What is Insomnia?
First of all, the disclaimer – these posts are meant to be informative and engaging, providing guidance only. Please do not construe any information provided as a substitute for proper medical evaluation and care. If you or someone you know or love is struggling, please contact a trained professional – better still, make an appointment with me.
Now that is out of the way, what is Insomnia? Insomnia is a lack of restorative sleep. It can be trouble falling asleep, staying asleep, and/or waking up earlier than intended. It can be caused by a variety of conditions, some of which are medical, many of which are psychiatric. Insomnia can be its own condition, or symptoms of something else.
What do I commonly see? I often will see people with insomnia who are struggling with anxiety, depression, at times, mania (though this is often a very different presentation), general stress or emotional turmoil, or substance use. The last one is very important to take note of (admittedly I’m biased). Oftentimes, people may begin to use substances (especially alcohol or medications like Xanax) with the intention to help ease their minds and fall asleep. Many times this plan leads to 2 issues instead of just insomnia.
Nevertheless, the message is clear; insomnia is often a symptom of something else; something that needs treatment, but most times is treatable. One more thing to explain – just because you have reached a certain “seasoned age” does not mean you require less sleep, this is false. There are however changes that occur to sleeping patterns (mostly due to underlying medical issues). What’s causing your insomnia?
So now some practical tips to improve your sleep hygiene
Anyone with any experience with babies early on learned the phrase “slept like a baby” is a bold faced lie! Kids need to be taught how to sleep through developing routines. Adults are no different, but we forget this as we age. Here are a few bullet points that might help you get a better night’s rest.
Limit caffeine intake – remember chocolate, tea, coffee, soda, all contain this wonderful compound and can affect your getting to sleep. Try to avoid it after 12PM.
Set a wakeup time everyday – If you need to always wake up at the same time, your body will learn the routine and work backwards
DON’T NAP – Napping can actually make it more difficult to fall asleep at night and prevents your body from being “forced” to comply with the set schedule
The bed should be used for sleep and sex only – if you do everything in bed, how does your body know what to expect?
Avoid alcohol and large meals close to bedtime
Exercise, but not too close to when you want to fall asleep
Using bathing to help – if it relaxes you, do it before bed, if it wakes you, do it in the morning
Avoid screen time – flat screens (be they from phones, tablets, computer monitors, or televisions) work at a frequency that stops melatonin production (the chemical that makes you sleepy)
Try these tips and see if it helps. Did it work for you? Let me know.