Why do we need sleep?
It is yet to be discovered the full benefits of sleep. It is generally thought however, that sleep is a regenerating process that restores the body's energy supplies. Most repair work is also done during sleep where damages or torn body tissues are rebuilt. Mental energy is also restored, hence the saying that if you sleep on a problem, you will find a solution when you wake up. When deprived of sleep, you become moody and less coordinated, make more mistakes and is more prone to illnesses.
What is Insomnia?
Insomnia is inadequate or poor quality sleep due to one or more of the following:
- Difficulty in falling asleep
- Waking up frequently during the night with difficulty returning to sleep
- Waking up too early in the morning
- Unrefreshing sleep
It may cause problems during the day, such as tiredness, lack of energy, difficulty concentrating and irritability.
Types of Insomnia
Transient - lasts from one night to a few days
Intermittent - lasts a few days to a few weeks
Chronic - lasts a few weeks to a few months
What causes Insomnia?
Transient and intermittent insomnia generally occur in people who are temporarily experiencing one or more of the following: stress, environmental noise, extreme temperatures, varying bedtimes, changing work shifts, and the side effects of medication.
Chronic insomnia is more complex and may be due to a combination of factors including underlying physical or mental disorders. One of the most common causes of chronic insomnia is depression. Other underlying causes include heart problems, breathing disorders, kidney disease, asthma, Parkinson's disease and arthritis. Chronic insomnia may also be due to behavioral factors including the misuse of caffeine, cigarettes, alcohol or other substances, disrupted sleep/wake cycles, excessive napping in the daytime, and chronic stress.
Some behaviors may prolong existing insomnia, and may be responsible for causing the sleep problem in the first place: expecting and worrying about difficulty sleeping, taking excessive amounts of caffeine, consuming alcohol or smoking before bedtime, excessive napping in the daytime, and irregular or continually disrupted sleep/wake schedules. Stopping these behaviors may eliminate the insomnia altogether.
What is the treatment?
Transient and intermittent insomnia may not require treatment since they last only a few days at a time. However, for some people who experience daytime sleepiness and impaired performance as a result of transient insomnia, the use of short-acting sleeping pills may improve sleep and alertness the following day. As with any medication, there are potential side effects.
Treatment for diagnosed chronic insomnia includes identifying behaviors that may worsen insomnia. by stopping or reducing them. Sleeping pills may be used (although the long-term use of sleeping pills for chronic insomnia is controversial) with behavioral techniques such as relaxation therapy, sleep restriction therapy and reconditioning to improve sleep. Contact your family doctor for further advice.
A diet that promotes health naturally promotes good sleep. Replace instant foods such as canned foods and preserved items with fresh wholesome foods. Instant foods additives such as sugar, salt, coloring and flavorings stimulate the body into hyperactivity. Insomnia sufferers should take more Vitamin B found in whole meal breads and brown rice because it is known to alleviate symptoms. You should also have your dinner at least 3 hours before bedtime because a digesting stomach will not let you sleep.
Sleep is a body's natural response to tiredness. By building exercise into your daily routine, you help yourself sleep better because it releases tension in the muscles and nerves. Avoid exercising late in the evening or at night however, because raised adrenaline will keep you awake throughout the night. If it is the only time you can exercise, choose deep relaxation exercises such as yoga or t'ai chi.
If you live in a city and you find the environment too noisy, opt to move to a quieter area or sleep in a room with less exposure to noise. Use curtains to block out the noise or light from windows and close your room door if it helps.
Modern living plays a big part in meddling with our sleeping schedules. Due to work and our need for entertainment, most people have irregular sleeping habits. Sleep researchers suggest waking up at the same time each day regardless of how many hours you got to sleep the night before. Replacing sleep debts on weekends also do not work- you just end up more tired than before!
When your mind is not in peace, it is next to impossible to sleep. Anxiety, resentment, jealousy, guilt and grief are negative feelings that can ruin sleep. If you suffer from depression, you are likely to suffer from insomnia. Advising an insomniac to leave all their troubles before going to bed is easier said than done. Learning how to do this takes practice and a commitment to improve one's waking life. Re-orientate your long-term plans and always reassure yourself that things are never as bad as they seem.
Relying on quick fixes to banish stress can be another sleep hazard. It is ironic how we load ourselves up with cigarettes and coffee in the daytime to keep us awake and turning to alcohol and sedatives to go to sleep at night. Notorious sleep- thieves such as caffeine and smoking keeps you awake, edgy and anxious by triggering adrenaline and stimulating the nervous system.
Illness and Medication
Having illnesses such as breathing problems and pain can affect the quality of your sleep. Medications such as those used for arthritis can actually cause insomnia in some people. Find out the side effects of the medication or drug that you are using and whether there are alternative medication that you can take for your condition.
When to seek help?
It's important to ask for help if you are having sleep problems. You should consider getting medical advice if your sleep has been disturbed at least several times over the past month, or if sleep problems interfere with the way you feel or function during the day. Your doctor will evaluate your general health and ask about your usual sleep habits. Sometimes all that is needed is helpful advice.
While every effort has been made to ensure accuracy of facts, the articles and information above must never be construed as giving professional health advice and as such Kurnia does not give any warranty on accuracy, completeness, functionality, usefulness or other assurances as to the content appearing in the above article. Kurnia cannot be held responsible for any losses, injury or death resulting from the use of the above information.