Many people have difficulty sleeping, no matter how tired they are. Almost everyone has spent at least one of their nights lying in bed for hours, anxiously watching the clock and wishing to sleep off. Some people get lucky to play away with time by engaging themselves in watching movies and gist with friends in their situation. However, people having difficulty with their sleep need help because insomnia can take a toll on your mood, energy and even ability to function during the day and this can have negative impacts on your physical and mental health such as weight gain, dizziness and at times memory problems. You don’t have to live with this problem for the rest of your life, there are many solutions out there on how to combat Insomnia and you will find yourself having good night rest again.
Healthy sleep is essential for good health, restoration of the body and mind. There are two normal stages of sleep which are:
- Rapid eye movement (REM)
- Non Rapid eye movement (non- REM)
Good sleepers are said to fall asleep quickly, usually in less than 5-15 minutes. They enter Non Rapid eye movement before proceeding to rapid eye movement (REM).
WHAT HAPPENS DURING NON RAPID EYE MOVEMENT STAGE (NON-REM)?
There are three stages in Non Rapid eye movement sleep.
1ST Non Rapid eye movement stage. During the 1st Non Rapid eye movement stage which is the lightest stage of your sleep, your eyes are closed. Though it is easy for you to wake up during this stage when your sleep is disrupted and this phase last for 5- 10 minutes before proceeding to the second stage of Non Rapid eye movement.
2ND Non Rapid eye movement stage. During the 2ND Non Rapid eye movement, your sleep cannot be easily disrupted unlike 1ST Non Rapid eye movement stage. You are also in light sleep, your body temperature begins to decrease, your breathing is slow and steady, heart rate and blood pressure also begins to fall. This means your body is gradually getting ready for deep sleep and you are proceeding to 3RD stage of Non Rapid eye movement.
3RD Non Rapid eye movement stage. During the 3RD Non Rapid eye movement, you have already fallen into deep sleep and during this stage, it is not easy for you to wake up if someone tries to wake you up. However, if the person succeeds in waking you up, you will be totally disoriented for some minutes before you regain your consciousness.
It is during the 3RD Non rapid eye movement stage that the body regrows and repairs tissues, builds muscle and bone and also strengthens body immune system. During the deep sleep stage, the body muscles are relaxed and body movements do occur. Parasomnias also occur during this stage such as sleep talking or somniloquy, sleeping waking and night terror.
WHAT HAPPENS DURING RAPID EYE MOVEMENT SLEEP STAGE?
Rapid eye movement stage often known as dreaming stage occurs between 45 to 90 minutes after you fall asleep. Though your eyes are closed, eyes movement is rapid and your body is relaxed. Breathing is seen to be slow and may even cease for a while. However, the heart pumps more blood to the brain and less blood to the body during rapid eye movement. In this stage, the brain is more active than stage 2 & 3 of Non Rapid eye movement so it is easy to dream in this stage. In some cases, some men are likely to have penile erection in this stage.
Rapid Eye Movement sleep stage plays a major key role in memory function and learning ability since the brain is active and this is also the stage when your brain merge and processes information from the previous day so that it can be stored in your long-term memory.
Although, there is no normal amount of sleep it is important to know that what matters is sleeping well and sleep duration varies with age. For instance an infant is expected to sleep more than an adult.
WHAT IS SLEEP DISORDER?
Sleep disorder is a term used to explain sleep conditions that happens due to inability to get enough sleep. Sleep disorder can be caused by a health problem or by undergoing too much stress. Although, it is normal to often experience difficulty sleeping, but it is not normal to usually have problems getting to sleep at night and also to wake up feeling exhausted.
SYMPTOMS AND SIGNS OF A SLEEP DISORDER
Almost everyone face occasional sleeping difficulty, how can you now tell whether the one you are facing is a minor or major problem. Also, how do you know if it is a sign of a health problem?
