No More Sleepless Nights: Dealing With Insomnia

image for natural sleep aid article There are different types of insomnia, most of which cause people to lay in bed awake, frustrated that they are unable to fall asleep or stay asleep. As a result, they toss and turn, and irritability increases. Insomnia can take various forms, including early morning arousal (difficulty staying asleep), sleeping latency (difficulty falling asleep), fragmented sleep (waking up multiple times during the night), and sleeping very lightly and waking feeling unrefreshed. Many people with insomnia want to avoid medication because they are concerned about potential addiction, or feeling spacey or drowsy the next day. Insomnia can be categorized as:

  • Acute—Usually periodic and goes away on its without treatment.
  • Chronic—Occurring 3 or more nights per week for at least 3 months.

Finding the Causes of Insomnia

Sleep-wake cycles are dictated by internal circadian rhythms. These rhythms are strongly influenced by light entering through the eyes, which signals the brain to regulate production of certain hormones, including one called melatonin. Circumstances that unnaturally diminish the entrance of light into the eyes can disrupt the natural circadian rhythm, the production of necessary hormones, and therefore, an individual's proper sleep-wake cycle. Such circumstances include blindness and failing eyesight due to aging. Traveling to different time zones and jet lag, as well as working the night shift, disturb the natural circadian rhythm as well. Insomnia can also be a sign of an underlying medical condition such as depression, an over-active thyroid, high blood pressure, heart disease, asthma, sleep apnea, restless leg syndrome, dementia, or pain disorders. Several lifestyle factors can contribute to sleep disturbance. Keeping a sleep-wake diary is helpful in identifying and modifying these factors, which include:
  • Use of stimulants, including caffeine, nicotine, and ingredients in common drugs, such as cold remedies and weight-loss medications. Some cause people to have difficulty falling asleep, others to wake up during the night.
  • Alcohol use—While it may help you fall asleep, alcohol consumption is likely to produce interrupted sleep and is not recommended as an insomnia treatment.
  • Working night or rotating shifts.
  • Lack of regular exercise.
  • Exercising too close to bedtime
  • Eating too close to bedtime.
  • Stress
  • Excessive time on the computer or watching television.

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