In medical practice insomnia is the most common complaint of the pts. Millions of Americans suffer from insomnia and millions of dollars are spent every year by insomniacs to buy sleeping pills. Insomnia is the term used to denote inability to get to sleep or to stay asleep at night. In actuality the insomnia is not a disease by itself but it is generally a manifestation of some underlying disease. Individuals who suffer from insomnia usually try to help themselves by taking counter drugs called ‘Sleeping Pills,” which though may help momentarily but in the long run create more problems than any good. Until or unless we treat the underlying disease itself, the insomnia as such cannot be treated.
Normal duration of sleep differs in different age groups, eg. Infants usually sleep 18 hours a day on the other hand older population normally sleep 46 hours a day. More elderly people’s sleep is less deep in nature and is accompanied by frequent awakening. This is all normal physiological phenomenons and inducing sleep with the help of sleeping pills becomes abnormal and troublesome in the long run.
Majority of insomnias can be treated is the exact cause if found out. The underlying cause may be medical illness or psychological disorder. But in a majority of cases the main reason for insomnia is poor sleep hygiene. Before taking a step towards the relief of insomnia one should try to improve sleep hygiene which generally helps in majority of cases. Following 10 steps are recommended to improve sleep hygiene.
- If at all possible, obtain the amount of sleep needed to feel refreshed every night (The length of time can vary from 4 hours for some individuals to 9 or 10 hours for others).
- Arise regularly at a fixed time each day (This tends to lead to a regular time of sleep onset).
- Engage in regular daily exercise. But don’t do any exercise just before going to bed.
- Avoid loud noises in sleeping environment (Loud noises cause partial arousal and loss of deep sleep).
- Avoid excessive warmth in the bedroom area. Optional temp. For sound sleep in 7072F.
- Avoid caffeine in the evening. Tea, Coffee, Coca-Cola, Chocolates contain caffeine.
- Try a light bedtime snack especially of foods such as milk or tuna fish that are high in sleep inducing amino acid Ltryptophan to help reduce the time needed to fall asleep.
- Avoid over indulgence in alcohol. (Although it may help reduce time needed to fall asleep but such sleep always stays in light phase. Further sleep is fragmented with frequent awakening.
- Avoid tension before sleeping. In the common situation in which the tense, Keyed up individual tries vainly to get to sleep it is usually better to get up and engage in some relaxing activities like reading good magazines, than to lie in the bed awake which in turn can increase anxieties, still worsening the sleep.
- Avoid chronic use of sleeping pills. (They tend to loose effect with time and in some cases they are actively harmful especially in elderly population.
Further the bedroom should be reserved exclusively for sleeping purposes. The light should be minimal and preferably blue or green.
If after trying the proper sleep hygiene, one still does not sleep, then, one should seek professional help.
Golden rule to remember do not unnecessarily take the help of alcohol or sleeping pills to induce sleep.
Article extracted from this publication >> March 8, 1985