Expert Tips To Avoid Insomnia
Ever wondered why we say ‘Goodnight, sweet dreams’? Well, let me tell you why.We spend about one-third of our life sleeping and we want it to be as pleasant as possible. We don’t want nightmares or anything else disturbing our peaceful sleep. Our mind and body relaxes and rejuvenates when we sleep. Healing of mind and body also occurs during sleep.
In short, good ‘quality’ and ‘quantity’ of sleep improve physical, cognitive, and emotional health.
So, just like food and water, sleep is also a basic need.
And yet, 35% of the population suffer from insomnia (as per, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention). The ever-changing lifestyle and intrusion of modern gadgets have only aggravated the situation.
A lad would sing:
“Sleep I cannot get,
Everything I forget,
My heart runs fast,
I’m awake midnight past,
I want more coffee,
I want more toffee,
Restless am I,
In Love am I?”
So, we need to tell him- “No you are not in love, you are actually suffering from insomnia!”
What is Insomnia?
It is a sleep disorder that is characterised by difficulty falling and/or staying asleep. It is a person’s perception about the satisfaction he or she derives from the quantity/quality of sleep.
When can a person say he/she is suffering from sleeplessness?
- If the sleep lag time (the time between lying on bed and falling asleep) is >15 mins.
- If there are frequent nighttime awakenings ( >30 minutes in total).
- If the sleep is not refreshing.
- If a person experiences daytime drowsiness and tiredness.
- If the total sleep time is <6.5 hours.
What are the causes of insomnia/sleeplessness?
There is a variety of physical causes like painful conditions, heart problems, hormonal issues, skin problems, sleep apnea, usage of drugs such as alcohol, tobacco; mental health issues like depression, anxiety, et cetera; psychosocial crisis or losses, which lead to insomnia.
Treating these problems/conditions takes care of insomnia too. But, most of the times there is no physical cause behind insomnia.
Why does it happen?
Normal nighttime sleep includes many mini-arousals that are many seconds long— these mini-arousals are as many as 3-15 per hour. This happens due to the change in brain wave activity.
But, most of the time, we aren't even aware of them, and they don't affect sleep quality. But as we age, these mini-arousals happen more frequently and can become full-fledged awakenings for reasons like- stress, alcohol, noise, light.
DOS And DON’TS For A Refreshing Sleep
Here are the top 2 golden rules for a good night’s sleep:
- Go to bed only when you are actually SLEEPY. But, have a consistent bedtime.
- DO NOT use the bed for anything else (for watching TV, talking on the phone, using social media, worrying, except for sex) but sleep.
Maintain A Sleep Diary
Maintain a logbook of daily sleep habits including the time taken to fall asleep, the number of awakenings in the middle of the night, daytime drowsiness, total sleep time, and the number of caffeinated drinks consumed during the day.
Stimulus control can be exercised by:
- Not napping during the day.
- Avoiding alcohol within several hours of bedtime.
- Not consuming (within several hours of bedtime) caffeinated beverages or medications that have stimulating effects.
- Not smoking within several hours of bedtime.
- Exercising in the late afternoon or early evening and not later, because exercise has a stimulating and alerting effect on the mind. A short walk or light stretching is sufficient.
- Gradually reducing your activity level before going to bed. Do things that are quiet and relaxing. This is called the “transition period” before going to sleep.
- Maintaining a comfortable temperature in the room.
- Switching off excessive light or reducing the sound that may disturb your sleep.
- Not going to bed hungry or after a large meal, as they can inhibit sleep. But, if you feel hungry, a light snack or warm milk is appropriate.
- Not snacking in the middle of the night as this causes you to get up and walk in the middle of the night to fetch food. This alerts your mind and disturbs sleep.
Follow A Proper Routine
- Set alarm and wake up at about the same time every morning. This is irrespective of the amount of sleep you get during the night.
- Follow a bedtime routine. If you don’t have one, make one. It includes activities like personal hygiene, checking lights, and locking doors. These things will make you feel safe and secure. Thus, it will add to your relaxation.
- Go to bed at almost the same time daily.
These measures are a part of what we call, ‘sleep hygiene’. Follow these simple tips, and you will be able to keep ‘insomnia’ at bay. Hope you have a good night’s sleep and sweet dreams.
Dr Jankhana Hakani is a Consultant Psychiatrist and Counsellor. She is also a Health Council Member at Healthhunt.