Have a hard time sleeping at night?
For years, my friends listened to me complain about my insomnia and felt unable to help me find a remedy for my constant state of exhaustion and what appeared to be permanent tiredness.
After consulting with many doctors (since no single one of them had an idea about what to do with insomnia other than offer me drugs), and after reading many, many books on the subject and trying various treatment procedures, I finally found a course of action that allowed me to get rid of this condition.
Then I started helping my friends and now, I am 'sleeping expert' (yes just like that), according to my friends who joke about it. So having been able to help many of my friends get rid of this condition, I thought that I should put my main ideas in an article and hope that it helps any of you that are experiencing similar problems and conditions.
If you still do not find this article helpful and/or you want to contact me via email or you prefer speaking about it on the Video Chat, you can find my contact information by doing a search under my name in the Member's Area. Also, as many of you do, you can find me in chat rooms and we can discuss your conditions in a private chat room.
Before I discuss the causes and treatment of sleep disorder, I would recommend that you consult your doctor or physician about your insomnia. Sometimes insomnia is a symptom of a serious illness or disease and only your physician can know for sure. Please take the time to take care of your health and don't delay seeking help from a medical professional. I am not a doctor, only a person who wants to help others if she can.
Also, I am NOT going to write detailed theoretical analysis and use medical terms to describe the conditions such as hypothalamic-pituitary-adrenal axis and have you reach for a medical dictionary, nor am I going to discuss the benefits/harm of drugs like Benzodiazepines, Zolpidem, Zaleplon, Zopiclone and Eeszopiclone or Antihistamines, Melatonin and Atypical Antipsychotics.
I just want to write this for a normal human being who has enough problems at hand per day and prefers not to add any more headaches to their daily life. So just sit back, relax, and read and see where you can start to make your life better and feel happier and healthier.
Sleep is something all human beings need. Adults need between 7-8 hours of sleep, sports/active people need at least 8-9 hours, children need 9-10, and babies need about 17 hours of sleep per day.
Most adults have experienced occasional night of disturbed sleep or even periodic sleeplessness at some point in their lives.
It is estimated that about 50% of the Americans are affected by some form of insomnia, and a small portion of them have chronic insomnia.
Insomnia is the inability to fall sleep and remain sleep for a full period of 7 or 8 hours until the body has had a full cycle of relaxation and rejuvenation.
This relaxation cycle can only be achieved if the body is totally unconscious and unaware of its surroundings during sleep.
Remember that insomnia which most people think of as a persistent difficulty in falling (or staying) asleep is regarded by many, including some medical professionals, as both a sign and a symptom that can cause sleep deprivation, sleep disorder, and psychiatric disorders.
There are many different stages of sleep and these include drowsiness, light sleep, deep sleep and finally dreaming stage also called rapid eye movement (REM), in which your breathing, heart rate and eye movements become more rapid and your limb muscles are temporarily paralyzed (no it's nothing bad - don't worry).
The stages of sleep occur in recurring cycles where all the stages go through a full cycle and then start again on the next cycle and so forth. The first cycle, which ends after the completion of the first REM stage, lasts about 1 hour and half. Each cycle after the first lasts longer because the REM stage lasts longer in each cycle. A person may have five cycles of sleep during a typical night.
Now, here's what is causing insomnia in most cases (non-illness related):
Stress and anxiety during the day (or in particular in the last 2 hours before sleep)
Eating heavy meals or alcohol consumption before going to bed
A loud snoring bed partner, or even worse, his/her abrupt leg movements
Depression (and in many cases patients are unaware of their depression)
Psychological problems or trauma from a past experience
Uncomfortable surroundings, such as uncomfortable bed, humidity, too hot or too cold
Conditions that arise from insomnia and then make it worse, like high blood pressure
Illness or health problems that cause you physical pain (check with your medical doctor)
Worrying all the time which causes panic attacks, or obesity and diabetes
Excessive or annoying noise
Jet lag (for trips longer than 8 hours)
Stressful anticipation such as job interview, exams, presentations, or public speaking
Withdrawal symptoms from medication, alcohol, nicotine, or sedatives
Anxiety from relationships, work-related problems, or family member's death/illness
Anxiety from lack of contentment with life's ups and downs
Lack of happiness with yourself, your abilities, performance, and excessive expectations
Lunesta and other sleeping pills
I can not tell you what medication to take or not. What I can tell you is what my friends and I experienced. All the sleeping pills offered for insomnia are usually addictive, no matter what the marketing companies for these drugs tell you. At some point I have been on all of them and then saw some of my friends take them. These drugs can do major damage to your nervous system, can make you sleep walk, can make you sleep walk to someone else's room in the house (if you share a house with other people) and go sleep next to them (which might scare them if they are children). To say the least, you may wake up in the morning and not remember what you did during your sleep. Many doctor or marketing executives of these drug companies may get with me and call me irresponsible for making you worry about this, but they won't deny that what I have described can happen - and has happened to someone but not necessarily to everyone.
