Insomnia

October 19, 2008

Millions of aging Americans are sleepless. Remember the beautiful romantic comedy of the 90′s, Sleepless in Seattle?

Insomnia is difficulty in falling asleep or trouble in staying asleep. Some people with insomnia may fall asleep but they wake up easily or very early in the morning. And eventually, their health and day-to-day activities get affected due to poor sleep habits. Insomnia causes sleepiness in the day time, affects the ability to concentrate, memorize and perform daily tasks, causes headaches, stress and depression. Lack of sleep in the night is also one of the main reasons for the increasing number of road accidents in the early mornings and late nights. There two types of insomnia called Primary Insomnia and Secondary Insomnia out of which the latter is more common than the former. At least 80% of the people with insomnia suffer from Secondary Insomnia which is often the side-effect of some other conditions like

  1. Illnesses or pain
  2. Other sleep disorders
  3. Depression, anxiety, fear, heartburn
  4. Medications which affect sleep
  5. The use of caffeine and the like
  6. Change of routine
  7. Poor environment

Primary Insomnia is not the result of any side effects. It is a disorder that lasts for more than a month. Secondary Insomnia is relieved once its cause is dealt with. Insomnia can also be mild (lasting for only a few days), moderate (lasting for less than a month) or chronic (lasting for more than a month with behavioral changes in the person). On an average at least half of the population is estimated to have insomnia while 10% of it may suffer from chronic insomnia. Insomnia becomes a serious affair when the patients do not seek medical attention and keep hiding and ignoring it.

You lack sleep as you age. Elders generally wake up too often in the sleep or very early in the morning and tend to fall asleep in the day time. And day time naps deprive more sleep in the night. They get light sleep and wake up at the instance of the slightest noise or light.

If you are suffering from sleep disturbances you can try some techniques which will make you fall asleep. Also, try to bring some positive changes into your life. Secondary insomnia goes away without treatment. Do not use sleeping pills unless prescribed by the doctor and stay away from it as much as possible.

  • A warm bath before sleep. As a student, my teacher told me to study till late night, take a warm bath and then hit the bed. It is refreshing at the same time aids sound sleep.
  • Improve your sleep environment. Shut out extra light or noise. Improve ventilation.
  • Warm milk is supposed to be soothing. It helps sleep, constipation and gastric troubles in some. Herbal teas can also help.
  • Music. Slip away into your dream world listening to some soothing music. You can look out for music therapy (Bhairavi raga) for insomnia.
  • However sleepy you feel do not take daytime naps.
  • Early to bed, early to rise. Get up early so that you fall asleep early.
  • Give yourself a relaxing massage.
  • Get regular exercise. Try yoga and meditation.

Changing the way of life can make things better.

  • If you watch TV or read before bed time try to stop that habit.
  • Forget time. Turn away your alarm clocks and avoid the ticking ones.
  • Do not do other activities like writing or studying on the bed. Bed should be the symbol for sleep. Do not remain awake on bed or go to bed when you are not sleepy.
  • Eat a frugal dinner in the night. But eat well in the morning and the afternoon.
  • Praying before going to sleep may help you to relax and de-stress.
  • Drink lots of water as a habit.
  • Limit the use of caffeine, tobacco and sweets.

Good night!

- Aparna K V

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