08/03/2021 / Mental Health and Wellness
Sleep, like food and water, is one of the basic necessities of life. We can’t survive without sleep. Sound sleep ensures that we are well-rested, happy, healthy, and ready to do our best on the next day. However, not everyone is fortunate enough to experience 7-8 hours of uninterrupted sleep every night. Sleeplessness is torture that nearly everyone has experienced at some point in their lives. According to a report published in India Today, about 79% of people living in Delhi, India report a disturbed sleeping pattern at night and feel sleepy or tired during office hours. The lack of proper sleep is termed Insomnia. In medical literature, this term is used in a variety of ways. Most often, it is used to describe the frequency with which a person wakes up throughout the night, feeling difficulty falling asleep, and feeling sluggish the next morning.
Based on the frequency and duration of the sleep disturbance, Insomnia is generally of two types, Acute and Chronic. Along with this, many subcategories of Insomnia also exist like maintenance, onset, and co-morbid Insomnia.
Acute Insomnia: It refers to a sleeping disorder lasting for a day or few weeks. This occurs when a person experiences stress, trauma, or physical changes in one’s life such as illness, death of a relative, jet lag, etc. It may also occur due to some medicines, more than usual caffeine intake, pain, environmental changes, etc.
Chronic Insomnia: It is a long-term sleep disturbance in which a person experiences difficulty falling asleep at least three nights a week for about a month or more. Chronic Insomnia may occur because of mental health conditions like stress, anxiety, depression, etc.
Maintenance Insomnia: In this condition, the person feels difficulty in staying asleep and has trouble getting back to sleep. Such a condition makes the person worried about not getting enough sleep, which in turn further disturbs the sleeping pattern. It can be caused by depression or other conditions such as GERD, asthma, limb movement disorder, etc.
Onset Insomnia: When a person has trouble initiating sleep then it is called Onset insomnia. This type of Insomnia can be acute or chronic, resulting from mental health disorders such as depression, stress, or anxiety.
Co-morbid Insomnia: The existence of Insomnia with other diseases (both medical and psychological) is called Co-morbid Insomnia. Having co-morbid Insomnia makes the treatment difficult for both conditions.
Apart from the difficulty in sleeping, the following symptoms are also observed in people suffering from Insomnia:
A feeling of tiredness and fatigue
Waking up too early in the morning
Finding it hard to concentrate on daily tasks or studies
Many physiological, psychological as well as environmental factors can cause Insomnia. Some of them are listed below:
Unhealthy lifestyle and sleeping pattern, including too much screen time before bed.
Mental health disorders like anxiety and depression.
Some chronic diseases such as diabetes, heart ailments, cancer, etc.
Stress relating to relationships, jobs, financial problems, etc.
Certain medications or drugs.
Pain in body parts due to injury or any disease such as arthritis and fibromyalgia.
Hormonal changes as in periods, menopause, thyroid disease, etc.
Neurological conditions like Parkinson’s disease or Alzheimer’s disease.
Lack of proper sleep for a long time disturbs the overall functioning of the body and harms both the physical and mental health of an individual. Insomnia, if untreated, can lead to diabetes, mood disorders, obesity, hypertension, heart ailments, stroke, accidents, etc.
Insomnia can be treated by both medications and therapies, depending upon the severity. The doctors may advise Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT) to treat Insomnia which is the first line of treatment for adults. Sometimes, sleep hygiene training is also recommended, which helps in changing some habits such as avoiding tea or coffee at bedtime, minimizing the screen time (both mobile phones and television) before going to bed, avoiding exercise at night, etc.
Medicines or drugs may also be prescribed to treat Insomnia. The antihistamines like diphenhydramine can be used to cure Insomnia. Other drugs such as eszopiclone, zolpidem, etc. are also used to treat Insomnia. But these medicines can have severe side effects, so it is advised to consult a physician before starting any medication.
Before going for medicines, certain home remedies must be considered to treat Insomnia as they do not have any side effects and can be followed for a longer duration.
Trying out some home remedies or making specific changes in the lifestyle are found to cure Insomnia to a greater extent. Follow these tips to sleep peacefully:
Make a habit of walking for at least 15-20 after dinner in the open air. Make sure to look at the stars, the night sky, the moon, and feel the breeze.
Have a handful of nuts before going to sleep, as it helps in secreting serotonin. Serotonin is a hormone that stabilizes our mood, makes us happy, and also allows us to sleep.
Having a glass of lukewarm milk with a pinch of turmeric powder before going to bed is also effective in making someone sleep peacefully.
Use black-colored cutlery set for dinner.
Having few slices of figs at night can be effective for falling asleep as it contains potassium, calcium, magnesium, and iron, which helps in muscle relaxation and increases blood flow.
Fruits like banana and watermelon are also helpful in falling asleep.
Massaging our earlobes for 5-10 minutes releases melatonin (sleep hormone) and can make us fall asleep instantly.
Meditation is also helpful for treating Insomnia and other sleeping disorders.
Aromatherapy is also found effective for Insomnia. You can massage essential oils such as chamomile, sandalwood, lavender, cedarwood, etc., before going to bed or light scented candles in the room for better sleep.
Insomnia is a severe health issue resulting from a wide range of health problems, both physical and mental. Social issues and lifestyle factors can also cause Insomnia. Not sleeping adequately can cause several issues, ranging from feeling sluggish to chronic illness. Therefore, Insomnia must be treated by consulting a qualified doctor and should not be left as it is.
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