Latin: In (no) and Somnus (sleep)
Insomnia is a sleep disorder that causes people to have trouble falling or staying asleep. It is one of most common sleep disturbances that plague people during the night, leaving them fatigued and irritable. It is sign of a distressed mental state and a common symptom of mental illnesses like depression, bipolar disorder and anxiety. It can also be a side-effect of illnesses like diabetes, arthritis and chronic pain. Hence, it is evident that insomnia is both a symptom and a disorder.
Insomnia is usually classified into two categories based on its duration: short-term insomnia and chronic insomnia. Short-term insomnia is when the sleep disorder lasts up to three months. This type of insomnia is often linked to identifiable factors. This could be social pressures or environmental changes like inclusion of caffeine, change in medication, increase in stress, death of a relative and so on. If a person experiences insomnia for more than three months, it is called chronic insomnia. It is a more complex condition underlying serious illnesses like depression, chronic anxiety or pain.
Medical practitioners can diagnose insomnia through sleep history, blood tests or by studying one’s sleep journal. They might also delve into environmental and psychological factors that might be causing sleep deprivation. It is important to combat insomnia at the earliest given the repercussions it causes. Lack of sleep causes drowsiness, moodiness, inability to concentrate, reduced productivity and diminished cognitive performance. It can also lead to accidents while driving, occupational calamities and decreased quality of life.
The treatment of insomnia is identifying and overcoming the root cause of the problem. It also includes inculcating lifestyle and behavioural changes. Here are ten ways to overcome insomnia:
- Living by a sleep schedule: Often with long working hours and unhealthy sleep schedules, our body clock goes into chaos. It is important to bring in discipline and order back into our lives to reset our internal clock. Setting sleep schedules is an important step towards elimination and prevention of insomnia. By establishing a set time to go to bed and to wake up, you are encouraging your body to sleep for a set number of hours every night. With a sleep schedule, you are also avoiding long naps during the day that might hinder your ability to sleep well.
- Sleep rituals: Those who lie in bed and struggle to fall asleep can benefit from following a relaxing set of sleep rituals. One of the root causes of insomnia is a troubled mind and stress. Relaxing practices like a hot shower, breathing exercises, meditation, warm tea, peaceful visualisations and soothing music can help pacify a troubled mind.
- Sleep restriction: As ironic as this sounds, this is a very powerful technique in combating insomnia. It does not help to lie in bed for hours together waiting to sleep. As a thumb rule, if there is no onset of sleep after twenty minutes of waiting, you can wake up and proceed to carry out other activities till you start feeling sleepy again. There are two-fold benefits of sleep restriction. One, you don’t place excessive pressure on yourself to sleep. Two, due to sleep restriction, you will attain better sleep the next night and gradually develop healthy sleeping patterns.
- Identify physical discomfort while sleeping: Many times, people suffering from insomnia struggle to sleep well due to lack of suitable support from their mattresses. Those who have made the change to memory foam mattresses from coil spring mattresses have seen better sleep and comfort during the nights. Coil spring mattresses do not contour to your body and thereby, increases the pressure on your spine. This leads to people waking up constantly with back aches and sore necks.
- Define the role of your bedroom: Sometimes the functionality of your bedroom can begin to blur. It can start to look like a workstation, a movie theatre, a gym, a dining hall and so on. For those suffering from insomnia, the bedroom becomes a place of frustration and anger. By using the bedroom only for sleep or sex, you begin to recondition the mind to see it as a restful haven after a long day. Your bedroom is then only associated with rest, sleep and sex.
- Exercise: Your body needs physical activity and exertion to be healthy. Exercise is also important to combat depression, anxiety and stress. Regular exercise is important to let go of the pressures of the day and find peace. The exertion also allows you to fall asleep faster. However, it is important not to perform strenuous exercise right before bedtime.
- Use technology to your advantage: While technology has always helped us lead easier and more enlightened lives, it may not always be viewed as a good thing. The use of phones in bed is directly linked to sleep deprivation and insomnia. It is ideal to leave all the screens out of the bedroom to achieve restful sleep. This can include television, laptop, notepads, reading devices and phones. However, there are technological advancements like adjustable bed frames that is created to foster comfortable sleep.
- Dietary habits: People often underestimate what their diet can do to their bodies. Companies of caffeinated drinks, sodas and sugary treats create the lure of consumption through enticing marketing campaigns. However, ingesting these substances can cause an energy surge in your body that can keep you up at night. People need to make hard choices of eliminating these substances from their diet to improve their sleep hygiene and health.
- Make changes to the bedroom: There might be various external factors that cause sleep disruptions. The city lights, excessive noise or even high humidity can relentlessly wake you up at night. These problems often have simple solutions like blackout curtains to block out the light from outside. White noise machines can be used to dissolve distracting noise from the street. Fan or air conditioners can provide a cool atmosphere to sleep better. Conscious steps toward sleeping better often comprises of simple solutions.
- Reach out to licensed medical professionals: Before considering over-the-counter treatments for sleep problems, work toward finding and resolving the emotional troubles that is keeping you up at night. Our mind tells us that it is distressed through many ways, insomnia being one. Like a weed in a beautiful garden, pluck it out by the root to avoid relapse.
Battling insomnia is not an overnight journey. It is a step-by-step voyage that requires patience, discipline and will-power. Medications to sleep better is not the answer to the troubles of the mind. It is merely nursing the symptom and not the cause.