What Is Insomnia?
Insomnia (in-SOM-ne-ah) is a common sleep disorder. People who have insomnia have trouble falling asleep, staying asleep, or both.
As a result, they may get too little sleep or have poor-quality sleep. They may not feel refreshed when they wake up.
Insomnia can be acute (short-term) or chronic (ongoing). Acute insomnia is common and often is brought on by situations such as stress at work, family pressures, or a traumatic event. Acute insomnia lasts for days or weeks.
Chronic insomnia lasts for a month or longer. Most cases of chronic insomnia are secondary, which means they are the symptom or side effect of some other problem.
Certain medical conditions, medicines, sleep disorders, and substances can cause secondary insomnia.
In contrast, primary insomnia isn’t due to medical problems, medicines, or other substances. It is its own distinct disorder, and its cause isn’t well understood.
Many life changes can trigger primary insomnia, including long-lasting stress and emotional upset.
Insomnia can cause daytime sleepiness and a lack of energy. It also can make you feel anxious, depressed, or irritable.
You may have trouble focusing on tasks, paying attention, learning, and remembering. These problems can prevent you from doing your best at work or school.
Insomnia also can cause other serious problems.
For example, you may feel drowsy while driving, which could lead to an accident.
What is a normal amount of sleep?
Different people need different amounts of sleep. Some people function well and are not tired during the day with just 3-4 hours’ sleep a night.
Most people need more than this. To need 6-9 hours per night is average. Most people establish a pattern that is normal for them in their early adult life.
However, as you become older, it is normal to sleep less. For most people it takes less than thirty minutes to fall asleep.
So, everyone is different. What is important is that the amount of sleep that you get should be sufficient for you, and that you usually feel refreshed and not sleepy during the daytime.
Therefore, the strict medical definition of insomnia is: ‘Difficulty in getting to sleep, difficulty staying asleep, early wakening, or non-restorative sleep despite adequate time and opportunity to sleep, resulting in impaired daytime functioning, such as poor concentration, mood disturbance, and daytime tiredness.
Understanding normal sleep
A normal night’s sleep has three main parts:
- Quiet sleep. This is divided into stages 1-4. Each stage becomes more deep. Quiet sleep is sometimes called deep sleep.
- Rapid eye movement (REM) sleep. REM sleep occurs when the brain is very active but the body is limp, apart from the eyes which move rapidly. Most dreaming occurs during REM sleep.
- Short periods of waking for 1-2 minutes.
Each night, about 4-5 periods of quiet sleep alternate with 4-5 periods of REM sleep. In addition, several short periods of waking for 1-2 minutes occur about every two hours or so, but occur more frequently towards the end of the night’s sleep.
Normally, you do not remember the times that you wake if they last less than two minutes. If you are distracted during the wakeful times (for example, a partner snoring, traffic noise, etc) then the wakeful times tend to last longer and you are more likely to remember them.
Following these 10 Tips To Beat Insomnia from The Sleep Council will help you have a more restful night.
1. Keep regular hours
Going to bed and getting up at roughly the same time every day will program your body to sleep better. Choose a time when you’re most likely to feel sleepy.
2. Create a restful sleeping environment
Your bedroom should be kept for rest and sleep. Keep it as quiet and dark as possible. It should be neither too hot nor too cold.
Temperature, lighting and noise should be controlled so that the bedroom environment helps you to fall (and stay) asleep.
3. Make sure that your bed is comfortable
It’s difficult to get restful sleep on a mattress that’s too soft or too hard, or a bed that’s too small or old.
If you have a pet that sleeps in the room with you, consider moving it somewhere else if it often makes noise in the night.
4. Exercise regularly
Moderate exercise on a regular basis, such as swimming or walking, can help to relieve some of the tension built up over the day.
But don’t do vigorous exercise too close to bedtime as it may keep you awake.
5. Less caffeine
Cut down on stimulants such as caffeine in tea or coffee, especially in the evening. They interfere with the process of falling asleep, and they prevent deep sleep.
The effects of caffeine can last a long time (up to 24 hours) so the chances of it affecting sleep are significant.
Have a warm, milky drink or herbal tea instead.
6. Don’t over-indulge
Too much food or alcohol, especially late at night, can interrupt your sleep patterns.
Alcohol may help you to fall asleep initially, but it will disrupt your sleep later on in the night. Getting the correct nutrition can play a major part in getting a good nights sleep.
7. Don’t smoke
It’s bad for sleep. Smokers take longer to fall asleep, they wake up more frequently, and they often have a more disrupted sleep.
8. Try to relax before going to bed
Have a warm bath, listen to quiet music or do some gentle yoga to relax the mind and body. Your doctor may be able to recommend a helpful relaxation playlist on spotify.
9. Write away your worries
Deal with worries or a heavy workload by making lists of things to be tackled the next day.
If you tend to lie in bed thinking about tomorrow’s tasks, set aside time before bedtime to review the day and make plans for the next day.
The goal is to avoid doing these things when you’re in bed, trying to sleep.
10. Screen time
There is some evidence that the time we spend looking at electronic screens can affect our sleep. It may be that certain types of light from e-readers and electronic tablets can disrupt control of our natural day-and-night cycle.
Studies which suggest we may sleep better after reading a printed book or a particular kind of screen before bedtime.
There are also some studies which show that in children and adolescents, more time using electronic devices in the daytime is linked to less good sleep at night.
There is not yet enough evidence to make definite recommendations, but it may be worth considering.
Understanding some facts
It is often helpful to understand that short periods of waking each night are normal. Some people are reassured about this and so do not become anxious when they find themselves awake in the night.
Also, remember that worry about poor sleep can itself make things worse. Also, it is common to have a few bad nights if you have a period of stress, anxiety or worry.
This is often just for a short time and a normal sleep pattern often resumes after a few days.
See a doctor if you feel that illness or medication is causing poor sleep.
Treating any underlying condition that is causing the problem, if possible, can help to promote sleep.
Has any of these tips above helped you from insomnia? Have we missed anything??