Insomnia is a sleep disorder affecting around one in three people in the UK at some point in their life. Women are more likely to suffer with insomnia and it is more common as we get older. Insomnia involves struggling to get to sleep or difficulty staying asleep for a significant amount of time in order to feel refreshed and alert the following day.
There are many factors that can lead to insomnia, sometimes just one event can trigger the sleep disorder other times it is an accumulation of many things. Some of the most common causes are; stressful events, mental health problems, physical conditions and alcohol and substance abuse.
Stress. Some people find that a stressful event can lead to insomnia and even when the particularly stressful time has passed the insomnia continues. Stressing about money, health, work or illness at night can lead to creating an association with your bedroom and being awake/alert.
Mental health. Psychiatric conditions such as schizophrenia, post-traumatic stress disorders, anxiety, bipolar or panic disorders can all affect our sleeping patterns.
Physical conditions. Heart disease, respiratory disease, neurological disease, hormone problems and joint or muscle problems can cause insomnia.
Alcohol and drug misuse. Drinking excessive amounts of alcohol or taking drugs can result in insomnia.
How can I get more sleep?
In order to successfully beat insomnia suffers should initially find out whether the problem is being caused by an underlying medical condition. If there is no medical issue and the insomnia is purely psychological good sleep hygiene can help you to achieve a better quality of sleep.
Establishing a set bed time and waking up time and sticking to it everyday, even on weekends, can help to prevent insomnia by allowing your body clock to get into a natural rhythm causing you to feel tired around the time you’d usually drift off and more alert on a morning.
Avoiding all electronic devices an hour before bed is also advised. The light emitted from mobile phones, tablets and even alarm clocks can confuse the body’s biological clock by closely mimicking the effects that natural sunlight has on our eyes’ photoreceptive cell. This can create the illusion that it is still daytime and the body should try to stay alert rather than winding down and relaxing.
What’s more, simple changes to your sleeping environment can help to promote healthy sleep. Ensuring your bedroom is the right temperature for sleep (between 18 to 22 degrees Celsius or 65 to 72 degrees Fahrenheit) and that your bedroom isn’t too noisy or too light can help you to drift off easier.
Watching or checking the clock constantly throughout the night is not beneficial. Firstly your eyes will be exposed to light and secondly knowing the time isn’t going to help you get more sleep, it’s only going you make you more anxious about how much sleep you’re losing and therefore less likely to get to sleep. Changes to your diet can also help to improve your sleep. Try to stay away from nicotine, alcohol and large meals late at night.
When you’re suffering from insomnia you may dread going to bed and the bedroom may feel like a very lonely place, but the statistics speak for themselves with one in three people being affected by the sleep disorder, so remember you’re not alone in your battle against insomnia and a few simple changes can drastically improve the quality of your sleep.