Inability to Sleep
Insomnia is the inability to fall asleep within a reasonable period of time or waking up too many times during the night to get a restful night’s sleep or waking up early in the morning with an inability to get back to sleep. It causes you to feel exhausted in the morning and can affect your daily life activities. It is perhaps the most common sleep disorder there is. Insomnia is a problem that affects everyone from time to time but some people suffer from this disorder every night, leading to many sleepless night and the many health problems that happen when you are sleep deprived.
Insomniac is a person who feels desperate for a good night sleep but is unable to sleep because he suffers from insomnia A person can have what’s called “primary insomnia”. This means that you cannot fall asleep or stay asleep and you have no other health conditions to account for the problem. “Secondary insomnia” is a condition where you can’t sleep and you have another health condition that is the root cause of your problem. Some common health problems that result in secondary insomnia is heart burn, arthritis, chronic pain, depression or asthma.
Types of insomnia
You can have acute insomnia, which lasts only a few weeks. Acute insomnia has many causes, including the following:
- Being sick with another illness
- Suffering from an acute stressor such as a divorce, money troubles, loss of a job or the recent loss of a loved one
- Having an uncomfortable environment to sleep in, such as being too hot or too cold, being in a noisy environment or sleeping with the lights on
- Jet lag or a change in your work habits, such as doing the night shift after a period of time doing the day shift
- Certain medications can trigger acute insomnia, such as medications you take for asthma, colds, allergies or high blood pressure. Some antidepressants can interfere with sleep over the short haul.
You can also suffer from chronic insomnia, loosely defined as having lost sleep at least three days out of the week for four or more weeks. The common causes of chronic insomnia are things like ongoing stress, chronic pain from arthritis or other medical condition, chronic anxiety or major depression.
Insomnia doesn’t just mean you have miserable nights, tossing and turning, trying to get to sleep. It affects your waking hours as well. Some of the known symptoms of insomnia are an increase in irritability, a prolonged period of fatigue during the day, feeling run down, and having difficulty with memory or concentration during the daytime hours. Because you need your sleep for the laying down of memories, your memory can fail when you suffer from insomnia.
If you think you are suffering from insomnia, speak to your regular doctor or other healthcare provider so that you can get a diagnosis and some treatment for the disorder. The doctor will examine you and take a sleep and medical history to see if you have any underlying reasons behind having insomnia. The healthcare provider may ask you to do a sleep diary for a couple of weeks, where you write down when you try to go to sleep, roughly when you get to sleep, how many times you awaken during the night, and when you wake up. How you feel during the day is an important thing to include in your sleep diary because that tells you how the lack of sleep is affecting your everyday life. If the cause of your insomnia still isn’t clear, the doctor may refer you to a sleep specialist to actually try to sleep at a sleep center in order to better define the problem.
While you may feel desperate for a good night’s sleep, there may be no good treatment for you, especially if the problem is transient. Doctors want to make sure they don’t just medicate insomnia with sleeping pills because sleeping pills are addictive and they don’t often solve the problem of sleep deprivation. Sleeping pills may be in order for people who have clear cut reasons for having acute insomnia, such as jet lag or a recent death in the family. Sleeping pills may help you sleep but they can also make you feel groggy when you get up in the morning unless you use a very short-acting medication.
There are over the counter medications for sleep problems. Most of them contain diphenhydramine, which is the main ingredient in Benadryl®. It is non-addicting and effective for short term insomnia but the effectiveness of these types of medications wears off after time.
How to treat insomnia?
Most people don’t know that the best treatment for chronic insomnia is to develop better sleep habits. For example:
- Don’t use your bed for anything other than sleep and sex
- Don’t try to make up for lost sleep by taking naps during the day
- Don’t take stimulants like nicotine or caffeine before bed
- Keep your sleep environment conducive to sleep, such as keeping the light and noise down and making sure you have a comfortable bed and a proper temperature in your bedroom.
- Get exercise every day but don’t try to exercise right before sleep. You should engage in exercise at least 5 hours before sleeping to give your metabolism a chance to settle down before sleeping.
- Get to sleep at the same time of the night and try to awaken at the same time each morning.
- Don’t drink alcohol right before bedtime. While it can dull your senses, alcohol only temporarily helps sleep and the quality of sleep is poor after drinking.
- Eat light before bedtime. A light snack taken before you go to bed is acceptable, however, as it keeps you from going to bed hungry.
- Try a white noise machine to block out extraneous sounds. The white noise or the noise of the ocean or a babbling brook can lull you to sleep effectively.
- Try to address your worries before you go to sleep and instead ruminate on them. Write in a journal the worries you have and let them lie there so you can feel confident you’ll remember them in the morning when you are better able to handle them.
- Have a routine or ritual before going to bed, which can include reading or listening to a relaxation tape or soothing music.
Having insomnia can be hard to live with. It is fortunately something really treatable if you put forth the effort to make your sleepy time as comfortable as possible.