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Tackling Insomnia

Insomnia is the inability to fall asleep at night and difficulty with maintaining uninterrupted sleep; causing a serious impact on mental performance and physical health. Sleep treatment is best customised for on an individual basis, and some studies indicate that a combination of medical and non-medical interventions are more successful in treating insomnia than just one.

Insomnia is the inability to fall asleep at night and difficulty with maintaining uninterrupted sleep. Do you experience the following?

  • You go to bed exhausted but toss and turn for hours unable to sleep
  • You're up in the middle of the night, wide awake, just watching the clock tick on
  • You are sleepy in the middle of the day and can't concentrate
  • Every time it's time for bed, you worry about not being able to sleep and are unable to sleep because you're so anxious

If you find these scenarios familiar, chances are you have insomnia. There are three types of insomnia:

  • Transient insomnia

As the name implies, is transient usually only lasts for a few days. Usually it is due to changes in sleeping environment, illness, stress, changes to the timing of sleep. Jet-lag or excitement usually causes short-term insomnia.

  • Acute insomnia

In acute insomnia, the inability to sleep well lasts for a few weeks, but under a month. It can be caused by an emotional stresses such as death of a loved one, financial or relationship problems.

  • Chronic insomnia

This is lasts for longer than a month and can have long-term effects on mental and physical health. Such severe sleep deprivation may lead to muscular fatigue or hallucinations.

Dangers of insomnia

Insomnia can have a serious impact on mental performance and physical health. Long-term sleep deprivation can result in the following:

  • Exhaustion
  • Lack of energy
  • Fatigue
  • Moodiness
  • Risk of diabetes
  • Premature ageing
  • Poor memory and concentration
  • Lowered judgment
  • Weakened immune system

Treating insomnia

For short term or transient insomnia, it is usually resolved when the trigger is removed or corrected. For chronic insomnia, the most important treatment is identifying the source of the problem. Chronic insomnia can be cured if its medical or psychiatric causes are correctly identified and treated.

  • What type of insomnia do you have?

Identify the type of insomnia you have. It it's a passing phase, it should work itself out in a few days or weeks. Seek help if the problem is an emotional one and you can't seem to get over feelings of grief or stress.

  • Are you practicing good sleep habits?
    • Sleep and wake at the same time every day
    • Avoid caffeine six-hours before bed and don't drink alcohol two-hours before bedtime
    • Do light exercises before bed, an evening stroll is a good idea, but save the strenuous cardio for late afternoon or early morning
  • Is your room ideally suited to put you to sleep?
  • Dim the lights in your bedroom at night; it helps your body get ready for bed
  • Ensure that the temperature in your room is not too cold or warm. A cool room is ideal to promoting sleep
  • Remove all light from the room when you sleep, including that glow-in-the-dark digital alarm clock. Get one that turns off. Light tells your body it is time to rise and shine
  • Remove distractions such as the TV, ticking clock or even the mobile phone from your bedroom
  • Do you need a little bedtime relaxation?
  • Some people do well with a set of pre-sleep rituals. It could be a hot shower, a pampering massage with your favourite body oils, some 'me time' listening to music or reading a book
  • Classical music helps to relax the brain. 30 minutes of classical music can impart the same level of sedation as a small dose of sleeping pills.

If these recommendations fail to improve your quality of sleep, see your doctor for advice. Sleep treatment is best customised for on an individual basis, and some studies indicate that a combination of medical and non-medical interventions are more successful in treating insomnia than just one.




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