Insomnia is a persistent disorder that can make it hard to fall asleep, hard to stay asleep or both, despite the opportunity for adequate sleep. It is a common complaint during patient visits and can affect our health in the long run. Our body needs its rest to rejuvenate tissues and organs so that they can function effectively. Insomnia prevents this and leads to stress on organs which contribute to many medical illnesses over time.
What are the symptoms of insomnia?
People with insomnia often:
-Have trouble falling or staying asleep
-Feel tired or sleepy during the day
-Forget things or have trouble thinking clearly
-Get cranky, anxious, irritable, or depressed
-Have less energy or interest in doing things
-Make mistakes or get into accidents more often than normal
-Worry about their lack of sleep
Common causes of Insomnia
– Stress. Concerns about work, school, health or family can keep your mind active at night, making it difficult to sleep.
– Anxiety/Depression. You might either sleep too much or have trouble sleeping if you’re depressed. Insomnia often occurs with other mental health disorders as well.
– Medical conditions. If you have chronic pain, breathing difficulties or a need to urinate frequently, you might develop insomnia. Examples of conditions linked with insomnia include arthritis, cancer, heart failure, lung disease, gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD), overactive thyroid, stroke, Parkinson’s disease and Alzheimer’s disease.
– Change in your environment or work schedule. Travel or working a late or early shift can disrupt your body’s sleep rhythms, making it difficult to sleep.
– Poor sleep habits. Poor sleep habits include an irregular sleep schedule, stimulating activities before bed, an uncomfortable sleep environment, and use of your bed for activities other than sleep or intimacy.
– Medications. Many prescription drugs can interfere with sleep, including some antidepressants, heart and blood pressure medications, allergy medications, stimulants (such as Ritalin), and steroids.
– Caffeine, nicotine and alcohol. Coffee, tea, cola and other caffeine-containing drinks are well-known stimulants that will keep you awake. Alcohol is a sedative that may help you fall asleep, but it prevents deeper stages of sleep and often causes you to awaken in the middle of the night.
– Eating too much late in the evening. Having a light snack before bedtime is OK, but eating too much may cause you to feel physically uncomfortable while lying down, making it difficult to get to sleep.
What can I do at home before help?
– Exercise and stay active. Activity helps promote a good night’s sleep. Get at least 20 to 30 minutes of vigorous exercise daily at least five to six hours before bedtime.
– Check your medications. If you take medications regularly, check with your doctor to see if they may be contributing to your insomnia. Avoid or limit naps. Naps can make it harder to fall asleep at night. If you can’t get by without one, try to limit a nap to no more than 30 minutes and don’t nap after 3 p.m.
– Avoid or limit caffeine and alcohol and don’t use nicotine. All of these can make it harder to sleep. Avoid caffeine after lunchtime. Avoiding alcohol can help prevent restless sleep and frequent awakenings.
– Don’t put up with pain. If a painful condition bothers you, make sure the pain reliever you take is effective enough to control pain while you’re sleeping.
– Stick to a sleep schedule. Keep your bedtime and wake time consistent from day to day, including on weekends.
– Avoid large meals and beverages before bed. A light snack is fine. But avoid eating too much late in the evening to reduce the chance of gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD) and improve sleep. Drink less before bedtime so that you won’t have to urinate as often.
– Use your bed and bedroom only for sleeping or intimacy. Don’t read, work or eat in bed. Avoid TV, computers, video games, smartphones or other screens just before bed, as the light can interfere with your sleep cycle.
– Make your bedroom comfortable for sleep. Close your bedroom door or create a subtle background noise, such as a running fan, to help drown out other noises. Keep your bedroom temperature comfortable, usually cooler than during the day, and dark. Don’t keep a computer or TV in your bedroom.
– Hide the bedroom clocks. Set your alarm so that you know when to get up, but then hide all clocks in your bedroom, including your wristwatch and cellphone, so you don’t worry about what time it is.
– Find ways to relax. Try to put your worries and planning aside when you get into bed. A warm bath or a massage before bedtime can help prepare you for sleep.
– Avoid trying too hard to sleep. The harder you try, the more awake you’ll become. Read in another room until you become very drowsy, then go to bed to sleep.
– Get out of bed when you’re not sleeping. Sleep as much as you need to feel rested, and then get out of bed. If you can’t sleep, get out of bed after 20 minutes and do something relaxing, such as reading. Then try again to get to sleep.
If these remedies fail then you have a higher chance of having a medical cause for your insomnia and you should visit your doctor. There are different therapies and medications which your doctor will explain and figure out the best option for your insomnia. We all need our sleep if we want to be at our best when we are awake.