A Japanese legend says that if you can’t sleep at night it’s because you’re awake in someone else’s dream.” – Anonymous
If you’re ever unlucky enough to suffer a serious bout of ongoing insomnia, you can see why sleep deprivation is such an effective psychological torture technique. For it’s debilitating, stressful and frustrating in the extreme – you’re desperate to sleep, but yet you just can’t. So, you have a glass of red, thinking it will help, and so the vicious cycle continues…
So, what is insomnia, you may ask? The Australasian Sleep Association’s definition of it is if you have difficulty “falling asleep, going back to sleep or waking too early” and you have periods in bed when you are awake for longer than 30 minutes.
And if you suffer from insomnia, you’re not alone – several Australian surveys have revealed up to one third of people reported having at least one insomnia symptom (such as difficulty initiating or maintaining sleep) each month.
Of course, life throws you curveballs, so the widespread pervasiveness of insomnia is no surprise given many of us are battling major life stressors, such as separation, divorce or death of a spouse, partner or family member.
It’s been said that the cost of insomnia to the Australian economy is $220 billion annually in medical andlost productivity costs. For lack of adequate sleep doesn’t just make you feel shitty, it goes hand-in-hand with many health problems such as impaired concentration and memory and an increased risk of heart disease, diabetes and industrial and motor vehicle accidents.
What’s more, insomnia is also a risk factor for depression and anxiety, although it can also be a symptom of these conditions.
Now, all this is terribly depressing, so here’s a fun fact: some sleep experts say most patients with insomnia are not actually sleep deprived, but just perceive poor quality sleep. So, is it all in the mind, a lot of the time? Does stressing about not getting enough sleep, turn us into stressed-out zombies? Sleep experts say while the average night’s sleep for an adult is around eight hours, some people only need five. So, what seems like insomnia to one person might be considered a good sleep by another.
So, are there any miracle cures for insomnia? These expert-approved healthy sleep habits sure may help:
- Limit alcohol: Many people think grog can aid sleep. Bah-bum! While it can help you drop off to sleep by making your more relaxed, it f***s you up later as it fragments sleep, making you wake more often.
- Develop a wind-down routine, which you can use to relax you in the 30 to 60 minutes before bed. This could include meditation or having a drink of warm milk (the protein in milk can help bring on sleep).
- Avoid drinks containing caffeine (such as tea, coffee and some soft drinks) for at least three hours bedtime.
- Have a hot bath a couple of hours before retiring.
- Avoid exercise for the three hours before bedtime.
- Keep your bedroom quiet, dim and coolish. Being too hot prevents deep sleep.
- Expose your eyes to bright sunlight for 15 to 30 minutes without sunglasses when you first get up. This helps turn off the brain’s production of the sleep-inducing hormone melatonin, and so helps regulate your body clock. Ensure you are not exposed to bright light in the evening or when you are trying to sleep.
- Restrict your bedroom activities to sleep and sex. Don’t read or watch TV in bed.
- Once in bed, if you aren’t asleep in 20 to 30 minutes, get up and do something you find relaxing until you feel drowsy again. This may include reading a book, listening to music or doing breathing or relaxation exercises. Keep the light dim and do not smoke, drink coffee or tea, or use the computer. Then when drowsy, go back to bed and try again. If you still aren’t asleep again, after 20 to 30 minutes, repeat the previous step.
- A regular rising time – regardless of the quality of sleep the night before – is actually more important. That means avoiding sleep-ins while you’re trying to fix an insomnia problem.
- Only go to bed if you feel sleepy. Delay your sleep-time, if necessary.
Main image via www.blackswanwellness.com; secondary image via veryfunnypics.eu and final imafe via www.huffingtonpost.com