Your Sleep Cycle Matters
The average adult needs around eight hours of sleep per day to function optimally, but everyone is different, with some people needing a little more and others needing a little less. What is equally important is the quality of sleep you are getting. Sleep disorders can interfere with your quality of sleep leaving you groggy, unrested and irritable.
It’s quite normal for people to experience temporary bouts of insomnia, which is referred to as transient or short term insomnia. This happens when you go through life events like
- Periods of high stress
- Jet lag as a result of travel
- A change in your sleeping environment
- Illness or medications
What Are The Most Common Causes Of Insomnia?
Irregular sleep habits
Irregular sleep habits, like waking and going to bed at different times every day can be one of the causes of insomnia. Regulate your sleep cycle and use a sleep alarm to remind you to go to bed as well as wake up.
Stress, anxiety and grief caused by home, work and family problems can have a negative impact on your ability to sleep and the quality of sleep you experience. Getting psychological help for the underlying stress can have a positive impact on your sleep problems.
If you know that you are experiencing mental health problems such as anxiety, depression or you are going through a period of grief it is important to seek out the appropriate psychological help, as sleeplessness can exacerbate these problems.
Other sleep disorders
You may not even be aware, but it is possible for other sleep disorders such as obstructive sleep apnoea (SA) to contribute to insomnia.
When your air passages collapse, your brain tries to wake you up so that you can breathe easily.
If you suffer from OSA you could be experiencing hundreds of these episodes every night and, even if you are not consciously awake, it can impact negatively on the quality of your sleep.
If you work irregular hours or shift work, it can have an effect on your ability to sleep through the night soundly. If this is the case you should discuss some management tips with your doctor. You may need to consider blackout curtains or a white noise generator if you need to sleep at a time when others are awake and disturbing you.
Statistically, older people are more likely to suffer from insomnia.
What Treatments Are Available For Insomnia?
If you have short term insomnia, there are some lifestyle changes and improvements that you can make to manage sleep problems.
- Don’t take afternoon naps or have lay-ins
- Avoid caffeine, alcohol and stimulants before bed. It’s been recommended that you do not have caffeine and other stimulants after 4 pm in the afternoon but everyone is different. If this does not work, you might want to try cutting it out of your diet altogether
- Don’t do too much physical exercise before bed
- Switch off your television and other electronic devices a few hours before bedtime. Dim your lights and read a book rather than a screen.
- Try to routinise the time you get up and go to bed every day
- Go to bed if you feel tired. Try to work with your body’s circadian rhythm and leave the last bit of that TV episode for another time
- Try not to worry about not sleeping well. It might sound counterintuitive but getting stressed out about not sleeping can make your insomnia worse.
- Make sure you are getting enough exercise (early in the day)
How To Treat Long Term Insomnia?
If you have been suffering from insomnia for an extended period of time you may need a multimodal approach to treatment. This could include
- Monitoring your insomnia and keeping a sleep diary so your healthcare practitioner can look for patterns in your sleep problems
- Psychological help in the form of counselling or cognitive behavioural therapy
- In some cases medication may be required, however, this is usually a last resort and only considered once other options have been explored
- Sleep deprivation is also sometimes an option for short intervals, in order to induce sleepiness. Some patients may also benefit from bright light exposure early in the morning.
How Do You Know If You Need Help?
Sure we will all experience some interruptions to our sleep cycle as we go through the highs and lows of life, but how do you know if you need professional help with sleep disorders? Daytime sleepiness, memory problems, problems concentrating, tension headaches and digestive problems may all be signs that you need help.
Please contact us for help with the causes of insomnia and a strategy to treat it: (02) 9884 9300.