If you are experiencing any of the following symptoms and signs, it means you are dealing with a sleep disorder. They are:
- Do you feel exhausted occasionally?
- Do you react slowly to situation?
- Do you have trouble when dealing with your emotions?
- Do people often tell you how tired you look?
- Do you feel sleepy or irritable during the day?
- Do you feel like taking caffeinated beverages to be active?
- Do you feel really tired or feel sleepy while driving?
- Do you feel like taking nap almost every day?
If your answer to the listed question is mostly “Yes”, then you are likely to be facing sleep disorder.
TYPES OF SLEEP DISORDERS
There are various types of sleep disorder. However, the common ones are:
- Restless legs syndrome (RLS)
- Sleep apnea
Out of the listed sleep disorder we will elaborate on Insomnia. We will be dealing with the following:
What is Insomnia?
Causes of Insomnia
Types of Insomnia
Symptoms and sign of Insomnia
Diagnosing of Insomnia
Treatment of Insomnia
How to combat Insomnia
WHAT IS INSOMNIA?
Insomnia is one of the common sleeping disorders which is the inability to fall asleep or stay asleep at night. Insomnia is characterized with sleeping difficulty resulting in unrefreshing or non-restorative sleep. Since there is no specific range for a normal amount of sleep, insomnia doesn’t depend on the number of hours an individual use to sleep because different people need different amount of sleep. However, insomnia is defined by the quality of your sleep and the way you feel after sleeping. Although, some people believe insomnia to be having difficulty in falling asleep or difficulty in maintaining sleep.
However, insomnia is said to be one of the most common sleep complaint and it is not a single sleep disorder. Insomnia can be caused by another underlying health problem and this differs from one person to another.
CAUSES OF INSOMNIA
Insomnia is not a disease condition but a symptom of some certain health problem. Insomnia can be caused by other sleep disorders or mood disorders such as depression or anxiety. It could also be caused by the medication you take, drinking too much caffeinated drinks and a serious health condition. Other causes of insomnia include:
- Psychological conditions like anxiety, stress, depression and over-stimulation
- Medical illnesses such as chronic obstructive lung disease and asthma, gastroesophageal reflux, congestive heart failure, arthritis, hot flashes and other causes of chronic pain
- Stimulants like nicotine and caffeine
- Neurological disorders such as strokes, dementia and Parkinson’s disease
- Certain medication such as bronchodilators, decongestants, antidepressants, beta blockers, steroids and diuretics. Inadequate use of sleeping pills can also cause rebound insomnia
- Sleep disorders such as Restless legs syndrome (RLS), periodic limb movement disorder and obstructive sleep apnea.
However, insomnia can be cured irrespective of its cause. You can combat Insomnia without having to rely on sleep specialists or turning to prescriptions. You can cure yourself by improving your sleep hygiene, learning to relax and revising your daytime habits.
TYPES OF INSOMNIA
There are two types of insomnia. These are:
- Primary insomnia
- Secondary insomnia
A person is diagnosed with primary insomnia when the sleep problem is not directly associated with any underlying health condition.
A person is diagnosed with secondary insomnia when the sleeping problem is associated with underlying health conditions such as arthritis, depression, cancer, asthma and heartburn.Insomnia can vary depending on how frequent an individual experience sleeping problem. It can be Acute Insomnia or Chronic Insomnia.
Acute insomnia which is also referred to as short-term insomnia can last from one night to a few days. While, chronic insomnia which is also referred to as long-term insomnia can last thrice in a week for 12 weeks or even longer.
