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Having trouble getting enough sleep? beginning to think it may be getting serious? In the following article, I will explain what Insomnia is and who it’s more likely to affect. I’ll also cover some natural remedies for sleep deprivation you can experiment with and what your next steps should be if nothing seems to be helping. We’ll also take down some common sleep myths along the way toward our ultimate goal, of learning how get rid of Insomnia once and for all.
Ready? Let’s dive in.
What Is Insomnia?
In a nutshell, Insomnia is simply an inability to fall asleep, trouble staying asleep or waking and being unable to get back to sleep.
If this is you, then it is possible you are suffering from Insomnia. There are, according to recent research over 80 types of sleeping disorders and sleep related issues in the world today, but Insomnia is widely regarded as the number one sleeping disorder affecting the population. Some studies indicate that 1 in 10 adults are actually suffering from the condition although this is obviously difficult to prove as it is suspected that a large number of cases go undiagnosed.
There are three common forms of Insomnia
- Sporadic: Generally indicated by an underlying stress issue.
- Acute: Short-lived episodes.
- Chronic: when lack of sleep has been a significant issue for an extended period.
Most of us, fortunately, will only ever suffer from Sporadic or Acute Insomnia. These forms have close ties with stress. Often but not limited to a life changing event, changes to your work or home environment or simply a change in your routine.
Number 1 causes for stress related Insomnia
- Death of loved one
- Divorce, separation or breakdown of a relationship
- Impending marriage
- Workplace bullying
- Anxiety surrounding an upcoming event e.g. public speaking commitment
- Change in work routine e.g. shift work schedule change
Most of us will experience short term Insomnia at some stage in our lives i.e. when lack of sleep is confined to two to three weeks and up to 4 times per week and we simply cannot manage consistent sleep. In most cases, this won’t require treatment. However, if you start noticing longer term Insomnia (more than 4 weeks) it’s time you considered speaking to your GP and explaining the extent of the problem.
Chronic Insomnia should be regarded as a serious issue by yourself and your consulting doctor as the impact of constant sleep deprivation can have widespread ramifications. It’s also more than just bad for your immediate health e.g. sleep deprivation can lead to traffic accidents, workplace incidents and bouts of depression brought on by anxiety.
Side effects of sleep disorders
“As a rule, we accept the lack of sleep as part and parcel of a modern existence when the potential outcomes are far more severe than most people will ever realize.”
On the road
While a lack of sleep itself is rarely life threatening, it and the sleep deprivation that follows it, are some of the most often cited reasons for both workplace and traffic accidents. Research strongly suggests that many auto crashes are a result of a habitual lack of sleep (Insomnia) and places both drivers, passengers and bystanders at a higher risk of being involved in a serious accident.
In the US alone, 1 in 6 car accidents and some 1,500 deaths have been attributed to fatigue brought on by sleep deprivation and Insomnia, hard to believe isn’t it? In a landmark study from 2003, 60% of the drivers surveyed reported that they frequently drove while drowsy. 20% of those drivers admitted they had experienced incidents of falling asleep while at the wheel. Not to mention many fatal industrial accidents and even some military incidents e.g. “friendly fire” have also been directly attributed to a lethal mix of Insomnia and fatigue. Yet as a rule we accept a lack of sleep as part and parcel of a modern existence when the potential outcomes are far more serious than most people will ever truly realize.
Insomnia and work performance
In the United States, it is widely accepted that Insomnia costs the economy over $100 billion every single year and that number is growing. Even in the best of times, workplace stress and politics can be difficult to avoid or deal with. But in tough economic times, when you need to be on the top of your game, chronic Insomnia can quickly and quietly undermine your job performance and in turn your future. By disrupting the deeper waves of your nightly sleep patterns, lack of sleep disrupts your mind’s natural ability to store, concentrate and recover memories the next day.
This in turn with sleep deprived fatigue makes it even harder for you to remember, focus, perform or learn complex tasks or skills. New parents are at an increased risk as when a new child arrives into the home lack of sleep or broken sleep patterns become increasingly frequent, yet at the same time responsibilities increase due to the extra family member we are now entrusted to care for.
How do I know if I have Insomnia?
Learning how to get rid of Insomnia starts with correctly diagnosing the problem.
Consider the following questions
- Do you feel anxious about actually going to bed
- Do you wake the next morning feeling as though you have hardly slept a wink?
- Do you lie awake and seemingly take hours to get to sleep
- Do you find getting to sleep isn’t a problem but have trouble staying asleep?
- Do you find yourself waking very early in the morning and this seems to be getting worse?
- Do you only manage a few short hours of sleep at a time?
