Do you have a hard time falling asleep at night no matter how tired you are? Or perhaps you wake up in the middle of the night and you end up lying awake for hours? If so, then we have some news for you – it is very likely that you are suffering from insomnia. But, don’t worry! There is a cure for everything, including insomnia.
So, what is insomnia actually? The term refers to the inability to fall asleep or stay asleep at night. As a consequence of the lack of sleep, it is very likely that you feel drowsy and fatigued during the day. Since every person needs a different amount of sleep, insomnia is actually defined by the quality of your sleep rather than the number of hours you sleep.
The cause of insomnia varies from person to person. You might be drinking too much caffeine during the day without even realizing it. Or, it may be caused by feeling overloaded with responsibilities.
It is important to start curing insomnia as soon as you realize that you are suffering from it. This sleep disorder takes a toll on your energy, mood, and ability to function during the day. In addition, it can even contribute to some other health problems. For example, sleep deprivation puts you at risk of weight gain, diabetes, high blood pressure, and even heart diseases. If you’re suffering from chronic pain, such as chronic back pain, lack of sleep can make it even worse. Some studies have shown that not getting enough sleep can make you more sensitive to pain.
The good news is that you can cure insomnia on your own by making some simple changes and not having to visit a doctor or use sleeping pills. If you are having problems to fall asleep because of physical pain you should read our articles on Falling asleep with Neck Pain or our article on Falling asleep with Back Pain.
Sleeping Path to Health
Getting a good night’s sleep is not only vital for feeling good when you wake up in the morning. According to National Heart, Longue, and Blood Institute, lack of sleep negatively impacts all aspects of our lives including mental health, physical health, quality of life, and even safety.
It is a well-known fact that, as we sleep, our entire body rests but our brain doesn’t. However, sleep is necessary for the brain to recharge and prepare for the next day. Lack of sleep can affect the activity of our brain. For example, a sleep deficient person might have trouble making decisions, controlling their emotions, and solving problems.
Poor sleep and sleep disorders havealso been linked with mental health issues such as depression.About 90% of people who struggle with depression complain about their quality of sleep. In addition, those who suffer from sleep disorders such as insomnia also report higher rates of depression than those without them. Lack of sleep is even associated with an increased risk of suicide.
A good night’s sleep also improves your learning. It doesn’t matter whether you’re learning how to drive a car, how to play the piano, or you’re studying for a test, sleep will enhance your learning and problem-solving skills.
In addition, sleep can improve athletic performance. A study that was conducted on basketball players showed that longer sleep improvedthe players’ speed, accuracy, reaction times, and mental wellbeing.
We might not be aware of that, but sleep actually plays a very important role in our physical health. Did you know that sleep is involved in repairing our heart and blood vessels? And, as we already mentioned, lack of sleep can cause so many other health issues such as heart disease, kidney disease, high blood pressure, and even stroke.
Lack of sleep is also one of the causesof obesity since it affects so many factors such as hormones and the motivation to exercise. Getting enough sleep will maintain a healthy balance of hormones that make you feel hungry (ghrelin) or full (leptin). If you don’t get enough sleep, your ghrelin levels will go up making you feel hungrier than when you’re rested. In addition, sleep affects another hormone called insulin. This hormone controls sugar level in our blood. Lack of sleep typically results in blood sugar level that is higher than normal, making you more susceptible to diabetes.
Also, let’s not forget our immune system. In order for it to function properly, you need to get enough sleep. The immune system is what defends us against foreign and harmful substances. If you struggle with sleep deficiency then your immune system won’t respond as well as it does when you get enough sleep. As a result, you might have trouble fighting off some common infections such as the cold.
Quality of Life and Safety
Lack of quality sleep affects our productivity, concentration, cognition, and performance. This means that if we get enough sleep then we will be able to function well throughout the day. People who are sleep deficient have trouble concentrating and are less productive at work or school. This means that they are likely to make more mistakes and take longer to finish simple tasks. All of this can impact the quality of our lives negatively.
After losing sleep for several nights (even if you lose as little as one hour per night), your ability to function suffers as if you haven't slept at all. In addition, lack of sleep might lead to microsleep or moments of briefly falling asleep at times when you’re normally awake. The worst thing about microsleep is that you might not be aware of it and that you can’t control it.
Since lack of sleep affects all of your abilities, it is not harmful only on a personal level and can lead to large-scale damage. A study conducted on medical interns shows that those who have extended work hours of more than 24 hours made 36% more serious medical errors. In addition, sleep deficiency is often linked to car accidents.
Even though sleepy drivers feel capable of driving, in reality, they are not. Many studies show that sleep deficiency can harm your driving skills as much as being intoxicated. And, it is estimated that drivers who suffer from lack of sleep cause about 100,000 car accidents each year, resulting in about 1,500 deaths.
What Keeps me Awake at Night
In order to be able to treat your insomnia and restore your old sleeping habits, you need to find out what is keeping you awake. Before you even consider going to a doctor or getting some medication, you need to think about all the factors that might disrupt your sleep such as your daytime habits, sleep routine, and physical health. When you figure out the root cause, you will be able to find proper treatment.
Stress is one of the most frequent causes of insomnia. It can interfere with your ability to fall asleep but also to stay asleep. Stress can also reduce the length of your deep sleep and increase the length of the lighter phases of sleep, making you more vulnerable to waking up due to light or noise. If you have an upcoming presentation or you are going through a painful breakup, it is very likely that your insomnia is tied to this temporary cause and it will go away on its own after a few days. However, if it persists for a longer period of time then it might be tied to an underlying mental or physical issue.
