Sleep is a natural process that allows the body and brain to recover from daily activities. Sleep helps our body to grow and repair and makes our immune system more active in fighting against various infections. It is also important for restoring emotional balance and a healthy mood state. Insomnia is a common sleep disorder characterized by difficulty falling asleep, staying asleep, or experiencing non-restorative sleep, despite having the opportunity for a full night's rest.
What are the common complaints of insomnia?
Difficulty falling asleep and maintenance of sleep.
Waking up early.
Feeling anxious, irritable, worried, especially at bedtime.
Feeling physically and mentally tired throughout the day.
What causes insomnia?
It may begin when stressors come in life. People may experience sleeplessness due to thinking about personal problems or work. If the issue is major, the person may become preoccupied with an inability to sleep. This sets a vicious cycle of anxiety and worry about not sleeping may lead to insomnia.
What are the consequences of insomnia?
Fatigue, and impaired concentration in work lead to decreased performance or absenteeism from work.
It also affects interpersonal relationships.
Insomnia in elderly can worsen their dementia.
Sleep hygiene refers to a set of habits and practices that promote healthy sleep. Good sleep hygiene can help prevent sleep disorders like insomnia and improve the overall quality of your sleep. Here are some tips that could help you practice good sleep hygiene.
Organize your day.
Avoid napping during the day
Set time for problem-solving and decision-making during the day to avoid worries at night.
Get into the routine of “Winding down”, allowing at least 30 minutes of quiet activity like reading and listening to music before bedtime.
Avoid smoking and alcohol for sleeping.
Make sure the bedroom temperature is ambient.
Ensure that the bedroom is dark and morning light does not filter in.
Avoid heavy meals at night.
Cut down on caffeine because it is a stimulant that may cause a lack of sleep.
Go to bed when you feel ‘sleepy and tired’ and not before.
Build in a 30 to 60 minutes pre-bed buffer time i.e. device free. Avoid using TV, phones or computers while in bed.
If after 20 minutes of tossing in bed, you haven’t been sleeping then get up and do something calming in dim light before trying to sleep again.
D. During the Night:
If you wake up early in the night, don’t lie awake for more than 30 minutes.
Get up at the same time each morning; don’t keep sleeping till late in the morning trying to make up for ‘last night’.
Try to keep away from bright lights because they hinder the production of melatonin which helps in facilitating sleep.
Thus basic concept of sleep hygiene is that your environment and habits can be optimized for better sleep. You don’t have to change everything at once, but small steps can move you toward better sleep hygiene. Remember that improving your sleep hygiene and addressing insomnia may take time and patience and lastly, if you have severe sleep-related issues, it is suggested to talk to a psychiatrist/sleep specialist for further treatment.
Dr. Damanjit Kaur (MD Psychiatry)
Faith Hospital, Chandigarh