If you are experiencing any of the above, then it may be time to take your sleeping problem a little more seriously. Any sleep disorder is not to be taken lightly but before you can really help yourself however you need to understand you do have a problem. When you reach this point only then can you start to look into addressing the issue.
It’s fair to say that sleep disorders are becoming far more common in modern society and the problem is estimated to be impacting on the lives of over 10% of all humans. The biggest problem, however, is in many of these cases it goes mostly undiagnosed largely due to the condition becoming somewhat normalized by our modern society. We are often told that sleepless nights are fairly normal and the problem will resolve itself after a few days or when things get less hectic at work etc.
This may be true for some but many of us may be suffering from a chronic sleep disorder and often the problem can go unresolved for weeks, even months before we actually realize we need to address the issue and by that stage it is a big problem.
The 4 most common tests for Insomnia
If you are going to essentially get rid of Insomnia you are going to require a diagnosis that leaves you in no doubt whatsoever about the sleep disorder you are dealing with. You could seek out a health professional such as a doctor (getting professional help is indeed an important first step) but even when seeking out professional medical advice there is plenty of debate concerning the most effective way to test for causes of insomnia.
At the present moment in time, there are four popular methods to diagnose chronic Insomnia.
By getting a medical examination, your doctor can investigate possible causes for your Insomnia such as physical discomfort caused by injury or arthritis or physical and indeed mental exhaustion. A medical examination will also provide your doctor with enough information to help them identify a drug related issue, alcohol abuse or other possible causes. This will then allow your doctor to discuss the best treatment methods. Obviously it’s critical that you tell your doctor the complete story including things you might feel nervous discussing or feel embarrassed about. Your doctor needs to know all the facts about your condition to give them the best possible chance to help you.
Question and answer session
When the first method fails to help to shed any light on your sleeping disorder a simple questionnaire can sometimes be used. This can often provide an insight into your current condition, questions range from:
- Are you currently experiencing stress?
- How would you describe your current sleeping patterns?
- Do you share a bed with a partner?
- Do you have a history of sleeping disorders?
- Have any other health-related issues been affecting you recently?
- Has there been a recent change in your life?
Diary of sleep patterns
If the first two methods don’t shed any light on the problem a simple diary might also be of assistance. This diary is used to record your sleeping habits and will allow your doctor a clearer understanding of your sleep disorder. The diary should provide information such as:
- When you went to bed
- Hours slept
- Rating of how well you slept
- Other factors such as alcohol intake or outside influences that could have an impact on sleep.
Sleep center study
If your disorder is becoming a major problem, your doctor may recommend you check in to a sleep clinic where you will be given a PSG (Polysomnogram). This procedure will record eye movement, brain activity, blood pressure and levels of oxygen to allow your doctor a detailed analysis of exactly what changes your body experiences when attempting sleep. This can then allow your doctor to gather valuable information to assist with identifying the root cause of your Insomnia.
10 tips to help you get rid of Insomnia
Below are a few basic tips you can try if you are experiencing problems achieving regular sleep, but it should be noted that in almost all cases if you are experiencing a lack of sleep for more than 4 weeks or it is having an impact on your ability to concentrate and function you should consult with a GP.
- Reduce bright lights and distractions
If you can’t sleep it’s important that your bedroom be considered a place of rest and relaxation. If you have a television or computer (or any other electronic device) in your bedroom consider moving these into another part of the house.
- Manage stress
Stress is a major cause for sleep deprivation. While detailing effective steps to combat stress is beyond the scope of this article, it should be noted that if you suspect stress is the major cause for your lack of sleep it’s important you treat the symptoms and not just the cause. Often just talking about your problems will provide some short-term relief but it’s important that stress is, managed effectively and the first step is to speak to as medical professional.
- Reduce Caffeine intake
It’s surprising just how many of us still don’t understand that caffeine after approx. 3 pm can have an effect on your ability to sleep. Most people don’t understand that it isn’t just coffee that is full of caffeine. Tea, Chocolate and energy drinks are in most cases chock full of caffeine. If you can’t sleep at night and a mid-afternoon coffee or energy drink is part of your routine consider supplementing with an alternative. *Remember most teas also contain caffeine so choose Chamomile which is known to assist with sleep. It should also be noted that Caffeine is absorbed by the body reasonably quickly so drinking coffee before midday will have very little effect on a person’s ability to sleep. The liver will generally absorb caffeine in approx. 6 hours although this can vary depending on a few factors such as metabolism and the actual amount consumed.
