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Tell me if this feels familiar to you:
You go to bed at a reasonable hour thinking that you will get a full night’s sleep, and wake up feeling refreshed. But, as you lie down, you find that sleep evades you! You lay awake staring at the ceiling fan for half an hour. You toss and turn trying to find the “perfect position” to get comfortable and sleep. But, to no avail!
You try the old method of counting sheep, yet you cannot sleep. Sleeplessness has gotten a hold on you. You get up, drink a few glasses of water, and lie back down. However, you just can’t seem to shut your brain down! You count till hundred, yet you are sleepless. So you count backwards from a hundred. You still can’t sleep! You look at the time and it’s almost morning!
Even though you are incredibly tired, you just can’t seem to fall asleep!
And you wonder: Why am I so restless? Why can’t I sleep? Am I an insomniac?
If the above situation seems familiar to you, you might be suffering from insomnia. Long-term insomnia can not only affect the quality of your life, it can also lead to issues in physical and mental health.
Insomnia and its Different Types:
Insomnia is a persistent difficulty with sleep initiation, duration, consolidation or quality. In other words, insomnia is when a person has difficulty falling asleep or staying asleep as long as desired. For some people, insomnia makes it hard to fall asleep. This is called sleep-onset insomnia. Others can go to sleep quickly but they can’t stay that way, called sleep-maintenance insomnia.
Insomnia can also be classified according to its severity and length:
- Acute Insomnia: If you’re affected by insomnia only for a short while, say weeks, it is called acute insomnia. It is mostly caused by big life changes - a change in job, a breakup, due to jet lag etc.
- Chronic Insomnia: If you have trouble getting quality sleep at least three times a week, for more than three months, it is chronic insomnia. This might be due to underlying mental health issues like anxiety or depression. In this case, you might need to take treatment.
Insomnia can cause sleepiness in the daytime, irritability, and exhaustion. This not only impacts your interpersonal relationships but also has ramifications on your mental health & physical health.
How to Cure Insomnia:
Occasionally feeling sleepless is no cause for worry. However, if you are feeling sleepless three-four times a week, you need to take steps to overcome this problem. Insomnia can be tackled using lifestyle changes, medications and therapeutic tools.
Let’s have a look at a few lifestyle changes that can help you have a healthy sleep schedule!
Insomnia Care Plan:
Reset Your Sleep Schedule:
Your body has an internal biological clock that maintains circadian rhythms. Jet lag, night shifts at work, etc., disturbs the natural sleep cycle. Irregular sleep timings can exacerbate insomnia. Take care to have a consistent sleep cycle. This means no sleeping in during the weekends, or pulling an all-nighter to binge-watch your favourite series! Go to sleep and wake up at a regular time. Your body will thank you for it!
Drink Less Coffee:
While having a cup of coffee can boost your energy in the mornings, it is not a good idea to do so in the evening or at night. Caffeine is a stimulant found in coffee and it can make it difficult for you to fall asleep. Try to limit the intake of coffee, tea, alcohol and nicotine.
Eat Dinner Earlier:
Eating dinner just before going to sleep can affect your quality of sleep. It activates your digestive system and keeps you up. Especially if you suffer from gastrointestinal issues. Ensure that you have dinner a few hours before bedtime.
Exercising regularly not only improves your physical health and stamina, but also stabilizes your mood. This aids in sleep regulation. Moderate exercise for 30 minutes daily can significantly increase your sleep quality! Just make sure that you exercise at least 2-3 hours before bedtime, to ensure that your brain has time to wind down before going to bed.
Bed = Sleep!
Limit your activities in your bed. Do not study or work while sitting on your bed. No phone calls or watching TV from your bed! Recondition your mind to associate “bed” and “bedroom” with sleep, instead of other activities. You can also have a night-time routine that you follow daily before going to bed. This can cue your mind when you are going to sleep.
Meditation and Journaling:
Constant worrying and anxiety can have deep ramifications on your sleep schedule. Try to ease your worries through different methods. Meditation can rescue your anxiety and calm your mood. It helps improve your mental health and sleep cycle.
You can also try journaling. Writing down all your feelings and worries before going to bed might help. You can also create a to-do list for the next day and reduce your tension.
Stop Looking at Screens!
Finally, stop looking at screens before bedtime! Laptops, smartphones, TV etc. emit blue light, which suppresses the production of melatonin. Melatonin is a hormone that influences our sleep-wake cycle. Thus, exposure to blue light (electronic screens) can significantly impact your sleep! It is tempting to scroll through social media before going to bed, but it can lead to insomnia. Avoid looking at screens for at least two hours before bed.
What if you have tried all of these lifestyle changes and still can't get quality sleep?
If you still have sleepless nights, you should talk to your doctor about trying an over-the-counter sleep aid. There is nothing wrong with taking medication for insomnia. However, make sure that you talk with your doctor about this and do not try to self-medicate!
In case, you are worried about side effects or creating a dependency on medication, you should try to talk with a psychologist. It will help you get a permanent solution for insomnia, and it can also help you take a look at underlying mental health issues.
A psychologist can teach you relaxation and meditation techniques that can help you tackle your insomnia. They might give you individual counselling to understand your issues and the causes of sleeplessness. They could also suggest Cognitive Behavioural Therapy as a permanent solution, especially if you are suffering from chronic insomnia. You can always visit our website or call us at +91 97414 76476 to talk to a mental health professional about this.