Insomnia: Managing your "Sleepless Nights"

Insomnia takes many forms: you may have trouble falling asleep, staying asleep, waking too early, or

not getting good quality sleep so that you feel well-rested when you wake. Don’t feel refreshed when you wake up, and are you tired and have trouble functioning during the day? You are not alone as many people suffer sleep problems.

Insomnia can be "acute", or it can come in a continuing, "chronic" form. When insomnia comes at least three nights a week for one month or longer, doctors consider it chronic.

Insomnia can also come and go, with periods when you have no sleep problems.

There are two kinds of insomnia:

Primary insomnia: Sleep problems are not directly connected with any other health problem. Instead, a major stressful event associated with work, family travel etc. In some cases even when the stress factor goes away the insomnia remains. You can also develop primary insomnia because of particular habits, such as taking naps or worrying about sleep.

Secondary insomnia: Sleep problems can occur because of a range of another issues, such as a health condition or disease, chronic pain from a variety of health issues including arthritis or headaches, menopause, medications, or alcohol, caffeine, and other substances.

What Are the Causes of Insomnia?

Many reasons for acute or chronic insomnia:

  • Stress

  • Medical condition or disease

  • Pain or physical discomfort

  • Menopause

  • Medications

  • Noise, light or extreme temperatures

  • Interference with one’s regular sleep schedule (including jet lag or change in shift work)

  • Substance abuse

What Are the Symptoms of Insomnia?

  • Difficulty falling or staying asleep

  • Waking up too early

  • Feeling tired and irritable, daytime sleepiness

  • Mood changes and lack of motivation

  • Attention, concentration, or memory problems

  • Making errors at work, school, or while driving

  • Tension headaches or stomach aches

  • Frustration or worry about sleep

How is Insomnia Diagnosed?

To diagnose insomnia, your doctor will ask about your sleep patterns and habits, stress levels, medical history, level of physical activity, and use of medications, alcohol, caffeine, tobacco etc. He/she might also ask you to keep a detailed diary of your sleep habits, including sleep and wake times, napping, and any specific problems with sleeping.

Your doctor will also do a physical exam to look for health disorders that can cause insomnia.

If your insomnia persists even after treatment, your doctor may refer you to a sleep disorders specialist for further investigations. If the specialist suspects a disorder, such as sleep apnoea, you may need to do an overnight sleep study at a special sleep centre.

Some simple ways to help your “Sleepless Nights”

  • Try not to worry about sleep when you go to bed.

  • Avoid clock-watching. Turn your clock around and use only the alarm.

  • Make your bedroom comfortable for sleep. Keep it dark, quiet, and not too cold or warm. Use a sleeping mask to block light or earplugs or a fan to block noise.

  • Relax before bedtime by reading, listening to relaxing music, bathing, or doing another relaxing activity.

  • Don’t eat a heavy meal late in the day; a light snack before bedtime may help with sleep, though.

  • If you can’t sleep and don’t feel drowsy, avoid tossing and turning in bed. Get a book and read or do something that’s not stimulating until you feel sleepy.

  • And remember, sex is good for you in many ways but it may also help you get to sleep

  • ...and remember...have a fabulous retirementLIFE!

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