What Is Insomnia? How To Treat The Problem?

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The term insomnia is a blanket term which covers a variety of problems with sleeping. The causes vary from psychological to biological and in severe cases, it can be life-threatening.

What Is Insomnia?

Insomnia is the inability to sleep at night for more than three nights in a row. It can range from mild difficulties falling asleep or staying asleep, through to total lack of sleep, and can affect people of all ages.

Often, insomnia is experienced by those who have experienced trauma or stress, as well as those suffering from psychiatric disorders such as depression. A study published in 2006 found that 50% of insomniacs had been diagnosed with a mental illness, and that many were prescribed antidepressants.

In most cases, insomnia will resolve itself within a few weeks provided that the underlying cause has been addressed. However, if it persists over several months or years, it could indicate an underlying medical condition requiring professional attention.

If you are experiencing persistent insomnia, talk to your doctor about any existing conditions you may have, especially chronic pain, anxiety, or depression.

How to Treat Insomnia

There are two fundamental approaches to treating insomnia; pharmacological and nonpharmacological.

Pharmacological treatments include medications and herbal remedies, while non-medical treatment involves behavioral therapy techniques. Both types of treatment need to be approached individually, as they often complement each other.

This article focuses on non-drug approaches to help alleviate sleeplessness.

Sleep Hygiene

Sleep hygiene refers to the set of behaviors that keep us ready to sleep when we want to sleep, and avoid waking up in the middle of the night. This includes regular hours of sleep (usually between 7 and 9), avoiding caffeine after lunchtime, having a quiet environment to sleep in, keeping the bedroom dark and cool, and reducing noise levels outside. Some people also find it helpful to listen to soothing music before bedtime, but this should not be done until late into the evening.

Exercise Regularly

Regular exercise helps reduce stress hormones and increases endorphins, both of which help induce sleepiness. Exercise also improves our physical health, giving us energy throughout the day, and helps us to cope with stress better. If you suffer from insomnia, make sure you get enough exercise throughout the week. For example, walking around the block every morning, going for a gentle jog, or doing some yoga at home, can all help you feel less stressed and exhausted.

It is important to consult your doctor regarding whether exercise is suitable for you, as some people can develop an intolerance to certain exercises, and others may be prone to injury or other health problems.

Avoid Alcohol and Stimulants

Alcohol is a stimulant that can easily interfere with healthy sleep patterns. Many people who drink alcohol at night become sleepy during the daytime hours, leading them to stay awake and unable to fall asleep. Drinking alcohol too close to bedtime will only worsen the problem, causing heavy sleepers to wake feeling hungover in the morning. As alcohol stimulates the body, it may also increase heart rate and blood pressure. Taking alcohol right before bed can disrupt the natural hormone release that leads to sleep, and may even lead to alcohol poisoning.

Stimulants like coffee, cigarettes, energy drinks, and chocolate contain caffeine, and although these may seem harmless, they can cause insomnia by increasing the alertness of your brain and nervous system. Caffeine can also increase blood pressure and heart rate, so make sure you consume it in moderation, and stop taking it at least four hours before bedtime.

Try Meditation

Meditation has long been associated with relaxation and stress relief, and is now being studied by scientists to determine its impact on sleep. Research shows meditation can improve sleep quality and overall sleep efficiency, regardless of age, gender, and ethnicity.

Relax

When you’re trying to fall asleep, your mind is usually racing. We try to solve problems, plan for the future, and remember everything that happened today. When we’re anxious about something, we can’t relax, and this makes it difficult to fall asleep.

Our minds are always busy thinking and worrying. Try to focus on nothing except falling asleep – no thoughts, no worries, just letting go of everything else. Relaxing your muscles and breathing deeply can help you get to sleep much quicker.

Use Melatonin

Melatonin is a naturally occurring hormone produced by the pineal gland. Although melatonin does not work overnight, it has been shown to help promote sleep and restore normal sleep patterns.

Melatonin supplements are available without prescription and can be taken orally, but they are expensive and may cause side effects such as nausea and vomiting, constipation, headache, dizziness, and drowsiness, depending on dosage.

You can also buy melatonin spray, which comes in liquid form. Spray it under your tongue 15 minutes before you go to sleep, and you should begin to see results after half an hour. Make sure you do not take melatonin if you have high blood pressure, diabetes, or epilepsy.

Get Plenty Of Restful Sleep

Getting enough restorative sleep is essential for maintaining your health and wellbeing. Lack of sleep can lead to increased fatigue, reduced immunity, decreased cognitive function, and weight gain. Most people require between seven and nine hours of sleep per night, but those who suffer from insomnia may need to get more than this.

Make sure you have a room that is comfortable, free from light, and where you can escape from distractions, such as TV or phones. Avoid caffeinated beverages, nicotine, food, and drinks at least two hours before bedtime. Don’t eat large meals before bedtime, as they often lead to indigestion and heartburn. Also avoid napping during the day. Instead, try to maintain a regular sleep routine, going to bed at the same time every night, and getting up at the same time every morning.

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Tips for Getting Good Nights Sleep

Most people experience insomnia at one point or another during their lives, but there are ways to improve your sleep and prevent it from becoming a chronic issue. Here are some useful tips:

Don’t nap in the afternoon. Naps should be reserved for short periods of downtime between activities.

Go to bed at the same time every night, and get out of bed quickly in the morning. Try not to spend the last hour of the day watching television or checking emails.

Keep your room cool, dark, and quiet. Get rid of any unwanted sounds. Keep your phone away from your bedside table, and turn off radios and TVs before you go to bed.

Consult a doctor if you experience excessive daytime sleepiness, frequent snoring, or trouble sleeping despite following these guidelines.

More About Sleep Disorders

We hope these tips helped you to understand insomnia, and how to treat it. There are various factors contributing to insomnia, including lifestyle choices and medical conditions. For further information, read on to discover the different types of sleep disorder, and why they occur.

Walter

Walter Wade is a feature writer focusing on creative writing.

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