Insomnia is a very common complaint in developed societies. As people work harder and stay connected 24X7 it becomes more difficult to turn off all the noise and get some sleep. Almost ten percent of adults suffer from insomnia on a chronic basis and it is responsible for billions in lost productivity, as well as serious and even fatal accidents.
Insomnia is defined as a person having trouble falling asleep, staying asleep or waking up to early and as a result having problems functioning during the day. Insomnia is not defined as sleeping less than a certain number of hours because the amount of sleep a person needs is variable. The need for sleep also decreases with age.
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Insomnia can be either secondary, a symptom of another disorder such as depression, or be a primary condition. As a primary condition, it is often classified based on how long it lasts, acute or chronic insomnia. A common form of short-term insomnia is jet lag, which occurs after travelling across time zones.
Typical symptoms include:
- Trouble falling asleep at night.
- Falling asleep or feeling tired during the day.
- Waking up in the morning still feeling tired.
- Repeatedly waking up at night.
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Once diagnosed, insomnia is a very treatable condition. When insomnia is caused by other problems like stress or pain, treatment of these causes will help. However, if the insomnia is the primary problem, then standard treatments include sleep hygiene education, cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT), phototherapy, chronotherapy and/or medication.
Sleep hygiene: This means practicing good sleeping habits and these include:
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- Avoiding nicotine, caffeine, and alcohol for at least several hours before going to bed.
- Avoiding naps during the day.
- Eating on a regular schedule and avoiding large meals late in the day but not going to bed hungry.
- Exercising at least three hours before bedtime.
- Having a set sleeping schedule every night.
- Making sure you are comfortable with your sleep environment (light, noise, temperature).
- Getting rid of any anxiety or worries before bedtime by distracting yourself or making a list for the next day. You may want to keep a notepad or journal next to your bed.
- Doing relaxing things before bedtime, like taking a bath or reading.
- Not trying to force sleep – if you still haven’t fallen asleep after half an hour, get out of bed and go to another room where you can do something quiet until you get tired.