Do you find it difficult to fall asleep at nights, no matter how tired you are? Do you slip in and out of sleep and ultimately end up getting not enough rest? Do you wish there was a way you could train yourself to fall asleep faster, putting your mind in idle mode? Then you’re at the right place!
Insomnia, or sleeplessness, is a disorder where people have trouble sleeping. They may find it difficult to fall asleep or stay asleep for long durations, even when they specifically want to do so. The problems causing sleeplessness differ from person to person. It could be something as simple as a caffeine filled day or a more complex issue like a serious medical condition or stress. The good news is that most cases of insomnia can be cured with lifestyle changes, without needing to take sleeping pills.
In a 2005 National Sleep Foundation (NSF) Poll, it was found that 68 percent of adults ages 18 to 29 report experiencing symptoms of insomnia, compared with 59 percent of adults ages 30 to 64, and only 44 percent of people over the age of 65. Not surprisingly, parents report more symptoms than adults without children in the household (66 vs. 54 percent). Females are often more affected than males. Apparently, descriptions of insomnia occur as far back as ancient Greece.
Do you really have Insomnia?
If you spend your entire night watching videos or texting and complain about not getting enough sleep, then you cannot say you have trouble falling asleep! Insomnia is a serious medical disorder. It has its clear-cut symptoms like:
- Sudden jerking awake in the night
- Trouble getting back to sleep after that
- Unsatisfactory sleep
- Requiring sleeping pills
- Daytime drowsiness, fatigue
- Difficulty in concentrating
- Low energy or a depressed mood
- Decreased performance in work or at school
If you can tick multiple symptoms that are stated above, then you should consult a doctor or try to bring about a change in your sleeping habits. Other causes that result in Insomnia include stress, heartburn, menopause, certain medications, and drugs such as caffeine, nicotine, and alcohol. There has also been a steady rise in cases of insomnia in pregnant women.
Types of Insomnia
There are also different types of insomnia, which differ in the way and intensity they affect you. Insomnia can be characterized based on its duration as:
- Transient insomnia lasts for just a few days, caused due to sudden changes in the sleep environment or sleep timing, severe depression, or stress. Its consequences – sleepiness and temporary impaired psychomotor performance – are similar to those of sleep deprivation.
- Acute insomnia is sleeplessness for a brief period of time. It happens because of life circumstances (for example, nights before an exam, or after receiving bad news). Many people may have experienced this type of passing insomnia, and it usually resolves without any treatment. Acute insomnia is thus also known as short-term insomnia.
- Chronic insomnia lasts for longer than a month. Chronic insomnia disorders can have many causes like environment changes, unhealthy sleep habits, night shift work, other clinical disorders, and certain medications, they could all lead to a long-term pattern of insufficient sleep. Its effects include muscle weariness, hallucinations, and mental tiredness. Chronic insomnia can also cause double vision. People with chronic insomnia may benefit from some form of treatment to help them get back to normal sleep patterns.
Improving your sleep environment and routine
A comfortable, relaxing sleep environment and sticking to a proper bedtime routine can go a long way in dealing with insomnia. You can thus improve your sleep conditions by:
- Making your bedroom dark, cool and quiet: Noise, light and unfavourable room conditions can all disrupt your sleep. Even uncomfortable mattresses or pillow arrangement will irritate you. You can use an eye mask to block out the light and earplugs for complete silence. Also, try getting soft pillows and bed settings which will let you sleep peacefully.
- Creating a sleep schedule and sticking to it: By following proper wake and sleep hours, you set your biological clock and ensure your body gets the optimal rest. Waking up and falling asleep at the same time every day will help you get into that sleep rhythm. On weekends too, try waking up at your usual time, even if you’re tired or sleepy.
- Eating right: For a good night’s sleep, avoid overloading on caffeine or sugar. Also, try not to have a heavy dinner or drink too many liquids. Try to get your bladder empty before getting into bed.
- Putting your phone away before you get into bed: This is by far, the biggest problem. Phones serve as a major distraction from your precious sleep and their glare also hardens your eyes to sleep. You should instead do relaxing things like reading a book or listening to slow music.
- Avoiding long daytime naps: Sleeping during the day more often than not deprives you of sleep during the night. So limit your naps to utmost 30 mins and try not taking them late in the evening either.
- Hiding your bedroom clocks: It is human tendency to keep checking the time, no matter what hour it is. If you’re not sleepy, looking at the time on your wall clock serves as an excuse to open your eyes and ultimately interrupts your sleep.
Proactive ways to fight insomnia
- Relaxation exercises
i) Rub your ears ~ rubbing the Shen Men acupressure point at the top of the ear causes relaxation
ii) Roll your eyes ~ close your eyes and slowly roll them upwards a few times
- Get out of bed
i) Walk around ~ clear your mind and get your blood circulation flowing
ii) Exercise ~ exercising before bed will tire you a bit and put you to sleep immediately, just don’t do any extreme ones