Insomnia means one’s inability to fall or stay asleep. This also includes having incessant sleep breaks and finding it difficult to fall asleep again. It is also a common sleep disorder.
Sleep is a necessity for the body and mind to function properly and adults need about seven to eight hours of sleep for the body to rejuvenate.
Lack or little of sleep can very well lead to a number or medical conditions like obesity, anxiety, heart diseases, diabetes and even accidents. This is why it is important to tackle insomnia as soon as symptoms are noticed in order to avoid the build up of these various health issues.
From personal experience, one can tell that anxiety, stress, workload, emotional and psychological causes (anger, trauma, mood swings) are some of the reasons why we may not be able to sleep well at night. When then can it be tagged Insomnia?
When you ask a new mum why she could not sleep at night, her answer will most likely be – because her baby cried all night. We can understand this as it is a situation that can be controlled by getting help with the baby or sleeping during the day.
However, if symptoms of insomnia occurs repeatedly for reasons you cannot understand and you are not staying awake willingly, then it is time to intentionally inculcate better lifestyle choices and/or see a medical professional.
Basic Symptoms of Insomnia
Insomnia has basic symptoms that are easily diagnosable but still, lack of awareness on the dangers of this very common sleep disorder can make one leave it unattended.
Some of the symptoms to look out for include:
- Suddenly waking up at night and not being able to go back to bed.
- Being tired or sleepy during the day.
- Clumsiness and inability to stay focused.
- Wake – sleep syndrome
- Being irritable
Do note that these symptoms can also occur on a one off basis. However, there is need to seek medical attention when the symptoms are re-occurring.
My Sleep / Insomnia Experience.
Personally, I have had my bouts of sleepless nights. From not being able to sleep until I am next to my mum – to using pillows and teddy bears to cuddle – to being scared and living the light on – to sleeping only when soft music is playing in the background- to intentionally staying up at night because I was scared of falling asleep – to not wanting to have bad dreams – to waking up abruptly and scared at night.
The last one was something I got worried about and decided to see if anyone had the same experience. I was shocked to find out that it was not a sole experience and there were lifestyle changes that can reduce sleep interruptions.
I also realized that these experiences were really just from my fears, poor sleep habits and imaginations I had stored up in my mind.
Currently, I now sleep very well with only intentional interruption and toilet breaks. My major lifestyle change includes:
- Going to bed early.
- Maintaining a particular sleep time ( I falter sometimes but I now know how my body works and can adjust easily).
- I stopped interrupting my sleep by waking up at night to use my phone or laptop for a long period then trying to go back to bed again. (This was a very bad habit for me).
- I also stopped taking green tea in the evening or around bed time (Not sure if this affected my sleep but it was one of the things I stopped doing).
Sleeping has been a lot peaceful and I feel like I was able to find a solution because I was very aware of the changes as they occurred.
It also helps to share your sleep experience with people who you know can proffer helpful tips. So, next time someone asks ‘how was your night?‘, it is an opportunity to truly find out if you need to re-evaluate your sleep pattern.
20 Simple Tips to Manage Insomnia.
It is important to emphasize on the need to see a medical professional if your symptoms are re-occurring and starts to limit your productivity.
On your part, you can try these simple tips to help you manage insomnia:
1. Make your room sleep friendly:
While there are people who can fall asleep literally anywhere, there are those who need to put in extra effort to ensure the environment is conducive for sleep. To manage insomnia, ensure the room is quiet, sleep in a dust free room and the light dim or switched off.
2. Reduce screen time:
Avoid using your phone /gadgets for long hours leading up to bed time. If possible, put phones on silent mode to avoid the notification tone.
3. Sleep in comfortable clothing/bedding:
Consider sleeping in comfortable nightwear and on beddings that aid sleep.
- Sleep on clean bedsheet and pillow case.
- Cotton or silk pajamas are very comfortable to sleep in.
- Dress to suit the weather so that you do not have to interrupt your sleep.
