Have you ever had trouble falling asleep at night? Perhaps you wake up in the middle of the night and then have trouble getting back to sleep. Or, maybe you wake in the wee hours of the morning and just know that you're up for the day. Trouble getting a good night's sleep -- or insomnia -- can be all these things. It can last just a few days or can become chronic -- lasting for three weeks or more.
Anyone whoís had
a night of tossing and turning will probably agree: quality sleep is
essential for physical and emotional health. Most people know this first hand
because just about everyone experiences transient, or temporary, insomnia at
some point in their lives. This is typically induced by the environment or
events in our lives such as high stress incidents, illness, pain, caffeine,
alcohol, smoking, disruptions to the sleep environment or to your circadian
rhythm (the 24-hour rhythmic regulation of our body). Transient insomnia most
often goes away when the factor that is causing it, such as stress or pain,
For some people, however, insomnia is much more than a temporary problem.
About ten to 15 percent of the population experiences insomnia as a serious,
ongoing and chronic problem. In this case, communicating with a physician
becomes important to finding a successful treatment because insomnia may be a
symptom of another medical condition. In fact, insomnia is often considered a
symptom rather than a disease. It is associated with certain illnesses and
medical conditions such as depression, an enlarged prostate, congestive heart
failure, emphysema, Parkinsonís disease, hyperthyroidism and stroke.
When insomnia is chronic, it should be treated by a physician. Often this is
done with behavior therapy as well as medication.
For most of us who suffer periodically from transient insomnia, however,
there are a number of things we can try in order to get our sleep schedule
back on the right track.
Insomnia refers to an inability to sleep undisturbed during the period when sleep should normally occur and when there's nothing else to keep you from sleeping -- such as loud noise or bright lights. People with insomnia usually feel tired and sluggish after a difficult night. This can affect work performance and personal well-being.
avoid caffeine, alcohol and smoking. They all can disrupt sleep, making
insomnia more likely.
Another way to ward off insomnia is to establish a regular exercise routine.
Try to get at least 30 minutes of moderate exercise a day, and make sure that
you exercise at least an hour before you go to bed. Studies show that itís
best to include aerobic, strengthening and stretching components to your
exercise plan. If you are out of shape or lead a sedentary lifestyle, consult
with your physician before instituting an exercise plan.
Other ways to ensure a good nightís sleep have to do directly with the set up
of your bedroom and bedtime routine. Make sure your bedroom is
well-ventilated and dark (no shining streetlights to wake you at midnight).
Make sure the temperature is comfortable and especially not overly warm. Itís
important to establish a regular bedtime routine which you follow each night.
This helps to prepare you physically and mentally for sleep. When lying in
bed, or right before going to bed, make a mental effort to let go of all
stress from the day. Take a few deep, relaxing breaths. If you normally read
or watch TV before retiring at night, donít do it in bed. You want to train
your mind and body that the bed is for sleeping. Therefore, if you do have
trouble falling asleep, or you wake and canít get back to sleep, donít lie in
bed and toss and turn. After about 25 minutes of lying in bed awake, get up.
Spend a short time with a calming activity such as reading or relaxation
breathing. After a short while, go back to bed and try again to go to sleep.
The writer Fran Leibowitz once joked that life is what we do when we canít
get to sleep. For the many people who suffer from insomnia, a good nightís
sleep is anything but funny. We all have a basic, inborn need for sleep. Most
of us require about six to eight hours each night for our bodies and minds to
regenerate and prepare for the next day. Insomnia can rob us of not only
sleep but productivity, performance and quality of life.
Leading a healthy lifestyle which includes regular exercise, avoiding
caffeine, alcohol and smoking, and establishing a regular bedtime routine can
all help you have a restful, sleep-filled night. If you suffer from
insomnia and feel it may be chronic, or that it may be caused by an
underlying medical condition or illness, consult with your primary care physician.