What is Insomnia
Insomnia is defined as a “dissatisfaction with sleep quantity or quality” and is “associated with difficulty initiating or maintaining sleep [or] early-morning waking with the inability to return to sleep” according to the Clinical Guidelines Committee of the American College of Physicians. Between 6-10% of US adults suffer from diagnosed insomnia and experience side effects such as chronic fatigue, poor cognitive function, mood disturbance, and/or general distress.
Adults require between 7-9 hours of sleep each night, which can be extremely hard to get for any busy person, but even more so for someone with insomnia. There are a variety of things that can contribute to insomnia such as stress, depression, trauma, environmental factors, or even your daily routine. Fortunately, there are also a number of simple changes you can make to help fight the sleepless nights.
How To Fight It
While it’s not advised to use a screen prior to bed, if you are having difficulty falling asleep there are a number of meditation apps you can download to your phone or tablet (just keep the screen on ‘night mode’ to help lessen the harsh light). These apps have a library full of guided meditations, many of which are aimed specifically at helping you fall asleep naturally.
Another option is to invest in your bedroom to create a space that promotes sleep. Hang blackout curtains to block light, use a diffuser for essential oils, or get a white noise machine to help down out external sounds.
If you have no problem falling asleep, but find that you wake up throughout the night, there are additional steps you can take to help you fall back asleep. If you find that you are tense when you sleep, try to flex and release your muscles a few times to help your body relax. Also, consider investing in a good mouthguard to keep you from grinding or clenching your teeth overnight, as it can cause headaches and jaw aches that may wake you up earlier than you’d like.
Keep a notepad on your nightstand if you often wake up in a panic over your to-do list. You can write down all of your thoughts on the notepad, to ensure yourself you won’t forget anything on the list by the time you wake up. Additionally, you can use this as a sort of diary to just write down any obsessive thoughts you may be having, which will help you release them and allow you to go back to sleep.
Finally, if you find that you wake up early in the morning, and can’t go back to sleep for that extra few hours, keep a book on your nightstand that will lull you back to sleep. It’s important to pick something that is interesting, but not necessarily a cliffhanger that will you keep you glued to the book - making it even more difficult to fall back asleep.
For those adults who are not one of the 6-10% diagnosed with insomnia, there are a number of small changes that can be done to help fight the sleepless nights, without the use of medication. However, if you’ve tried everything you can think of and you still feel like a zombie, it may be time to see the doctor. There are a variety of physical factors that can impact a person’s quantity and/or quality of sleep, and it’s better to address them than to ignore them.