Insomnia and How to Treat It?

Insomnia is a widespread sleeping disorder that regularly affects millions of people throughout the world. According to the National Sleep Foundation (NSF), insomnia is the inability to get the sleep you need to wake up fresh and ready to take on the world.

According to the NCBI, approx. 40% of people have some kind of psychiatric problems co-existing with insomnia every year in the US. In some cases, insomnia itself is the reason behind some psychiatric disorders.

Acute vs. Chronic Insomnia

Insomnia varies in how long it lasts and how often it occurs. It can be a short-term (acute insomnia) or can last for a long time (chronic insomnia). It can also come and go in your life, with periods of time.

Acute insomnia can last from one night to a few weeks whereas a person suffering from chronic insomnia has difficulty in falling asleep at least three nights a week for a month or longer.

Regardless of the fact that your insomnia is acute or chronic, it’s really important to consult with a doctor as it can affect your work, social relationships, and health. Insomnia can also lead to many health issues including depression, anxiety, allergies, and pain.

Symptoms of insomnia

  • Having difficulty in falling asleep despite being tired.
  • Not feeling refreshed after sleep.
  • Trouble getting back to sleep after waking up in the night.
  • Feeling drowsiness, fatigue, or irritability during daytime.
  • Relying on sleeping pills, sleep aids, or alcohol to fall asleep.

Common causes of insomnia

  • Anxiety and depression are two of the most common causes of chronic insomnia. Other common emotional and psychological causes include life stress, worry, anger, grief, bipolar disorder, and trauma.
  • Medical problems or illness can also contribute to insomnia.
  • Prescription medications such as antidepressants, stimulants for ADHD, corticosteroids, thyroid hormone, high blood pressure medications, and some contraceptives can interfere with sleep. Common over-the-counter drugs such as cold and flu medications that contain alcohol, pain relievers that contain diuretics, caffeine (Excedrin, Midol,) and slimming pills can lead to insomnia.

Treatment options for insomnia

Treatment options include behavior and lifestyle changes, medicines, and complementary medicines. Improve your sleep by following these tips:

  • Try relaxation exercises such as meditation, breathing exercises, progressive muscle relaxation etc.
  • Choose a healthier way of thinking. Healthy thinking is a way to help you stay well or cope with a health problem by changing how you think. You can also go for cognitive-behavioral therapy. It’s a type of counseling that can help you know why you have sleep problems and can help you to deal with them.
  • Lifestyle changes are simple things you can do to sleep better. These include changing your sleeping schedule, quit smoking and drinking, eating healthy diet, and regular exercise. Moreover, watch what and when you eat and drink.
  • Avoid caffeine.
  • Avoid frequent use of sedatives.
  • Avoid taking naps in the day time.
  • Avoid large meals before bedtime.

What If Non-drug Treatment Fails?

If you are still having difficulty getting a good night’s sleep, consult with your doctor. The cause of your insomnia will need to be determined and you may need medication to help you sleep. Even if medication is used for insomnia, sleep hygiene principles should still be followed and can provide added benefit.

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