Have you ever had a bad night when you just can’t sleep? It’s too hot, you have things on your mind, or the neighbour’s dog won’t stop barking: you toss and turn until the sun comes up, and it’s miserable! For people with insomnia, this is every night.
What is insomnia?
Insomnia is difficulty falling asleep or staying asleep for long enough to feel refreshed the next morning – it means you aren’t getting the amount or quality of sleep you need to stay healthy.
Your age, lifestyle and environment all influence how much sleep you need, so it isn’t easy to define what’s normal for everyone. But, there’s one thing that we all have in common: people need a certain amount of restful sleep every night to stay healthy.
Symptoms and effects of insomnia
Are you experiencing one or more of the following symptoms?
- struggling to fall asleep
- waking up repeatedly during the night
- waking up early (around 3am) in the morning
- feeling tired and irritable
- struggling to function during the day
If you said “yes”, then you might be battling with insomnia.
What causes insomnia?
Anxiety and stress are the most common causes of insomnia – that’s why you might battle to sleep before a big exam, interview or another stressful event. For long-term insomnia, these are some of the causes:
- alcohol or drug abuse
- hormonal changes at the start of menopause
How do I treat insomnia?
You have to identify exactly why you can’t sleep – is it anxiety, are you on a medication that keeps you awake, or is there another reason? If insomnia is becoming a long-term problem, it’s time to see your doctor. A history of your sleep routines, what and when you eat, any medicines you may be using and other lifestyle habits will help your doctor to form a diagnosis. Then he may suggest the following changes, to start with:
- avoiding any caffeine after 2pm
- not eating heavy meals late at night
- switching off computers and mobiles an hour before bed
- using thick curtains and earplugs to stop you being woken up by light and noise
- taking a warm bath an hour before you go to bed
- setting regular times to wake up
- listening to calming music
Don’t be surprised if your doctor isn’t in a hurry to prescribe sleep tablets: they can relieve the symptoms of insomnia, but they don’t treat the cause, so your doctor may only use them as a last resort. Try keeping a sleep diary to help you get a better idea of your own sleep patterns – you might find what’s keeping you up! Here’s to a good night’s sleep!