WHAT IS IT?
Insomnia is a persistent disorder that can make it hard to fall asleep, hard to stay asleep, or both.
If you have insomnia, it may take you 30 minutes or more to fall asleep, and you may get less than six hours of sleep most nights of the week. You may awaken feeling unrefreshed, which can lead to daytime sleepiness and take a toll on your ability to function.
WHAT’S THE CAUSE?
Common causes include:
- Stress. Concerns about work, school, health, or family can keep your mind active at night, making it difficult to sleep. Stressful life events — such as the death or illness of a loved one, divorce, or a job loss — may lead to insomnia.
- Anxiety. Everyday anxieties, as well as anxiety disorders, may disrupt your sleep.
- Depression. You might either sleep too much or have trouble sleeping.
- Medical conditions. Conditions such as chronic pain, breathing difficulties, or a need to urinate frequently can lead to insomnia.
- Change in your environment or work schedule. Travel or working a late or early shift can disrupt your body’s circadian rhythms, making it difficult to sleep.
- Poor sleep habits. These include an irregular sleep schedule, stimulating activities before bed, and an uncomfortable sleep environment.
- Medications. Many prescription and over-the-counter drugs can interfere with sleep.
- Caffeine, nicotine, and alcohol. Caffeine-containing drinks are well-known stimulants. Nicotine is also a stimulant. Alcohol prevents deeper stages of sleep and may cause you to awaken in the middle of the night.
- Eating too much late at night. You may feel physically uncomfortable, making it difficult to get to sleep.
Changing your sleep habits and addressing any underlying causes of insomnia, such as medical conditions or medications, can restore restful sleep for many people.
You learn new sleep behaviors and ways to improve your sleep.
- Sleep habits education. Good habits include a regular sleep schedule, relaxing before bed, and a comfortable sleep environment.
- Cognitive-behavioral therapy. It helps you control or eliminate negative thoughts and worries that keep you awake.
- Relaxation techniques. Progressive muscle relaxation, biofeedback, and breathing exercises can reduce anxiety at bedtime.
- Stimulus control. You limit the time you spend awake in bed and associate your bed and bedroom only with sleep and sex.
- Sleep restriction. You decrease the time you spend in bed, causing partial sleep deprivation, making you more tired. Once your sleep has improved, your time in bed is gradually increased.
- Remaining passively awake. You try to keep yourself awake rather than try to fall asleep.
Prescription sleeping pills may help you get to sleep, but doctors generally don’t recommend their use for more than a few weeks, because of dependence and possible side effects.
Nonprescription sleep medications contain antihistamines that can make you drowsy. But antihistamines may reduce the quality of your sleep, and they can cause side effects, such as daytime sleepiness, dizziness, urinary retention, dry mouth, and confusion.
Here are some suggestions to manage insomnia and help you sleep better:
- Exercise. Exercise daily at least five to six hours before bedtime.
- Avoid or limit naps. Naps can make it harder to fall asleep at night.
- Pay attention to caffeine, alcohol, and nicotine. Avoid caffeine after lunchtime, limit alcohol, and don’t smoke.
- Stick to a schedule. Keep your bedtime and wake time consistent.
- Avoid large meals before bed. A light snack is fine.
- Don’t read, work, or eat in bed. Save your bed for sleep and sex.
- Make your bedroom comfortable. Create a calming background noise, and keep the room dark and the temperature cool.
- Hide bedroom clocks. Set your alarm, then hide all clocks so that you don’t worry what time it is.
Excerpt From: The Mayo Clinic. “Mayo Clinic A to Z Health Guide”.