Facts About Insomnia, Causes, Cures and Tips

What is Insomnia? The Insomnia sleep disorder, also known as Wakefulness or Dysomnia, is an inability to sleep, or disturbed sleep preventing you from getting a proper night’s rest.

The main effect of insomnia is that you may feel constantly tired and irritable, with poor concentration and coordination.

There are two main types of Insomnia:

Primary Insomnia has no underlying medical cause for the difficulty in sleeping.

Secondary Insomnia has an underlying medical cause triggering disturbed sleep: any condition causing pain, discomfort, or directly causing mental disturbance or anxiety, or specific conditions such as Sleep Apnea or Seasonal Affective Disorder. If you suspect an underlying medical or mental condition seek medical advice.

Behavioral therapy to encourage sleep can be used in both cases, though for Secondary Insomnia you should liaise with your doctor if receiving treatment for an underlying cause.

A period of insomnia can vary from transient (a few nights) to short term (up to 3 weeks) to chronic, long term insomnia (over 3 weeks)

Transient or Short Term Insomnia can be caused by traumatic events such as acute illness, injury or surgery, bereavement, job loss or less serious events such as trouble at work, an exam, extreme weather change, traveling (including jet lag)

Statistics about Insomnia causes: 50% Psychological, 40% Behavioral: sleep environment (30%) stimulants or medication (10%), 10% Physical (pain, illness etc.)

30-40% of people report insomnia each year; 10-15% of people reporting insomnia say they have chronic insomnia.

The amount of sleep needed by people varies: Babies need about 17 hours sleep a day, a child nine to ten hours per night, and an adult seven to eight hours each night, though that typically decreases as you get older.

Chronic Child Insomnia can have even more serious effects than with adults. Getting enough sleep is much more important for young children than for fully grown adults, as a childhood growth demands a healthy sleep cycle.

Don’t send a child to bed as a punishment as this may lead to insomnia due to a fear of being sent to bed. Consider using a bedroom only for sleep, not play.

Never give a child sleeping medicine without proper medical consultation. Sleeping pills may seem to provide instant, even amazing insomnia relief compared to behavioral therapies, but their results are short term and they often have other side effects.

Adults do not all need eight hours every night! Some people manage on as little as four hours sleep a night. If you don’t need much sleep then get up early – spending too long in bed can help trigger insomnia.

People can also mistake the amount of sleep they are actually getting, because they tend to remember waking up as a longer period than it actually was.

After failing to sleep for a few nights, you may become anxious that you won’t sleep causing Fear or Anxiety Insomnia. A major step towards anxiety insomnia treatment can be to accept that you can cope with its effects, thus reducing the fear of not sleeping. You would then build upon this with behavioral therapy.

Three main areas where you can encourage sleep are:

Sleep Environment – a comfortable bed, a bedroom that is quiet, dark and the right temperature

Sleep Discipline – use your bed for sleeping (and sex) only, watch TV etc. elsewhere

Sleep Conditioning – creating a routine, going to bed and getting up at the same time

The results of behavioral therapy may take effect slowly but are long term – the creation of good habits which make you less prone to insomnia.

Sleep can be disrupted even by normal foods and behaviors: e.g. don’t consume coffee after 1pm – try decaffeinated coffee instead. Avoid consuming alcohol within two hours of going to bed, although it may make you drowsy initially it can inhibit sleep when you wake up in the middle of the night.

A warm drink, dairy, soy products, eggs, rice and grains aid relaxation; foods such as bread or crackers which are high in carbohydrate can reduce anxiety, thus aiding sleep. Do not eat sugary or spicy food or drink near bedtime.

Stress or a mind too active or anxious will hinder the relaxation necessary before sleep comes.

Regular physical exercise helps control stress physically and psychologically by breaking up the day after work to distance you from work problems. Early evening is the best time for exercise if you want to use it to help get to sleep.

A warm bath can help relaxation – but don’t stay there too long or have the water too hot.

Try meditation or other relaxation techniques. Continuous practice will help you do them more effectively, so practice during the day to reduce stress, then even when you are tired it’ll work better. If you are lying awake anyway, why not just do the relaxation exercises for fun!

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