- Regular exercise
Exercise has been proven time and time again to help with achieving a regular sleep pattern. The idea isn’t to exhaust one’s self before bedtime but to actually develop a regular routine which then programs your body when to be active and when to relax which will assist in helping you to achieve more regular sleep patterns. Exercise also helps with managing stress which as noted above is a major cause of sleep deprivation.
- Television, the internet, and social media
This is one of the leading causes of Insomnia in teenagers. Parents really do need to monitor their teenagers use on the web (mainly social media) and TV. These devices not only ‘steal’ sleep hours from us but also stimulate the brain when it should be starting to relax and prepare for a good night’s sleep.
- Try Aromatherapy
Aromatherapy can be very useful for assisting with sleep along with a number of healing benefits. Essential oils such as Lavender and Bergamot can assist with soothing pain from muscular aches and cramping which is a known cause of sleep deprivation.
- Ensure you are comfortable in bed
If you are not comfortable in bed, consider a body pillow which shapes to your body and allows for a more comfortable sleeping position.
- Avoid alcohol
For those of us with busy social lives often alcohol can seem to work as a sleep inducement. However, while alcohol may help us fall asleep in some cases it is often only temporary and can actually lead to a more disturbed sleep. The fact is alcohol will cause dehydration which will often cause you to wake in need of water which in turn will keep you up as you may need to go to the bathroom. Alcohol also produces adrenaline and combined with dehydration can certainly be attributed to a less than ideal sleep.
- Increase water intake
An increase in water intake at least 4 hours before bedtime can regulate body systems. The increased fluid circulation is through to assist with the bodies ability to fall asleep.
Research indicates that smokers may be up to four times more likely to have issues achieving a good night’s sleep. The most common theory is that smokers do not achieve a deep sleep state as nicotine addiction is extremely powerful and when sleeping for longer periods the body will actually experience a minor withdrawal period which stops the body achieving a deep sleep state.
Music as a sleeping aid
We all know how music can enrich a person’s life and for many of us it can also help create a relaxing atmosphere that promotes healthy sleep habits. There is obviously a lot more to using music as a sleep aid than simply turning on the radio by our bed and hoping to achieve sleep. Obviously the choice of music is critical and while this may be different for many of us some basic guidelines will help you find the right music to aid your sleep.
- Avoid lyrics
If you are prone to concentrating on the story in the song, the lyrics are going to stimulate your mind and are bet avoided. If possible, try to find instrumental music with no vocals such as classical music.
- Choose relaxing music
By sheer definition ‘relaxation music’ is advisable as it allows you to clear your mind and relax. Typically this is music that has a gentle rhythm and would be considered background music at a dinner party or function. Instruments well known for creating this type of relaxing environment include flute, sitar, acoustic guitar and light orchestral music. You could also try ‘Sound of Nature’ style recordings that actually sample music from relaxing environments such as rainforests.
- Mix it up
It just might be that relaxing music actually irritates you and doesn’t allow you to fall asleep. You may need to experiment until you find the right balance for you. In some rare cases more rhythmic and faster music can actually assist with sleep, some people even prefer music with lyrics such as opera. Remember everyone is different so don’t expect success with your first choice.
- Keep it simple
In most cases, the music you choose should be simple and not overly complicated. The idea is to condition your mind to relax not stimulate your mind trying to follow complex song arrangements and delicate nuances. You might be better suited opting for songs you already know quite well if you are keeping this in mind as you will already be aware of the melody and arrangement and won’t be ‘switched on’ to something completely new. The aim is to fall asleep quickly not be up all evening because you just discovered a new artist or style of music that instantly appeals to you. Remember when you are selecting the music you are going to try to fall asleep to it’s crucial that it doesn’t actually stimulate you and therefore, work against your original intention which is to create a relaxing environment and fall asleep fast.
Medications for insomnia
Even highly trained medical professionals can miss the mark in prescribing drugs for Insomnia. While sleep aids and pills can certainly help, studies have shown the constant use of prescription drugs will lose effectiveness over time. The reason for this is because humans can begin to develop a tolerance to any drug. In addition, there is also the possibility that the patient will become dependent thinking that without it, a good night’s sleep is not possible.
Any form of sleep deprivation should be taken seriously. It’s important to recognize the signs early as Insomnia or any form of sleep disorder for that matter have a tendency to gather momentum quickly as the hours of missed sleep being to add up. If you are experiencing any of the symptoms mentioned above such as an inability to fall asleep or making up regularly you should be aware that you may have a problem and start working towards a solution. Try some of the tips listed above first but if nothing seems to be helping we strongly suggest you speak to a medical professional instead of trying over the counter medications as this will merely mask the issue. In most cases, the problem is strongly linked to stress and must be acknowledged before you have a chance of learning how to get rid of Insomnia.