Insomnia – What It Is, Possible Causes, Remedies and Treatment Options

Insomnia is where you are unable to fall asleep. Or, if you do fall asleep, you wake up many times during the night, or you wake up very early and can not get back to sleep. Ideally a person should fall asleep within 30 minutes of lying down. Interestingly, some people who claim to have insomnia upon visiting a sleep clinic find out they do not. People often sleep for longer than they remember. This may be because light sleep does not feel like sleep or the person has no memory of actually sleeping. It is a problem of perception and is known as sleep state misperception or paradoxical insomnia.

Possible causes and potential remedies

Certain medications can prevent a person sleeping.

> Speak to your doctor if you are on medication.

Caffeine and smoking.

> Try not to drink caffeine six hours before bedtime, or cut it out altogether.

> Give up smoking.

Too much alcohol.

> Limit your daily intake of alcohol.

Your bedroom is not dark enough.

> Use an eye mask.

Outside noise.

> Try earplugs.

> White noise such as a fan can help.

Being in unfamiliar surroundings.

> Lock doors and windows.

> Sleep with a bedside lamp on.

> Try relaxation techniques.

> Carry out your normal bedtime routine.

How comfortable your bed is.

> You may need to invest in a new mattress that supports you, without being uncomfortable.

Not feeling safe.

> Make sure your doors and windows are locked.

> Try relaxation techniques.

> Address additional safety concerns you may have. You may need to speak to a social worker, the police or a doctor.

Stress.

> Try relaxation before going to bed.

> Engage in regular stress relieving activities.

Worried about something.

> Write down your worries, then tell yourself you will deal with them in the morning.

> You may want to speak to a counsellor if you have particular worries or concerns that are affecting your sleep.

Television watching.

> Do not have a television in your bedroom.

> Try to turn the television off an hour before bedtime.

Treatment

Try addressing all the above causes. This can make a difference. No matter how tired you are, try to avoid daytime napping.

Drug therapy is often used in the treatment of insomnia. This can be a problem. Remember drugs will not address what caused the insomnia in the first place.

Cognitive behavioural therapy can be used, which alters a person's thought patterns, which in turn enables them to change their behaviour. For example, insomniacs often say to themselves that they must get to sleep immediately, or must get eight hours in or dire consequences will follow. More realistic thinking can alleviate the pressure on a person and allow a more relaxed attitude to sleep.

Insomnia is something that sometimes affects me and I am guilty of believing that I will absolutely not be able to function the next day. Such thoughts of course, kept me awake and reduced the time I did get to sleep. Then I thought about those times when I really did get little sleep and the fact that I did function the next day. Even important events such as interviews or exams I was able to get through. It allowed me to realise that I could function adequately on little sleep and stopped me fretting, which actually gave me the hours of sleep I so desired.