Insomnia and sleep disorders are more common than one would think. Millions of people worldwide suffer from various sleep ailments including: insomnia, restless leg syndrome, sleepwalking, night terrors, restless leg syndrome and narcolepsy, The most commonly reported sleep disorder is insomnia, with over 40% of the patients to have suffered from insomnia at some time or another.
In this article we will discuss the characteristics, causes and symptoms of this illness. We will also discuss insomnia cures and some of the recommended treatments for insomnia and the benefits and disadvantages of each.
General Information on Insomnia
There can be many underlying causes for this illness. These include drastic or sudden changes or events in life, stress, anxiety, poor sleep habits, improper sleep environment and medical conditions. But how do you tell if you are just simply having a bad night’s sleep or a mild to severe case of insomnia?
Insomnia is then defined as the inability to fall asleep or stay asleep. Those who suffer from insomnia may wake up frequently during the night, and are often unable to fall back into a restful sleep. Insomnia is also characterized as awakening too early.
How much sleep do we need?
On average, adults should be getting seven to nine hours of solid sleep a night. However, the sad fact is that most adults sleep for an average of four to six hours. Sleep is necessary for our health both to repair itself and recover from the everyday stressors of life. Improper sleep can lead to serious health issues such as diabetes, obesity, thyroid problems, high blood pressure, stroke and heart disease.
Symptoms include next day drowsiness and fatigue, brain fog (inability to focus), dizziness, tension headaches, irritability, stomach distress, gastrointestinal issues, poor performance at school or work and increased anxiety or depression. Insomnia can be short term (acute) or long term (chronic). Acute insomnia occurs one to three times a week over a three week period while chronic insomnia occurs more than three times a week and continues over a period of four weeks.
If you think you may be suffering from persisting insomnia you should consult your doctor. You may be subject to a complete physical. This may include a full blood panel to determine if you have an underlying medical condition which could be contributing to your illness. Your doctor will ask for your personal and family medical history, any medications you may be taking and your sleep patterns. They may ask you to keep a sleep journal over the course of a few weeks to help determine the cause of your insomnia.
Prescription Sleeping Pills
There are many ways to treat insomnia. The most common way is through prescription medications. If your doctor feels you are a candidate for prescription sleeping pills, they will discuss the benefits. These will include the risk factors and side effects while evaluating which sleeping pill would work best for your specific case. Everyone is different, so what works for one person, may not work for you. Your physician will take your medical history into consideration when prescribing sleeping pills.
Many prescription sleeping pills are habit forming so you may only be advised to take them as a short term. They also may cause a lot of adverse side effects, which your doctor will discuss with you. It is important that you alert your doctor if you experience any of these side effects. If you experience a severe side effect such as laboured breathing, chest pains, blurred vision, fainting or blacking out, sleepwalking, sleep eating or sleep driving, hives or convulsions, you should stop taking the medication and seek immediate medical care.
Over the Counter Medications
Your doctor may suggest an over the counter sleep aid for less severe cases. These have little to no side effects and are generally not habit forming. However, as they do have adverse effects to certain medications, you should not take natural sleeping pills without first consulting your doctor.
Other ways to treat Insomnia
Medication does not always work in every case. If you have acute insomnia, or your body does not adjust well to medications, there are some other options available.
There are natural sleep aids available that you can purchase at your local pharmacy or any retailer. Some of the most common supplements are Kava Kava, St John’s Wort, valerian and melatonin. However, you should talk to your doctor as well before taking any of these sleep aids. Everyone has different genetic make-up and some of these otc sleeping pills may not be right for you.
Meditation, yoga and even pilates have been proven to help relieve insomnia. You don’t want to engage in intense aerobic exercise before bed, however. The goal is to relax your mind and muscles. Physical exercise can be beneficial to a good night’s sleep, just not right before bedtime. Doctors recommend twenty to thirty minutes of cardio a day to help improve sleep habits.
Change Your Sleep Patterns
Sticking to a set sleep schedule can greatly improve your insomnia. Set a strict bedtime and adhere to it, even on weekends and days off. Disruptive sleep patterns can contribute to insomnia.
You might also need to decrease your caffeine, nicotine and alcohol intake. You should not have caffeine after noon. If you really need that cup of coffee, switch to decaf, or opt for decaffeinated herbal tea instead. Also avoid eating large meals before bed.
Avoid sleeping with the television on. The light from the television can keep you awake. You should also avoid using your computer, tablet and smart phone. These items stimulate the brain making it difficult for you to fall asleep. If you must have background noise in order to fall asleep. Try a fan, soft music or other white noise such as ocean sounds.
You should try to unwind for an hour before bed. Do not be running around trying to clean or prepare for the next day right before you go to sleep. Get yourself into a strict bedtime routine and stick with it every night. Force yourself to relax your body and mind before attempting to sleep.
A cure for insomnia – If your insomnia is resulting from a mental condition such as stress or anxiety, you might want to consider therapy.
A therapist can help deal with your mental issues, they also help you find ways to relax and eliminate stress. If you can’t afford a therapist talk to a trusted friend. Or keep a journal. Sometimes cleaning those stressful thoughts from your brain can help you relax so you can get a better night’s sleep.
These are just some suggestions for different ways of treating insomnia.
However, if your insomnia is severe and none of the above eases your sleeplessness, you need to see your doctor. Your doctor might suggest you try prescription sleep aids to see if they might be beneficial for you. Never take any over the counter sleep aid, or prescription sleep aids, without first consulting your physician.
Relevant international reading: More Dr Backhaus information can be found in different languages in Danish – sovnloshed, Swedish – somnloshet and Spanish at pastillas para dormir naturales. There you will find relevant information relating to this blog post on insomnia.