Older adults and women are those who are most likely to report symptoms of insomnia, a condition that can have severe consequences. Fatigue, increased medication and alcohol use, doctor visits, absenteeism at work, impaired concentration and memory, accidents, and reduced enjoyment of relationships are some of the costs of insomnia.
Insomnia can fall into any of four categories. These include difficulty falling asleep, midsleep awakenings, early-morning awakenings, and nonrestorative sleep. Obviously there is the potential for much overlap in these categories. In addition, some are reflective of stage of life concerns. For instance, it's quite normal for us to experience more early-morning awakenings as we age, due to the changes in circadian rhythms.
Another way to categorize insomnia is to look at the duration. Transient insomnia means thanking a few days, short-term insomnia lasts a few weeks, and chronic insomnia lasts months or even years. The first two are typically caused by situational stress, such as job loss, medical or psychological challenges, and / or the circadian rhythms mentioned earlier.
Regardless of cause or duration, insomnia can negatively affect our daytime functioning. Therefore, it behooves us to take steps to alleviate this condition. So what are some options?
Antidepressant drugs are traditionally utilized, despite the lack of valid research supporting their use for insomnia, and constantly the numerous side effects of these drugs (eg, headache, nausea, sexual problems, agitation.) Benzodiazepines and nonbenzodiazepine hypnotics have been shown to be helpful in the short term but the long term effects are harmful or simply have not even been studied.
Additional treatment from qualified practitioners include such interventions as hypnosis, bright light therapy, cognitive-behavioral therapy, sleep education, sleep hygiene, sleep restriction, stimulator control, cognitive restructuring, paradoxical intention, and relaxation therapy. Chronic insomnia sufferers may want to work with a good sleep clinic. But what if you want to take care of the problem yourself? In addition to the obvious ones, such as no caffeine, or heavy meals or workouts before bedtime, here are a few additional techniques to try.
- Self-hypnosis. There are numerous books and audio programs (free and for purchase) for help with this.
- Imagery. Going into a meditative state, visualize yourself as being relaxed, well-rested, alert and energetic, and at peace with your world. Do this 15-20 minutes, twice a day, for two or three weeks, or until your body releases the habit of insomnia.
- Exercise. Stress creates stress hormones which are toxic to your body. These hormones are released in bodily fluids, so drink a lot of water to flush them out, and do activities which get you breathing heavily and perspiring.
- Place a few drops of essential oils (chamomile, hops, hyssop, lemon verbena, marjoram, neroli, thyme, ylang-ylang) on a cotton ball or tissue and inhale deeply during your relaxation time.
- Resolve whatever challenges are causing the insomnia, or change your way of viewing those challenges.
- Do some EFT (Emotional Freedom Technique) where you tap on acupressure points to release whatever is blocking your sleep. There are YouTube videos demonstrating the technique, and an abundance of written information as well as practitioners available on the Internet.
- Drink some tea at bedtime, such as passionflower, skullcap, St. John's wort, or kava kava root.
- Make self-care your top priority. It's not selfish, because you can not give away what you do not have. A full gas tank will take you much farther than one that's an eighth full.
Try these ideas. If you're still not satisfied with the results you're getting, you can add the assistance of various energy and talk therapies, or even temporary medication if you are comfortable with the side effects. At any rate, do not sacrifice yourself on the Altar of Problems. Take care of your health and wellbeing.