Insomnia is the inability to get adequate, restful sleep. Its symptoms include one or more of the following:
- Difficulty falling asleep at bedtime
- Waking up frequently during the night and having trouble falling back to sleep
- Waking up too early in the morning
- Not getting “quality” sleep that enables you to feel refreshed for the following day, even though you may be sleeping for an adequate amount of time each night
While research indicates that adults require about seven to eight hours of sleep per day, sleep needs are highly individual. What matters is whether your sleep is restful and enables you to be active and alert during the day. Health researchers estimate that 30 percent to 40 percent of people have some level of insomnia in any given year. Insomnia is more common in women than in men, and it tends to increase with age.
Acute (short-term) insomnia
Insomnia is called “acute” or “transient” if it occurs only occasionally and is short-term (lasting only a few nights and for less than four weeks). Acute insomnia is usually caused by a specific, usually temporary, circumstance such as a stressful day, physical discomfort, or a disruption of your “body clock,” such as when you have jet lag or work the night shift.
Insomnia that continues for three or more nights a week, and lasts a month or more, is considered to be chronic (meaning long-term or constant). About 10 percent to 15 percent of adults suffer from chronic insomnia. Whereas most people can get by with an occasional bout of troubled sleep, chronic insomnia requires a doctor’s care. Chronic insomnia is usually the result of complex factors. It is a sign and a cause of major depression.
Some consequences of insomnia
Getting enough sleep is essential for your health and happiness. Medical studies have documented that insomnia has negative effects on mood and causes daytime sleepiness, irritability, lack of energy and difficulty concentrating. Clearly, the effects of insomnia can interfere with your daily activities, your relationships and your job performance. Insomnia may also cause physical danger. Drowsiness, for instance, is a factor in many car crashes, according to the National Commission on Sleep Disorders Research.
Tips: Lifestyle Changes to Relieve
Sometimes insomnia can be relieved by making simple lifestyle changes…
- Keep a regular sleep schedule, even on weekends.
- Don’t drink caffeine, which can create an alerting effect. Don’t drink caffeine within six to eight hours of bedtime.
- Don’t smoke because nicotine is a stimulant. Smokers also have withdrawal symptoms during sleep.
- Don’t drink. Alcohol actually disrupts sleep.
- Don’t eat or drink too much close to bedtime because it may make you uncomfortable and cause heartburn.
- Don’t exercise too close to bedtime. Regular exercise is highly recommended as a way to help your body sleep and to sleep better. However, avoid exercising before going to bed because exercising increases your alertness for several hours afterward, and makes falling asleep difficult. Exercise at least three hours before bed.
- Do relaxing rituals. A relaxing, routine activity right before bedtime tells your body it’s time to sleep. Soak in a hot tub, read or listen to music.
- Make sure your room is cool, quiet, dark and comfortable. Use eye masks, earplugs, “white noise” machines and humidifiers.
- Use your bed for sleep. Use your bed only for sleep; don’t work in bed or watch television.