Saturday, January 02, 2010

Insomnia: What It Is & How to Deal With It

Despite what WebMD & pharmaceutical companies may lead you to believe, the tiredness you're feeling every now and again may not be insomnia. These days it seems that everyone who is awake at night or is tired in the morning is blaming insomnia for their sleep troubles, and that may not be the case. In a study 23 out of 100 people were found to suffer from insomnia, but what that doesn't tell you is how many suffer from acute or chronic insomnia. What you all are calling insomnia may be a short-term thing or it may just be a lack of sleep or a disturbance in your sleep cycle.

Acute insomnia can last just a few days or be a problem that comes and goes over time. It is caused by stress, pain or discomfort, another medical issue, environmental factors, or a change in your sleep cycle.
Chronic insomnia is long lasting and more severe.

You do not have insomnia if you stay up all night by choice.
You do not have insomnia if you spend the entire night on the internet just because you can.
You do not have insomnia if you wake up tired to your alarm after only four hours of sleep.

Tips for dealing with insomnia:
  • Stay away from computers, televisions, books, and anything else that may distract you. These only allow you to stay up later and occupy your brain even more. They do not help you sleep. So, really, if you are online talking about how you can't sleep, you're only making it worse for yourself.

  • Make your bed your sleeping place, not your living space. If you have your bed only for sleeping, your body relates it with sleep instead of awake activities.

  • Set a schedule, the more you stick to it, the better chance you will have of getting to sleep at night. If you have a lot of trouble falling asleep allow yourself time to do so. The important thing is that you go to bed at the same time every night, whether you are tired or not.

  • Again with the schedule, do something at night to help you fall asleep that doesn't take too much brain power. I myself pray and go through my day in my head, trying to remember all the good things and not focus on the bad. Another trick I sometimes try is to play the alphabet game with comic/book/tv series. Such as A is for Albus Dumbledore, B is for Buckbeak, C is for Crookshanks, etc etc. It's a personal thing and related to you, but it should not be something that requires a lot of brain power

  • Do not sleep during the day. If you immediately take a two-hour nap when you get home, is it any wonder you're not tired a few hours later when it's time for bed? I really don't care how tired you are, you are not allowed to sleep during the day.

  • Allow yourself time to wake in the morning. Remember to stick to that schedule though. If you wake up at the same time every day, you are more likely to wake up feeling rested than if you wake up at 7 one day and 10 the next then maybe 8 the day after that. Consistency is key.

  • Take warm baths at night about a half hour or an hour before you go to bed as they will help your body relax. Showers are not recommended because they will wake you up, but for some people it works (works for me, but this is not so common). If you have to take a shower every morning to wake yourself up, do not take one before bed and opt for the bath instead. Also, if you need that morning shower, it is still okay to take a bath at night. You are allowed to bathe more than once in 24 hours, you know.

  • Keep the room quiet and dark. This should go without saying, but really, you would be surprised. Do not have the tv on, do not turn on the radio, and turn off all lights and electronics you can. Sure your lava lamp or Christmas lights may look cool, but they are not helping you sleep. Keep them on during the day, but turn them off at night (this also helps to conserve electricity).

  • Think about what you are eating and when. If you are eating something close to bedtime that is going to give you heartburn, well, it's not wonder you're not sleeping well. If you eat too much, you might have trouble also. Same goes for not eating anything (and really, you will regret that when you get up in the morning).

  • This goes along with the above, but avoid caffeine and sugar late in your day as they will only wake the body up even more. Instead try to drink water, non-caffienated warm drinks, or low-sugar fruit juices late at night.

  • Ultimately, it's something you have to work at each and every day. You can't just fix things overnight and drugs aren't the best option either. You may not even have chronic insomnia to begin with and it may be related to stress or some illness, in which case, you need to deal with that first before you can get decent sleep again.

    One more thing, you may not need as much sleep as others do anyway. If you can wake up feeling rested after only five or six hours of sleep, there is nothing wrong with you. Enjoy your extra hours, by all means. Just because you are awake at 2 AM does not mean you are an insomniac. It's when you lay in bed for hours at a time and can't sleep or wake up constantly in the night or feel lethargic and irritable all day long that you have to worry.

    And, from the insomniac's point of view, just saying you are an insomniac when really all you are doing is forcing yourself to stay up to watch a tv show or something on youtube? Yeah, we don't like that. And you're not doing yourself any favours either.

    1 comment:

    purewanderlust said...

    Here here! Good post, teh Jez! (This is Casye, btw.) You do many of the same things I do to get rid of insomnia. But the last point was what I really liked; it annoys the crap out of me when people are like "I have insomnia," and are only awake because they're watching a movie while I'm laying in bed at five in the morning without having slept at all.

    PS: The word verification I had to type in was "Widowmon." It made me laugh so hard.


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