Insomnia is a very common problem that takes a toll on your energy, and ability to function during the day. Chronic insomnia can even lead to serious health problems. But, by addressing the underlying causes and making simple changes to your daily habits and sleep environment, you can put a stop to the frustration of insomnia and finally get to sleep well at night.
Insomnia is the inability to fall asleep or stay asleep at night. This can result in unrefreshing or non-restorative sleep. Because of the varying need of different people to the amounts of sleep, insomnia is defined by the quality of your sleep and how you feel after sleeping, and not the number of hours you sleep.
Even if you’re spending eight hours a night in bed, but feel drowsy and fatigued during the day, you may be suffering from insomnia.
Symptoms Of Insomnia:
- Difficulty falling asleep despite being exhausted
- Waking up habitually during the night
- Trouble getting back to sleep when woken
- Un-refreshing sleep
- Relying on sleeping pills or liquor to fall asleep
- Waking up too early as the daybreak
- Daytime drowsiness and fatigue
- Difficulty in focusing during the day
Causes Of Insomnia
In order to properly treat and cure your insomnia, you need to discover those factors that might be causing your insomnia. Emotional issues such as stress, anxiety, and depression cause half of all insomnia cases, but your daytime habits, sleep routine, and physical health may also contribute. Try to identify all possible causes of your insomnia, and once you figure out the root cause, you can tailor cure accordingly.
Sometimes, insomnia only lasts a few days and goes away on its own. This is especially true when the insomnia is tied to an obvious temporary cause, such as stress over a temporal event, a painful breakup, or jet lag.
Other times, insomnia is stubbornly persistent and is usually tied to an underlying mental or physical issue.
Anxiety, stress, and depression are some of the most common causes of chronic insomnia, and to worsen the matter, having difficulty sleeping can also make anxiety, stress, and depression symptoms worse.
Other common causes include:
- bipolar disorder, and
- Medical problems or illness, including asthma, allergies, Parkinson’s disease, hyperthyroidism, acid reflux, kidney disease, and cancer can contribute to insomnia.
- Chronic pain is also a common cause of insomnia.
- Many prescription drugs can interfere with sleep, including antidepressants, stimulants for ADHD, corticosteroids, thyroid hormone, high blood pressure medications, and some contraceptives.
- Some over-the-counter (OTC) culprits include cold and flu medications that contain alcohol, pain relievers that contain caffeine (Midol, Excedrin), diuretics, and slimming pills.
- Sleep disorders: insomnia itself, is a sleep disorder, but it can also be a symptom of other sleep disorders, including sleep apnea, restless legs syndrome, circadian rhythm disturbances tied to jet lag or late-night shift work.
Treating these underlying problems is essential to solving your insomnia problem.
What to do When You Can’t Sleep
While treating underlying physical and mental issues is a good first step, it may not be enough to cure your insomnia, and you also need to look at your daily habits.
Not only can poor daytime habits contribute to insomnia, but a poor night’s sleep can make these habits harder to correct, and some of the things you’re doing to cope with insomnia may actually be making the problem worse. This can create a vicious cycle of un-refreshing sleep.
Two powerful considerations in the fight against insomnia are a quiet, comfortable sleep environment and a relaxing bedtime routine.
- Make sure your bedroom is quiet, dark, and cool, since noise, light, and a bedroom that’s too hot or cold, or an uncomfortable mattress or pillow can all interfere with sleep.
- Try using a sound machine or earplugs to mask outside noise; an open window or fan to keep the room cool; blackout curtains or an eye mask to block out the light.
- Try out different levels of mattress firmness, foam toppers, and pillows that provide the support you need to sleep comfortably.
- Stick to a regular sleep schedule, and support your biological clock by going to bed and getting up at the same time every day, including weekends.
- Get up at your usual time in the morning even if you’re tired, as this will help you get back in a regular sleep rhythm.
- Turn off all screens at least 30 minutes before bed, since electronic screens emit a blue light that disrupts your body’s production of melatonin (melatonin combats sleepiness).
- Instead of watching TV or spending time on your phone, tablet, or computer, choose another relaxing activity, such as reading a book or listening to soft music.
- Avoid stimulating activities and stressful situations that may include, checking messages on social media, big discussions or arguments with your spouse or family, or catching up on work, before going to bed. Defer these things until the morning.
- Avoid napping during the day, as that can make it more difficult to sleep at night. If you feel like you have to take a nap, limit it to 30 minutes, and have it before 3 p.m.
- In order to calm your mind, you can do a breathing or relaxation exercise
- If you get into bed and cannot fall asleep after 20 minutes, get up and do a relaxing activity, such as reading or listening to music. Lying in bed awake can create an unhealthy link between your sleeping environment (your bed) and wakefulness. You will want your bed to conjure sleepy thoughts and feelings only.
- Avoid caffeine in the afternoon or evening, and alcohol close to bedtime, as these substances can promote wakeups during the night.
- You can practice a simple breathing exercise that involves breathing deeply and fully, involving not only the chest, but also the belly, lower back, and ribcage. Close your eyes and take deep, slow breaths, making each breath even deeper than the last; breathe in through your nose and out through your mouth.
- Keep a sleep diary
Finally, if you’ve tried a variety of self-help techniques without success, schedule an appointment with your doctor, or a sleep specialist. Do not hesitate to do this, especially if insomnia is taking a heavy toll on your mood and health.
Provide the doctor with as much supporting facts as possible, including information from your sleep diary.