We all have sleepless nights at some point or another in our lives. Causes of insomnia can be various. This may be due to stress, work overload, or a problem you’re struggling to cope with. But when your sleeping pattern is hampered on a regular basis, affecting your overall health, it is termed insomnia. The inability to sleep for prolonged periods can be a sign of a more severe sleep disorder.
There are two general types of sleep disorders. Primary Insomnia, which has no identifiable cause and Secondary Insomnia. Secondary Insomnia is identifiable with specific diagnosis such as the side effect of drugs. Insomnia can also be classified as Acute or Chronic depending on whether its short term or long term.
Main Causes of Insomnia
What causes insomnia? The main causes of insomnia include various environmental, physiological and psychological factors.
Stress caused by losing a job, a loved one, or getting a divorce can lead to insomnia.
Emotional frustrations can also be one of the causes of insomnia.
Certain medical conditions such as allergies, GERD, and asthma can create discomfort and make it difficult to sleep.
Having a chronic or terminal illness can cause physical pain, emotional instability and result in sleeping disorders.
Pregnant women can also suffer from insomnia due to hormonal changes in their body.
Environmental factors such as excessive noise outside, and extreme heat, can be bothersome and result in disruptive sleeping patterns.
Some lifestyle habits can prevent you from getting a restful night’s sleep. These includes working late in the evenings, taking short naps at noon and partying at night.
Change in Work Environment
Change in shift patterns at work and frequent traveling across time zones can disrupt the sleep-wake cycle.
Side Effects of Medication
Many prescription medications including anti depressants, heart medications and stimulants can interfere with sleep.
Depression and Anxiety
Psychiatric disorders such as depression and anxiety disorders such as post-traumatic stress can also affect your sleep.
Food Habits :
Coffee, tea, and colas contain caffeine and drinking them in the evenings can prevent you from falling asleep. Alcohol has a sedative effect, but it can prevent deep sleep and awaken you in the middle of the night. Consuming too much or heavy foods before bedtime can also give you heartburn and prevent you from getting a good night’s sleep.
Insomnia symptoms are often seen in old people. Lack of physical activity, chronic conditions such as arthritis, the need to urinate frequently, and the use of prescription medications are main causes of insomnia in old people. Sleeping disorders such as sleep apnea or restless legs syndrome may also result in insomnia.
Symptoms of Insomnia
So how do you know if you’re suffering from insomnia? Here are some of the common insomnia symptoms.
- You are not able to sleep although you are tired.
- You have not able to go back to sleep if you get up midway during the night.
- You pop sleeping pills or drink alcohol to go to sleep.
- You wake up too early in the morning.
- You don’t feel fresh and alert after a sleep.
- You feel drowsy or tired in the mornings.
- You have difficulty concentrating during the day.
Insomnia Treatment and Remedies
Insomnia can be a highly frustrating condition that affects your physical and mental well being. Here are some tips to help you overcome your sleep problems and get back your restful nights.
Maintain a Good Sleep Hygiene
Make sure the bedroom is in a quiet, dark and cool place. Sleep in a comfortable bed and use your bed only for sleeping, not for work or entertainment. Go to bed only when you are tired and don’t try to force yourself to sleep. Sometimes a warm bath, drinking warm milk, listening to relaxing music helps. If there’s some activity that helps you, do it. Don’t plan anything while lying in bed. Above everything else, stick to a regular sleep schedule.
Keep a Sleep Journal
Jot down your day’s activities everyday and see if there is some habit that is affecting your sleep. Maybe you watched a late night movie that day, or had to deal with a stressful situation. You can also use this sample sleep log to log your sleep patterns. It’s courtesy the National Sleep Institute. Once you identify the issue, take remedial action.
Avoid Bad Habits
Don’t take afternoon naps. Avoid drinking caffeinated beverages late afternoon and don’t drink alcohol or pop pills to put yourself to sleep. Exercise during the day, but avoid doing that just before bed time. Keep aside your mobile phone at least an hour before hitting the bed. Don’t turn it on until you wake up in the morning.
Try Relaxation Techniques
Relaxation techniques can help you fall asleep faster. Try deep breathing, yoga and mindfulness meditation.
Resolve stress and anxiety
If something has been stressing you throughout the day, try to find a resolution for it. Talk it out with someone or try stress management techniques. Don’t go to bed with the problem on your mind. You’ll have a fitful sleep.
Seek professional help
If you’ve tried various self help methods for insomnia treatment and you still have trouble sleeping, visit your doctor. Show him your sleep diary. He may be better able to diagnose your problem, or refer you to a sleep therapist.