Insomnia is a condition in which the sufferer has difficulty falling asleep, staying asleep through the night, or both. The lack of sleep can create issues in the sufferer’s daily life. If insomnia lasts longer than a few weeks and you feel excessively tired during the day it is advisable to see a trained professional to evaluate and treat your insomnia.
The causes of insomnia are varied. In general however the most common causes fall into one of the categories listed below:
- Medical problems such as pain disorders, depression, medication side effects, or issues with breathing.
- Circadian rhythm disorder. The circadian rhythm is the body’s normal 24-hour activity cycle. Our bodies are naturally made to reset every 24 hours. Any disruption of this cycle, whether it be in the body’s maintenance of the cycle or an external environmental change, will throw the rhythm off and create difficulty in sleeping at desired times.
- Lifestyle factors such as recent sleep schedule change, lack of exercise, or too much caffeine.
- Sleep environment concerns such as a poor mattress quality, uncomfortable room temperature, too much light, or excessive noise.
- Stress. Whether at work or in the home, if the stress level is high this can make it difficult for a person to sleep since they often have trouble clearing their minds of their concerns.
Seeing a sleep professional can be helpful in deciphering exactly why you are having sleep issues and how treatment might be addressed in your particular case. It is important to remember that with insomnia the most important diagnostic tool will be the information you give to your doctor. Your medical history and family history will be reviewed, as well as pertinent information on your symptoms. It is advisable to keep a sleep diary; record symptom details such as how often they occur, what else occurs at the same time, what helps symptoms, what makes them worse, and what methods of treatment have you tried and did these work. Also record your particular sleep habits, including bedtime, time to rise, how long it takes to fall asleep, what your pre-bedtime routine looks like, and any other pertinent details that may help or hinder your sleep ability.
Treatment can come in many facets. Medication may be needed at times, especially at first, to help you sleep better. However, the most beneficial effects often come from healthy lifestyle changes. While the commitment to these changes, at first, might seem overwhelming if you are able to stick with it they will pay off. Some of the most useful lifestyle adjustments are listed below:
- Keep a regular sleep schedule and bedtime routine
- Exercise regularly. Avoid strenuous activity two to four hours before bedtime.
- Avoid or limit naps
- Use bed only for sleep, sexual activity, and resting when ill
- Don’t spend too much time in bed trying to fall asleep. Instead if you can’t fall asleep get up and do something until you become drowsy.
- Avoid caffeine, nicotine, and alcohol intake
- Avoid highly stimulating activity right before bed, such as use of computer, TV, and video games.
- If your worries don’t let you sleep keep a diary next to your bed where you can write them down and then allow youself to stop focusing on them.
- Cultivate a sleep-conducive environment where you are relaxed and comfortable.
Learn relaxation techniques which can be helpful in releasing stress and anxiety which may prevent you from sleeping. Some possible techniques are yoga, deep breathing, and progressive muscle relaxation.
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