- Sleep in loose clothing.
- Use a firm mattress and comfortable pillow for your neck.
- Personal hygiene: shower, clean off makeup
4. Take prescribed medication:
Insomnia is usually self-diagnosable and can be remedied with lifestyle changes. However, it is advised to consult a doctor if symptoms are continuing.
If the doctor deem it fit, medications are administered and in other cases, you are scheduled for therapy sessions (cognitive behavioral therapy or light therapy).
Doctors are trained to proffer solutions but they will need your support to ensure you get better. Listen to them, take your medication religiously and do not self medicate.
5. Maintain an active lifestyle:
Staying active during the day can help your body naturally get ready for sleep. You know how children literally sleep off after playing too much, this can work for adults too.
Intentionally remain active during the day so that by night time, you are tired and can sleep well. Exercise is a good way to keep the body physically active.
6. Make better / healthier food choices:
Insomnia is not good for a person’s mental and physical health, but you definitely do not want to add stomach upset or undigested food to the list of things to manage at night.
Choose lighter meals that support easy digestion and aid sleep at night. The time you eat dinner is also important, eat early.
7. Avoid drinks/tea bags that can distort sleep:
For example, taking drinks that have caffeine when it is almost bedtime is not a good decision especially if you want to manage insomnia .
Some weight loss pills, tea bags and energy drinks can affect your sleep. The idea is to consume things that will aid sleep, not leave you active and awake at night.
8. Maintain a night routine / sleep pattern:
Irregular sleeping pattern and poor sleeping habit can distort your body system, this includes falling asleep at different times everyday.
For example, if you sleep throughout the day, you will most likely not fall asleep at night. Maintain a night routine than allows you fall asleep around the same time everyday.
Related: 4 Things To Do About Your Dreams
9. Listen to your body:
Our body has a way of letting us know it needs a break. Stay aware to notice the signs and do not force yourself to do more. Instead, take a short nap or relax.
In organizations where mental health is taken seriously, staff can be excused from work temporarily as long as he/she is not abusing privileges. Rest when you need to.
10. Use sleep /meditation apps:
Interestingly, there are apps created with automated music, sounds or voices that are soothing and can aid sleep.
Some apps can be customized and allow you choose an automated female or male voice. You can check out: Better Me, Meditation and Sound by Verv, Pillow Automatic Sleep Tracker, Sleep Better, Calm App, White Noise etc There are lots of options on the IOS and play store.
11. Try therapeutic methods:
From a very soothing massage, burning scented candles, taking a warm bath, listening to soft music, reading a book or drinking warm milk to clear chest congestion e.t.c all these can set a relaxing atmosphere and help you manage insomnia.
12. Avoid conversations or news stories that can trigger mood swing or worry before bedtime.
13. Sleep in the company of a loved one especially if you have nightmares or frequent sleep – wake breaks.
14. Do not make it a habit to sleep off on your couch or work desk.
15. Know the status of your mental/physical health. Other mental health/ medical issues can trigger insomnia so it is important to know your health status.
16. Avoid social habits that encourage staying out late at night, heavy drinking or smoking. This is important if you want to manage insomnia.
17. If you need to work at night, make sure you have enough rest during the day. Do not work round the clock.
18. Journaling is a good night routine. Write out things that happened in the day or your symptoms. This can be shared with your doctor.
19. Limit the activities on your bed to just sleeping/relaxing alone or with your partner.
20. Remain calm. Do not panic, instead seek assistance when you do not understand new changes.
Remember that re-occurring symptoms of insomnia is harmful to the body and mind in the long run. If it begins to affect your productivity at work or school, please take a break and seek medical assistance.
Do not be tempted to stretch the body more than it can go, mistakes can occur in the process which is worse.
Mental and Physical health should always be top priority.
Share your thoughts in the comment section.
What helps you sleep better at night?
Do you have a night time routine?
I will love to read from you.