time
Screens on phones, computers, and tablets can emit blue light. This is the spectrum of light the sun shines and signals to our body that it’s daytime when this color is sensed by our eyes.
We don’t want to tell our bodies that it’s waking time when doing computer work, checking social media, texting, or checking email right before bed. Not only does that stimulate emotions, the “fear of missing out,” or turn on the work ethic, but for patients taking prednisone, these last digital actions can become sources of nightmares or anxiety or stress. Seeing a friend’s picture on social media can place that friend in your prednisone-induced nightmare. Or checking email one last time can cause rumination about unfinished work, with that email floating in and out of consciousness and an inability to sleep restfully.
Only use screens before dinner, and use the time after dinner to enjoy relaxing activities like reading a book, taking a bath, meditating, or stretching.
Turn off the blue light on your phone using the built-in options now available using a timer setting. Some computer screens can also automatically switch to night-time mode without blue light. Take the time right now to adjust these settings on your devices.
Set a rule for yourself to stop screen time at dinner.
#7 Bedtime Routine
Keep it consistent. Humans are creatures of habit. By keeping a consistent routine, the body can release sleeping hormones in response to the signals it receives about bedtime. If you always brush your teeth right before jumping in to bed, your brain knows to release the hormones to help you fall asleep. Doing the same things in the same order every night is important in addition to a consistent bedtime. Although it might be tempting to stay up later on weekends, falling asleep at the same time every night can improve insomnia.
Other things you can add to your bedtime routine include:
- Take a cold bath, or
- Take a hot bath with Epsom salts
#8 Pleasant Sleep Environment
Only use the bedroom for two purposes: sleep and sex. Keep the TV and digital devices out of the bedroom.
- Dim the lights and avoid LED lighting at bedtime.
- If it’s not quiet, use a sound machine. Many free phone apps can do this.
- If it’s not dark, use a face mask. You can buy one at the dollar store.
- Keep it cool, as it’s more difficult to fall asleep when it’s hot. Turn down the temperature on the thermostat to as cool as you can tolerate.
- Get a chiliPAD to keep your bed cold.
#9 Deep Breathing
It’s important to have a slow heart rate to fall asleep. The slower we breathe, the slower the heart rate. Meditation and mindfulness techniques can help slow the heart rate by focusing on breathing.
Try this breathing technique created by a sleep doctor for his insomnia patients: the 4-6-7 routine. Each number stands for the number of seconds for each part of breathing.
4: breathe IN while counting to 4. Think, “In…2…3…4.”
6: HOLD the breath for 6 seconds. Think, “Hold…2…3…4…5…6.”
7: breathe OUT for 7 seconds. Think, “Out…2…3…4…5…6…7.”
Then repeat: in for 4, hold for 6, out for 7 seconds. If you put your hand on your heart, you will notice the beat slowing with each time you do the 4-6-7 routine.
Source: National Sleep Foundation
What if I wake up in the middle of the night? How can I fall back asleep?
There are many strategies to help cope with middle of the night wakenings. First, don’t look at your phone or sit up if possible. The blue light from your phone is stimulating. Sitting up speeds up your heart rate.
Next, try the deep breathing technique above.
There are meditation apps like Calm that will talk you through a falling-back-to-sleep meditation.
Listening to an audio book like poetry or scripture can help distract your brain from what you might be worrying about.
Watch Dr. Megan’s Facebook LIVE about this topic:
Get a Cheat Sheet of the Healthy Sleep Habits: