Unless you’re wondering, sleeplessness -or insomnia- is something we all experience every now and then and is nothing to worry about. Insomnia is a sleep disorder associated with difficulties initiating or maintaining sleep. Initially, it can persist for a few days. However, when it continues beyond that, it should become a cause for concern. Brought about by depression, chronic pain, working night shifts, medication, drugs, caffeine and others less pronounced factors, this disorder is largely psychological and therefore treatable. The common consequences of insomnia are irritability, sleepiness, mood swings, tiredness, lack of concentration, memory loss, and anxiety. The sooner you get it treated, the better! So, how much sleep do I need?
Drawing The Line: Acute And Chronic Insomnia
The dividing line between acute and chronic insomnia is so fine that at times it’s hard to tell the difference. Nonetheless, one inevitably has to classify sleep disorders so as to find the most appropriate treatment. From the outset, there are two main types of insomnia. One is related to an underlying medical condition, whilst the other isn’t directly associated with any health problems, occurring on and off and from time to time. In the former case, sleeplessness is actually triggered by such conditions as cancers, brain injury, arthritis, hormonal imbalance, heartburn or heart disease, to name a few. From here, classification is a simple case of creating a distinction between acute and chronic insomnia. Acute insomnia is intermittent and lasts for a day or two. On the other hand, chronic sleeplessness is more severe, going on for several days and, sometimes, for weeks on end.
Weighing The Risk Factors
Besides the obvious causes of sleeplessness, certain people have a higher risk of experiencing it than others. I’m referring to:
* Elderly persons over the age of 60.
* People who travel between different time zones regularly.
* Workers of late night shifts.
* People with a history of mental health complications, including -but not limited to- depression.
Get To The Root Cause Of The Problem
Early diagnosis and treatment is the key to dealing with insomnia. Schedule an appointment with a doctor the moment you realize that you have a problem. On arrival, you’ll in most cases undergo a medical exam, which will be followed by a casual talk about your sleeping patterns. In attempting to get to the root cause of the problem, your physician may suggest that you keep a sleep diary in which you’ll be expected to record sleeping and waking times. Notable entries would include: sleep times, the use of medication, eating habits and incidents of abrupt awakening. In the case of chronic instances of insomnia, an evaluation of your medical history will be necessary as there may be an inherent health condition behind it.
In the same way maintaining healthy hygiene helps to minimise bacterial infection, so is good sleep hygiene an excellent precursor to a good night’s sleep. Good sleep hygiene promotes the development of normal sleeping habits without the need for therapy and medicinal intervention. Adopting behaviors that create a conducive environment for sleep means:
1. Exercise. Rigorous exercise leads to tiredness, and that, in turn, makes it easier to fall asleep.
2. Emptying the bowels and bladder before going to bed. In addition to this, avoid beverages before bedtime.
3. Steer clear of caffeine, alcohol, and nicotine. Against popular belief, these substances create dependency and may make your condition much worse when you don’t have access to them. The same applies to sleeping tablets, which should only be taken cautiously.
4. Eliminate noise. If the neighbor’s dog is a nag, you should consider buying heavy duty earplugs.
Alternative Medicine: A Balanced Approach To Insomnia
It’s common for doctors to prescribe sleeping tablets for their patients, after all, sleeplessness is a passing storm for most people. But I’d be the last to recommend a medicinal approach to the problem as it only provides a temporary fix. Following a balanced approach reduces your reliance on prescription medicine and helps you to take control of the situation. By having good sleep hygiene and consulting regularly with a sleep therapist, you’ll be well on your way to a good night’s rest and a more productive day the following morning.