There are thought to be 60 million insomnia sufferers in the USA, and so much more around the world. To them, nighttime is very often a waking nightmare. It isn’t simply a case of not being able to sleep. The side effects can have a seriously detrimental effect on people’s lives. Insomnia can weaken your immune system, sap your energy, and reduce reaction and thinking time. As well as feeling physically fatigued, the psychological exhaustion caused by insomnia has an impact on every aspect of your waking hours. It can lead to irritability, mood swings and lack of motivation. Daily tasks can seem overwhelming and the worry generated from this can then manifest itself in further bouts of sleeplessness. Thankfully, there are many treatments, strategies and tips on how to eliminate insomnia from your life. Some of these solutions have a high percentage in helping people to get a good night’s sleep and back on track.
Tossing and turning
There is no single cause of insomnia. It can occur at any time – and be caused by many factors. Sleepless can result from stress, an underlying health condition, or alcohol or drug misuse. Generally speaking, there are two types of insomnia; acute and chronic. Acute insomnia is usually a one-off or short-lived period of sleeplessness. It can be caused by too much caffeine before bed, worrying about an upcoming event or just poor nocturnal preparation. Acute insomnia is easier to treat than chronic insomnia, and can be done so in the following ways:
1. Establish a bedtime routine. Try going to bed at the same time every night. Your body clock will establish a natural rhythm and will begin to establish a sleep cycle whereby you will start to feel sleepy at that same time. Waking at the same time every morning will help also.
2. Try not to over-stimulate your mind before going to bed. Although this may seem easier said than done when you have a thousand thoughts flying around your head, you should take some time to immerse yourself in a relaxing pursuit prior to hitting the hay. Listen to some gentle music, read a book or watch a movie. Make sure it’s not a book or film that will generate too much excitement though!
3. Make your bedroom a place you would want to sleep in. If your bedroom is a pigsty, it will become something else to worry about. Clear your bedroom of clutter and any distractions that could prevent you sleeping. Many sleep experts advocate removing the television or games systems as these are added distractions.
4. Don’t be tempted to have a nap during the day. Yes, you will be tired following a sleepless night, but napping will only serve to upset your sleep patterns and body clock.
5. Your bed is for sleeping in! Try not to watch T.V., read or work in bed. These activities should preferably be done in a different room entirely. You should ensure your mind associates your bed solely with sleeping. This is often described as stimulus-control therapy.
When counting sheep doesn’t work
Chronic insomnia is a more serious condition and more difficult to treat. If you have been suffering from insomnia for over three weeks then it would fall into the chronic category. It is important to consult a physician to establish if there is an underlying health issue. There fortunately are solutions available. Medication can provide respite, but this is usually a last resort. Again, consult a doctor before embarking on a course of medication. In addition to the techniques listed above for combating acute insomnia, you can also do the following:
1. Try meditation. Meditation can help calm the mind and relax the body. Meditation can put all those nagging doubts into perspective and remove anxiety, giving you a stress-free outlook.
2. Change your lifestyle. If you lead a sedentary life then you may find that exercising daily will greatly improve your sleep patterns. Ideally, you should exercise in the late afternoon to allow your body time to settle down before bedtime. However, never exercise in the late evening or directly before going to bed as this will raise your heart rate and metabolism.
3. Biofeedback. Sensors are connected to your body to measure responses such as heart rate and muscular tension. The sensors are connected to a machine, which produces visual or audio reports. These give you a better awareness of physiological functions to help you control your body responses and breathing.
Insomnia can be a distressing condition, but rest assured it is not permanent and highly treatable. It is important that you seek professional help if the problem persists for an extended period of time, but a few changes to your surroundings and lifestyle can make all the difference in your quest for a good night’s sleep.