Chronic insomnia is frequently caused by depression and anxiety. Not being able to sleep at night, in return, can make your anxiety and depression symptoms even worse. Other emotional and psychological causes of insomnia include worry, grief, anger, and recent trauma. Getting to the core of these problems and treating them is necessary if you want to get your old sleep schedule back.
Besides these psychological factors, your lifestyle choices can also prevent you from getting a good night’s sleep. Do you like having a drink or two before going to bed? Even though alcohol makes you feel tired it disrupts your natural REM sleep cycle. This means that even if alcohol helps you fall asleep faster, it interferes with the quality of your sleep causing you to wake up during the night or to wake up tired the next morning. Another cause of your insomnia might be in your bedroom. Let’s say that you like to catch up on your favorite TV shows while you are in bed. Or, you tend to check your emails or your social media accounts right before you go to sleep. In both scenarios, you expose your eyes (and your brain) to blue light which makes it harder for you to fall asleep. The reason behind this is that artificial light tricks your brain into reducing melatonin production and this is likely to disrupt your natural circadian rhythm.
Last but not least, the reason why you can’t sleep at night might be medical. Many medical conditions such as asthma, allergies, acid reflux, chronic pain, and even kidney disease can cause insomnia. In addition, prescription drugs such as antidepressants, stimulants, corticosteroid, and many other medications can interfere with sleep. Don’t forget that even some common over-the-counter medications that contain alcohol and pain relievers might have the same effect.
Strategies to Sleep at Night Naturally
Identifying the cause of your insomnia is a good first step but it definitely won’t solve your problems. So, what to do when you can’t sleep? First off, let’s start with two powerful weapons – a relaxing bedtime routine and a comfortable sleep environment. Even though this might seem trivial to you, both can improve the quality of your sleep.
Before you go to bed, make sure that your bedroom is dark, quiet, and cool. Even the slightest noise or light can interfere with your sleep. Also, make sure that the temperature in the room is comfortable as well as your mattress and pillow. If you notice that outside sounds bother you, try using a sound machine or earplugs. Blackout curtains and eye masks are a great way to block out the light. In addition, even if your pillow or mattress seems comfortable you might try to experiment with different ones and see if they suit you.
Another important thing you should keep in mind is your sleep schedule. You should try to go to bed and wake up at the same time every single day, including weekends. Even if you feel very tired in the morning try to get up at your usual time. By doing so, you will support your biological clock and get back in a regular sleep rhythm. Don’t try to catch up on your sleep by napping during the day. This can only make it more difficult to sleep at night. If you feel like you absolutely have to take a nap, try to limit it to 30 minutes and to nap before 3 p.m.
Also, you should avoid any stimulating activity and stressful situations before going to bed. This can range from catching up on work or scrolling through your news feed on Facebook to having big discussions or arguments with someone. Since we mentioned Facebook, it is worth mentioning once again that you shouldn’t only avoid using your smartphone before bed but actually all electronic screens. Try to avoid watching TV or using your phone or laptop at least one hour before going to bed. Instead, you can read a book or have a relaxing bath.
Here are some other things you should avoid doing before going to bed:
- Drinking too much liquid. The older you get the more likely you are to wake up at night to go to the bathroom. That is why you should try not to drink anything one hour before going to bed. This way you will reduce the chance of waking up during the night because you have to go.
- Alcohol. We already mentioned this one. But just to make sure you remember it, we’ll say it again: drinking alcohol before going to bed is a big mistake. It might help you relax but it will cause you to wake up during the night.
- Going to bed full.You should avoid eating too much before going to bed. Also, you should avoid eating heavy, rich foods two hours before bedtime. In addition, spicy foods can cause stomach trouble and heartburn which can wake you during the night.
- Caffeine. According to the American Academy of Sleep Medicine, you should avoid drinking caffeinated beverages at least six hours before going to bed. And, if you are sensitive to caffeine you might need to stop even earlier.
Still not sure what to do when you can’t sleep? Don’t worry, we got you covered. Here are more tips that can help you fall asleep and stay asleep during the night.
- Do a breathing or relaxation exercise to calm your brain before bed. If you can’t fall asleep after 20 minutes, get up and go to a different room to do something relaxing such as reading or listening to music. Lying in bed and not being able to fall asleep can only increase your anxiety.
- Use your bedroom only for sleeping. Avoid any work, TV, or computers in the bedroom. By doing so, your brain will associate your bedroom only with sleep and get a strong signal that it’s time for bed as soon as you walk into the room.
- Get rid of all the clocks. Turning in bed while anxiously watching the time go by is a surefire recipe for insomnia. Make sure to add in some negative thinking and, voila, you will definitely be exhausted when the alarm goes off.
It is Possible to Sleep Better
Being unable to sleep at night is most frequently related to a temporary stressful situation you are going through. These situations last only for a few days. Once they’re over, you will get back to your old sleeping habits. However, if your insomnia lasts for more than a few days then it is the time to take matters into your own hands. It is very likely that something you like doing, such as drinking coffee or alcohol in the evening, causes you to stay awake at night. Try to rule out everything you might be doing wrong and see if anything changes.
If you’ve tried out all of our self-help techniques without success, then you should consider taking sleeping pills or sleep aids. But, be aware. These are the most effective when used sparingly and for short periods of time. Sleeping pills can’t cure insomnia. Instead, taking them for a longer period of time can make your insomnia even worse.
If absolutely everything fails, schedule an appointment with a doctor or sleep specialist. Try to keep a sleep diary so you can provide your doctor with as much supporting information as possible.
Sleep Depravation information:
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