Also, I would tell you from my own personal experience, that these drugs can make you feel suicidal, even more depressed than just from insomnia itself, and can put you in a constant state of fear and anxiety. Of course, the manufacturers of these drugs disagree with me and indicate on the labels of these drugs that such cases are rare. That is not any comfort to me when I recognize that all my friends who have taken these drugs experienced at least one or more of these side effects. So, you decide what is best for you after you consult your doctor.
Treatment that has worked for all my friends and I
I am assuming that you have already visited and consulted a medical professional regarding your insomnia and they have conducted medical tests and discovered that your symptoms indicate your susceptibility to insomnia is not the result of a serious illness or health problem.
You need to develop a plan to start sleeping on a regular basis in order to get rejuvenating sleep. Put together a plan of do's and don'ts. Read the treatment steps in this post at least a few times until you feel that you can remember all of start changing your sleeping habits.
If you have no medical conditions prohibiting you from exercising then this is the best place to start. Ideally, walk for 30 minutes (not more, not less) for 2 or 3 times per day and drink a glass of filtered water after each walk. This will allow your body to try to reset its sleep clock cycle (circadian rhythm) because of changes (it detects) to your lifestyle habits. When changes to your lifestyle is detected by your body, it simply re-triggers an adjustment to your body's new conditions.
Unless your doctor has instructed you to do so, avoid eating a heavy meal within 4 hours of going to bed. If you get hungry, you can always have fruits (except banana) and drink as much water as you want (but within 20 minutes of going to bed, otherwise you will have to get up and go to the bathroom). Your body cannot relax and rejuvenate if they are still working to digest food. Give it a break. It will thank you in the morning.
Avoid alcohol if you can. Many people are under the impression that alcohol will make you fall sleep. Well it is true, it does make you fall sleep. But it prevents your body from getting deep sleep and going through all the stages in each sleeping cycle. Everybody who has had a drink within 4 hours of sleeping may have discovered that they feel more tired the next morning, or at least not fully rejuvenated. Now, I admit, I love red wine. So I have a glass (or two) of red wine about 6 or 7 o'clock in the evening and then no more until I go to bed about 11:30 at night.
If you are taking medications for other existing conditions, make sure you consult your doctor to see if these medications would cause insomnia as a side-effect. Most drugs are like alcohol and coffee and nicotine and they cause some degree of dependency and difficulty in falling sleep. Medications also may affect your co-ordination when operating machinery or driving a car.
Avoid worrying. Easier said than done. I know, specially now with all the economic problems we are all facing. However, you have one life and one body. You must take care of it. You may be very passionate about something in your life and feel helpless to pursue your passion which keeps you up at night. Or you may be worried about your future or that of your loved ones. But we all have to get it under control. If you are not healthy, you are not helping. And, may be even making it worse for others that love you and care about you. Take care of your body and then take care of everything else when you feel strong and healthy, and have energy to help others. If you want, try Yoga or talk to your friends about your problems, or seek medical therapy. But you must stop worrying and stop feeling angry or sad about the past and they things others have done or you have done - or haven't. It's time for a new tomorrow. Make it happen.
Consistency is key. Try to set a consistent set of hours for your sleep. For instance, for me it is 11:30pm-8:00am giving myself 8 hours to sleep and about 30 minutes to fall sleep. Try to condition your lifestyle to adhere to your set sleeping hours. Don't stay up later than when you shouldn't and get out of the bed at the time that you must get up. Even if this does not work the first few days, it will re-trigger your body to adjust your sleep cycle and before too long you will start to notice change.
Finally, I can write about this insomnia for a university dissertation - pages after pages covering detailed causes, description, treatment plans, the nature of the disorders, behavioral therapy, medical therapy, and a range of psychological causes. But I don't think that it will help you at this time.
Take it slow and make it easy and manageable. Just follow the steps mentioned above. I promise you, it is a good start and in almost all cases it will make you feel much better giving you the energy and vitality to make all the different parts of your life better, including the root cause of your insomnia.
Spend 10% of your energy on the problem and 90% on the solution. If you want, let me know how it is going for you and we'll chat more in the Member's Area.