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Sweet Dreams: How to Conquer Insomnia

Plagued by insomnia?  Try these tips. Plagued by insomnia? Try these tips.

Are you one of the millions who suffer from insomnia? If so, I completely commiserate with you. There’s nothing quite as frustrating as lying awake all night – completely exhausted – but unable to fall asleep. An estimated 30 to 50% of the population are affected by insomnia, with 10% suffering from chronic insomnia. What causes this stubborn sleep disorder? Is there hope for those who suffer from insomnia?

Insomnia is defined as “difficulty initiating and/or maintaining sleep, or the perception of poor quality sleep.” Since sleep needs and practices vary widely from person to person, insomnia cannot be defined by a specific number of hours of sleep an individual gets. Generally insomnia is classified based on the duration of the problem, from transient, short-term, to chronic insomnia.

Causes of Insomnia

Short-term insomnia may be related to:

  • Jet lag
  • Changes in shift work
  • Withdrawal from drugs or alcohol
  • Unfavorable sleeping situation (too hot, cold, or uncomfortable bed)
  • Excessive noise
  • Illness

Chronic or long-term insomnia may be linked to an underlying psychiatric or physiologic condition such as:

  • Anxiety
  • Depression
  • Stress
  • Chronic pain syndromes
  • Chronic fatigue syndrome
  • Mental illness or disorder
  • Sleep apnea, nocturnal asthma, acid reflux, or other health issue

Treatments for Insomnia

When insomnia is a symptom of an underlying physiological or psychological problem, the main focus of treatment should be directed towards finding the cause. Once the cause is identified, management and control of the problem may eliminate insomnia completely. A doctor’s evaluation will help you determine if your insomnia is the result of an underlying health issue, and give you a better idea of treatment options.

Non-medical treatments include sleep hygiene, relaxation therapy, stimulus control and/or sleep restriction. Prescription and over-the-counter sleep aids are also used to treat insomnia, although many of these have unwanted side effects and are potentially habit-forming. It might take more time to treat your insomnia naturally, but you may fare better off in the long run.

Sleep Hygiene Tips

  • Go to sleep and get up at the same time every day
  • Do not oversleep; get up when you feel rested
  • Exercise regularly, at least four to five hours before bed
  • Do not drink caffeinated beverages later than the afternoon, and avoid “night caps”
  • Do not smoke, especially in the evening
  • Do not go to bed hungry or extremely full

Stimulus Control Therapy

  • Avoid strenuous activity right before bed
  • Do not watch TV, read, eat, or use a laptop in bed. Your bed should be for sleep and sex only
  • If you do not fall asleep within 30 minutes, get up and practice relaxation techniques (deep breathing, yoga, meditation) in another room
  • Avoid naps during the day
  • Use room-darkening shades, and make sure your alarm clock display is not too bright

Sleep restriction is another effective technique for treating insomnia. Set a strict bedtime and rise time schedule, and force yourself to get up even if you feel tired. Training your body to adhere to a regular sleep routine helps your body and brain get used to falling asleep naturally.

Other ways to treat insomnia include massage therapy, herbal tea, sound machines or soft music, acupuncture, hypnosis, or taking melatonin. Melatonin is a hormone that naturally occurs in the body, converted from serotonin at night. Taking a melatonin supplement 30 minutes before bed may be an effective way to treat short-term insomnia. If you have been suffering from insomnia for longer than a few weeks, it’s time to make an appointment with your doctor. A combination of medical treatment and natural remedies may be just what you need to conquer insomnia. With time, you will be having sweet dreams again.

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A look at how sleep restriction helped one individual with chronic insomnia.
Last modified on Friday, 21 September 2012 14:39

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