Can’t Sleep? Causes and Cure For Insomnia
Do you struggle to get to sleep no matter how tired you are? or do you wake up in the middle of the night and lie awake for hours, anxiously watching the clock? Insomnia is a common problem that takes a toll on your energy, mood, health, and ability to function during the day. Insomnia is the inability to get the amount of sleep you need to wake up feeling rested and refreshed, it is a sleep disorder that is characterized by difficulty falling and/or staying asleep.
Insomnia may be experienced for a few days, for two to three weeks, or it may be chronic, lasting for three weeks or more. Chronic insomnia is more difficult to treat, and doesn’t go away on its own. You may need to see a physician or sleep specialist. It can be caused by psychiatric and medical conditions, unhealthy sleep habits, specific substances, and/or certain biological factors.
- Stress: concerns about work, school, health or family can keep your mind active at night, making it difficult to sleep. Stressful life events such as the death or illness of a loved one, divorce, or a job loss may lead to insomnia.
- Anxiety: everyday anxieties such as post-traumatic stress disorder, may disrupt your sleep. Worry about being able to go to sleep can make it harder to fall asleep.
- Depression: you might either sleep too much or have trouble sleeping if you’re depressed. Insomnia often occurs with other mental health disorders as well.
- Medical conditions and medication: If you have chronic pain, breathing difficulties or a need to urinate frequently, you might develop insomnia. Examples of conditions linked with insomnia include arthritis, cancer, heart failure, lung disease, gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD), overactive thyroid, stroke, Parkinson’s disease and Alzheimer’s disease. Many prescription drugs can interfere with sleep, including some antidepressants, heart and blood pressure medications, allergy medications, stimulants (such as Ritalin), and corticosteroids. Many over-the-counter (OTC) medications — including some pain medication combinations, decongestants and weight-loss products — contain caffeine and other stimulants.
- Change in your environment or work schedule. Travel or working a late or early shift can disrupt your body’s circadian rhythms, making it difficult to sleep. Your circadian rhythms act as an internal clock, guiding such things as your sleep-wake cycle, metabolism and body temperature.
- Poor sleep habits. Poor sleep habits include an irregular sleep schedule, stimulating activities before bed, an uncomfortable sleep environment, and use of your bed for activities other than sleep or sex.
- Caffeine, nicotine and alcohol. Coffee, tea, cola and other caffeine-containing drinks are well-known stimulants. Drinking coffee in the late afternoon and later can keep you from falling asleep at night. Nicotine in tobacco products is another stimulant that can cause insomnia. Alcohol is a sedative that may help you fall asleep, but it prevents deeper stages of sleep and often causes you to awaken in the middle of the night.
- Eating too much late in the evening. Having a light snack before bedtime is ok, but eating too much may cause you to feel physically uncomfortable while lying down, making it difficult to get to sleep. Many people also experience heartburn, a backflow of acid and food from the stomach into the esophagus after eating, which may keep you awake.
How to control insomnia.
- Stick to a regular sleep schedule. Support your biological clock by going to bed and getting up at the same time every day, including weekends.
- Avoid naps. Napping during the day can make it more difficult to sleep at night. If you feel like you have to take a nap, limit it to 30 minutes before 3 p.m.
- Limit caffeine, alcohol, and nicotine. Stop drinking caffeinated beverages at least eight hours before bed. While alcohol can make you feel sleepy, it interferes with the quality of your sleep, and nicotine is a stimulant.
- Avoid late meals. Try to avoid heavy, rich foods within two hours of bed. Fatty foods can take a lot of work for your stomach to digest and spicy or acidic foods can cause heartburn.
- Get regular exercise. Regular exercise can improve the symptoms of insomnia, but it’s not a quick fix. It takes several months to feel the full effects. Aim for 30 minutes or more of activity on most days—but not too close to bedtime.