I think I heard this on a TV show, someone makes a comment who to someone else who is going through a difficult period of sleeplessness, "Lots of people have insomnia, but you don't find them losing any sleep over it." I'm not 100% on that but kind of ironic, to be sure, but for those who suffer from the sleep disorder, it's no laughing matter. In fact, according to a recent poll conducted by the National Sleep Foundation (1), more than half of all people in the United States suffer from at least periodic bouts of insomnia, which carries through during the following days with such problems as low energy, difficulty concentrating, mood disturbances, fatigue, and lower levels of performance at work or school.
What is Insomnia?
From time to time, practically everyone has trouble falling asleep and/or staying asleep. Fortunately, not all of these people suffer from the generally accepted definition of insomnia, which is a difficulty falling asleep or staying asleep, even when that person is allowed to do so. What makes these cases different is the factor of its duration. Further, there are two types of insomnia, acute insomnia, and chronic insomnia.
Acute insomnia occurs as a result of the circumstances in a person's life. If, for example, a student is sleepless due to a pending exam, or when someone is experiencing a difficult situation with their child or marriage, these instances could cause a period of acute insomnia.
Chronic insomnia, on the other hand, is when a person's sleep is disrupted at least three nights out of a week over a period of at least three months. There can be many causes of chronic insomnia. Among these are environmental changes, shift work, unhealthy sleep habits, certain medications, and others.
Getting to Sleep
Fortunately, one of the first sources that most people turn to when attempting to deal with their insomnia problems is their doctor, who will often start by discussing what is going on in their lives that might be the cause of the problem. If nothing is found in these discussions, doctors will normally recommend a sleep study, which is performed in a clinic and monitors the sleep patterns of a patient. After a sleep study is complete, a physician will draft a report with the findings to the referring doctor and discuss it with the patient.
There are a number of generally accepted causes of insomnia that include:
* Stress * Depression * Worry and anxiety disorders * Traumatic experiences/PTSD * Medical problems such as chronic pain, asthma, Parkinson's disease, allergies, acid reflux, kidney disease, and cancer * and others
By this stage, there are usually some general guidelines that will usually get a patient back on his way to a restful night of sleep.
Getting Back to Sleep
Whether a person does so with the help of their physician or not, there are several things that they can do to help them fall asleep faster and stay asleep longer. Be sure that you take a long look at the things you are already trying to use to put you to sleep since they often only contribute to the problem. These include, believe it or not, sleep medications and alcohol. Also, if you drink excessive amounts of caffeine during the day or consume it shortly before going to bed, these could contribute to a sleep problem. If you don't experience relief immediately after changing these behaviors, be patient, since changing these patterns could themselves cause problems for the immediate future, but change over a short time.
Another common problem after you begin to change habits in your efforts to sleep is that they begin so mildly that you don't notice them. As a result, a common practice that is recommended is to keep a sleep diary as you begin trying to solve your insomnia. Making a written record of the times when you first go to bed, then after you wake up, recording how much sleep you get, the quality of sleep, your diet, and other issues allows you to examine more closely the changes that are happening in your life.
There are several habits that you should adopt in order to make it easier for you to fall asleep and stay that way. These are:
Prepare your bedroom for sleep. Some people try to fall asleep wherever they happen to be, i.e., in front of the television, etc. This is a mistake. Instead, you should have one place in your home or apartment where you sleep, the bedroom, and it should be prepared before you attempt to go to sleep.
1. Make sure your bedroom is dark, quiet, and cool. Use earplugs and/or a sleep mask if you need them. And if you need to open a window or turn on a fan or air conditioner to make you comfortable, do so.
2. Stick to a regular sleep schedule. Get your internal clock on a regular schedule of sleeping and waking up. Going to bed and waking up at different times, as well as taking naps during the day only interrupts your sleep patterns, making it more difficult to sleep when you need to.
3. Avoid strenuous activity before you go to bed. Don't exercise or do anything that requires stress on your mind or body before you head to bed. Instead, sit quietly in a chair or on a sofa with a relaxing television show or read a book. Just don't use a back lit device such as an iPad to read, which only stimulates your mind.
4. Avoid nicotine, alcohol, or caffeine for several hours before you go to bed.
5. Avoid artificial light at night. Many people insist on using a nightlight, which is fine, but to increase melatonin production, you should stay away from any bright lights for at least one hour before you go to bed.
Not only is insomnia a difficult problem to deal with, but it also results in a vicious cycle of a lack of sleep only resulting in more lack of sleep. By paying heed to the recommendations above, you will be on your way to successfully conquering your insomnia problem for good and getting a good, restful night of sleep in the process.
Disclaimer: The author of the article is not a doctor. See a doctor first to make sure your diagnosed correctly. The article is not intended to provide any diagnosis or cure. Again, see a doctor to be properly diagnosed if you need too.