SYMPTOMS AND SIGNS OF INSOMNIA
A restless night and wakeful night is one of the most obvious symptoms others include:
- Having difficulty falling asleep at night despite being tired
- Waking up occasionally during the night
- Feeling sleepy during the day because of inadequate sleep at night
- Finding it difficult to sleep back when awakened
- Body tiredness
- Depending on sleeping pills or alcohol to fall asleep
- Having difficulty concentrating during the day
- Having problems concentrating at work and forgetfulness
- Grumpiness, fatigue and irritability
- Unrefreshing sleep and depression
Although, there is no specific test to diagnose insomnia. If you think you may have insomnia, it’s important for you to have a thorough medical evaluation and talk to your health care provider. You may need a general health checkup such as physical examination, medical history and sleep history. You may also be asked to keep track of your sleep by getting a sleep diary to keep track of your sleep pattern for a few weeks.
TREATMENT FOR INSOMNIA
Using medications can help you to get rid of sleep problems. There are several sleeping pills available over the counter. However, don’t engage yourself in self medications, seek your health care provider or doctor’s advice.
There are some over the counter medications that can worsen your health condition such as diphenhydramine or doxylamine which contains antihistamines. Long term use of these drugs have side effects on one’s health like dry mouth, constipation, daytime sedation and also difficulty urinating.
If you really need to use a drug, it is advisable that you let your doctor prescribe the appropriate sleeping medication for you and also use it as recommended.
HOW TO USE MEDICATION
- Use medications only as a backup
- Try to use the smallest effective dose
- Don’t use pill every night, rather take medications only when it is really necessary.
- Stop using medications after two to three weeks
- Try to discontinue medication in a gradual process to prevent rebound insomnia.
Good sleep hygiene might help you get a good night’s rest. Here are some simple tips to get a sound sleep.
- Stick to a convenient and regular sleeping time and waking time
- Avoid bright lights before bedtime
- Bedroom is for sleeping and lovemaking. Bedroom is not for reading or watching TV, so avoid watching TV during bedtime as this may affect your sleep.
- Don’t take too much nap during the day, if possible avoid sleeping during daytime.
- Eat a healthy food and avoid taking caffeinated drink especially after mid-afternoon.
- Avoid drinking alcohol after dinnertime. Most people believe alcohol to be a sedative. However, alcohol can actually impair the quality of sleep.
- Engage yourself in exercise. Exercise early in the morning and then some stretching exercise or yoga to relax your body and mind at bedtime.
- Be sure you are sleeping on a comfortable bed and make sure that your bedroom is not too bright. Use a dim light in your bedroom during bedtime. This will allow you to fall asleep quickly.
- Worry less when you are trying to sleep. Keep your mind closed and believe everything will be fine. This will help you get enough sleep. However, having random negative thought will make it difficult to fall asleep.
HOW TO COMBAT INSOMNIA
- WAKE UP AT THE SAME TIME EVERYDAY. By sticking to a sleep schedule, this will help your body to adapt to a particular bedtime. Though it might be tempting to sleep late on weekends, most especially if you have a bad night during the week. Keep your bed time consistent from day to day don’t try to play catch up by sleeping for 8 hours. Even if you do not suffer from insomnia, you should always endeavor to stick to a particular bedtime.
- ENSURE YOUR BEDROOM IS QUIET, DARK AND COOL. An uncomfortable bedroom or bed will definitely take a toll on your sleep. Also a noisy environment and a bright bedroom can interfere with your sleep. Try earplugs or sound machine to mask outside noise, also get a ventilator or a fan to keep your room cool. By making your sleeping environment comfortable, it will also enable you to have a peaceful sleep and at the same time be comfortable.
- AVOID OR LIMIT NAPS. Taking nap during the day can make it more difficult to fall asleep at night. Although naps seem like an easy way to catch up on interrupted sleep, it makes it hard to fall asleep at night. However, if you can’t avoid taking nap, try to limit a nap not to be more than 25 minutes and don’t take nap after 3pm. It is important that you maintain a regular sleep pattern, though taking nap won’t be helping because napping has negative effect on bedtime sleep.
