Have you ever suffered from insomnia? Difficulty falling asleep or staying asleep? Leading you to feel tired, overwhelmed and stressed?
If you do, you are one of the millions of people around the world that suffer from insomnia. With as many as 1 in 3 people in the UK having sleeplessness. Some people experience occasional insomnia that last for a few nights. Whilst the worst cases can last for months and even years.
Insomnia has many negative side effects
Sleep is important for cellular repair, muscular repair, energy, memory, concentration, etc.
People who suffer from insomnia find it difficult to fall asleep or spend long periods awake at night. Some people wake up early and then aren’t able to fall asleep again. This leads to feeling tired during the day. Further leading to irritability and in some cases, depression. Sleeplessness can lead to an inability to work or even function normally. It can have a negative effect on memory and focus, even leading to trouble remembering the simplest of tasks or facts. More serious side effects can lead to accidents and even death as people have difficulty in concentration. The immune system can also be affected and as such lead to physical and mental health problems.
Some Causes of Insomnia
There are many causes of insomnia. For many sufferers the primary cause is simply making poor lifestyle, diet and sleep choices. The causes will vary from person to person. Some people can do some of the things that may cause insomnia and still sleep easily. Whilst others will stay up all night. Consider which of these things might be keeping you up. You might even be surprised that some of the activities you thought don’t affect you, actually do. Many so called causes are simply a result of the choices people make. Thus if they change the choices, they can be free to get a good night rest.
• Some physical problems like long term pain, PMS and menopause or ill health have been known to cause insomnia.
• Poor diet choices can lead to insomnia. This includes what you eat and drink. Caffeine is a stimulant and a cause of insomnia. Thus drinking coffee, Coke and other high caffeine drinks before bed is definitely not ideal.
Some people think that getting drunk will make them sleep better, however, the opposite is more often than not the result. Eating heavy meals, or snacks full of sugar late at night also creates sleeplessness. It is best to not eat for at least an hour or two before bed. (That does not mean one should be eating a slab of chocolate an hour before bed.)
• Bad sleeping habits are also a cause for insomnia. Humans are creatures of habit. Have you ever heard of Pavlov’s dogs? If you have, you will be familiar with conditioned reflexes. Essentially you can get anchored with a response to a certain stimulus. Example, you hear a song and it reminds you of someone. So too can bad sleeping habits lead to difficulty falling asleep. Many people watch TV, YouTube or do other activities like paperwork etc. in bed. These can stimulate the mind, so that it becomes more difficult for the brain to switch off and fall asleep. Going to bed at inconsistent times also messes up your body clock. Humans typically need 6-10 hours’ sleep per night. The amount of sleep required fluctuates from person to person. Some people think that they can get by on 4 hours or even less. Whilst they might be able to in the short term, it will have a detrimental effect on performance.
• Some external influences that may have an impact on a good night’s sleep. E.g. an uncomfortable bed, too light, too hot, too cold, too noisy etc.
• Side effects form certain medication like anti-depressants and or steroids can cause insomnia.
• Stress and anxiety are also large contributors of insomnia. These can stem from things like relationship, financial, job security etc. Fear and other negative emotions also play their role in sleeplessness. Continuously thinking and worrying, speeds up the brain waves and such the brain battles to get calm and relaxed.
How to overcome insomnia
• Have a regular sleep pattern, so your body and mind know when it is time to rest.
• Have a calm down period where you start to unwind before going to bed. Switch off electronic devices like phones, tablets, TV etc before bed. If you have something on charge, make sure the lights are not going to wake you up.
• Relaxing, calming music can help calm the mind. Some people swear by music therapy for a good night sleep.
• A warm bath or shower before bed has been known to help people relax and fall asleep.
• Use dark out curtains. Especially if you work night shifts and need to sleep during the day.
• Where possible, do what you can to have the room be quieter.
• Have a comfortable bed and mattress.
• Have the right room temperature. “About one to one and a half hours before falling sleep, the body starts to lose heat from its central core and that brings on increased feelings of tiredness in normal healthy adults. These physiological changes happen well before going to bed and may be occurring before people realize them.” Dr Cameron Van den Heuve. The optimal room temperature is between 15-20 degrees Celsius. This is also the best temperature for the release of melatonin, which promotes anti-aging.
• Avoid consuming caffeine, nicotine, alcohol or heavy meals before going to bed.
• Exercise has many health benefits. Including helping to get a good night sleep. Just avoid doing exercise for a couple of hours before bed time. Studies show that the best time to exercise is actually in the morning.
• If you sleep during the day, try cutting it out to see if it improves your night time sleeping patterns.
• Write a to-do list for the following day, so that you can forget about the things you need to do and sleep peacefully.
• Writing an attitude of gratitude diary can help to count your blessing and change your focus from worrying to positivity and being content.
• You could take medicine, however this would always be my last resort.
• Whilst reading can help you to feel tired and want to fall asleep, it is best to not do it in bed. You want to create an anchor that your bed is for sleep or intimacy.
• Get out to the great outdoors. Camping and being in fresh air, free from daily distractions and pressures can help you to relax.
• Switch off electronic devices and do a social media detox.
• Healthy diet and eating habits.
• Meditation and mindfulness, hypnosis and breathing exercises are some complimentary therapies you could do, that get great results.
• If all else fails, seek professional advice. Although it is an option, it does not mean you have to turn to medication. Working with a complimentary therapy professional can be very effective.
Insomnia sufferers can face from a few nights loss of sleep to a totally debilitating years of lost sleep. There are various causes over which you have total control and as such reduce the risk of insomnia. With all the solutions to overcome sleeplessness, you can stop suffering and return to having quality sleep and increased quality of life.
Please share this article so that others may find benefit in it and get their lives back.