- AVOID OR LIMIT ACTIVITIES IN BEDROOM. The bedroom is for sleeping and lovemaking and that’s it. Avoid checking messages on social media, making phone calls, balancing checkbook and study. Also Avoid argument with your spouse or family in the bedroom and also avoid watching TV. However, if it is a must that you do one of the following, do it before bedtime because all these activities can increase alertness and thereby make it difficult for you to fall asleep.
- TURN OFF ALL ELECTRONICS SCREEN AT LEAST AN HOUR BEFORE BEDTIME. Electronics screens emit a blue light that is capable of disrupting your body’s production of hormones called Melatonin. However, instead of watching television or pressing your phone, iphone, tablet or computer choose another relaxing activity such as reading your Bible or Qur’an.
- AVOID EATING OR DRINKING BEFORE GOING TO BED. Avoid eating late dinner or snacks before going to bed as this might activate the digestive system and keep you up. Even if you are suffering from some disease conditions like gastroesophageal reflux or heartburn it is very necessary you stop eating or drinking right before bedtime, as eating and drinking before bedtime can worsen your symptoms. Also avoid drinking too much fluid before bedtime as this can overwhelm your bladder, requiring frequent visits to the bathroom and this might interrupt your sleep.
- ELIMINATE OR LIMIT ALCOHOL AND STIMULANTS LIKE CAFFEINE AND NICOTINE. All these can make it difficult to sleep and the effects can last for several hours, perhaps up to 24 hours. Alcohol can have a sedative effect for the first few minutes of consumption. However, it can lead to frequent arousal and non- peaceful night’s sleep. Caffeine also makes it hard to fall asleep and also causes frequent arousal. You should also reduce or completely stop the consumption of nicotine. However, if you are on medications that acts like stimulants like asthma inhalers or decongestants, ask your doctor for the proper way of using it in other to minimize the effect on your sleep.
- EAT HEALTHY FOOD AND AVOID EATING HEAVY MEALS AND BEVERAGES BEFORE BED. A healthy diet makes it easier for you to fall asleep and have a comfortable night rest. Too much salty snacks and sugary food can initiate your metabolism and thereby make it difficult for you to fall asleep. However, a light snack may help you avoid heartburn and constipation. Also avoid drinking heavy liquid, drink less liquid before bedtime to avoid frequent urinating.
- ENGAGE IN REGULAR EXERCISE. Regular exercise can help to improve your sleep quality and sleep duration. However, avoid exercising immediately before bedtime as this may have a stimulant effect on your body. Always engage in exercises very early in the morning and three hours before bedtime.
- GET UP WHEN YOU ARE NOT SLEEPING. Rather than lying in bed when you are not sleeping, get out of the bed. Avoid staying too long in bed if you are not sleeping. Try to sleep as much as you think your body needs and when you wake up, instead of ruminating, get up and engage yourself in your desire activities.
- AVOID TAKING YOUR WORRY TO YOUR BEDROOM. Always put your worries aside when you get to your bedroom. If you find yourself thinking about the following day in your bed always try to wave it off or better still review the day and make plans for the following day after dinner before bedtime. A warm bath and a massage can be a great help to prepare you for sleep.
- TRY TO RELAX. There are different relaxation therapies and stress reduction methods that can make you relax your body and mind before bed time. Some of these include progressive muscle relaxation, deep breathing techniques, meditation, breathing exercises, yoga or prayer.
- AVOID FORCING YOURSELF TO SLEEP. The harder you try forcing yourself to sleep, the more difficult it is for you to sleep and the more you stay awake. Try and calm your mind and body to engage yourself in some activities and avoid watching TV or operating your phones as this will help you only to stay awake. Try reading some cool novel in a different room until you become very drowsy, and then go to your bedroom to sleep.
- GO BACK TO SLEEP WHEN YOU WAKE UP AT NIGHT. It is normal to wake up from sleep briefly during the night. It is not a must you have a sleep disorder before you wake up in the middle of the night. However, if you have difficulty falling back to sleep, try to focus on your breathing and then relax your body and mind.