Insomnia – having trouble falling asleep or staying asleep at least three nights per week for at least one month – can be caused by a wide variety of things, and any number of things happening at the same time.
While you may not be able to pin your insomnia down to just one issue, there are a couple of conditions that make the incidence of insomnia more likely. Some of these can be addressed with lifestyle changes such as setting up a sleep ritual, but others may require medical intervention.
Emotional And Mental Health Disorders
Your insomnia may or may not be caused by emotional and mental health disorders such as depression, anxiety, and bipolar disorder. If you have one of these conditions, treating that condition may help you get better sleep.
Similarly, trouble sleeping can also be caused by stress. Long-term stresses, like relationship problems, work problems, or a death in the family, can also cause symptoms of insomnia. In these cases, the problem should go away as soon as the situation has resolved or you have had time to recover from it. In the meantime, over-the-counter sleep aids might be enough, but be careful as some of these can be habit-forming.
Also interesting: The Most Effective Solutions for Insomnia Caused by Stress at Work
Many medications can also cause insomnia. It should be listed as a side-effect on the bottle, but it may also be the result of multiple interacting medications. If you think that your medication is disrupting your sleep patterns, try bringing it up with a health care provider. They may be able to prescribe a different medication, change your dosage, or make other recommendations.
Age also plays a factor in the prevalence of insomnia. So many people over the age of 65 have problems falling asleep and staying asleep that many people believe that older adults need less sleep, which isn’t true. Insomnia in old age can be caused by side effects of medications, biological changes, and other factors.
Also interesting: Why Sleep Is Your #1 Life Hack For Better Aging
Children can also have insomnia
In young children, it can be the result of side effects from medication, environmental influences, stress, or overuse of mild stimulants like caffeine. Teenagers also show symptoms of insomnia as hormonal changes adjust their biological clock. That is why teenagers are known for staying up late and then sleeping in – it is often difficult for them to fall asleep early but they still need a full night’s rest.
Also interesting: Sleep Deprivation in Adolescents and Children
Part of the reason that some teenagers are so cranky or rely on stimulants throughout the day is that their biological clock and the clocks on their parents’ walls and in schools just don’t line up.
Having extra weight can also lead to insomnia. Too much adipose tissue can change your hormonal balance, which can make sleep more difficult.
Extra weight can also lead to cardiac and respiratory problems that can make falling asleep and staying asleep more difficult. Many of these issues go away if you lose weight. If you think that extra body weight is making it harder to stay asleep, consider talking to your doctor about how to manage your insomnia in the short term and how to manage your weight in the long term.
Also interesting: Will Sleep Help You Lose Weight?
All of the conditions above are known to cause or exacerbate problems sleeping, but we are learning more about insomnia all the time. There is even some fairly recent research to suggest that it may be partially genetic.
Whatever you think is causing your insomnia, there are certain things that you can do like having a rigid sleep schedule, not drinking caffeinated beverages after early afternoon, and not using electronics before bed. If these tricks don’t work, consider talking to a healthcare provider.
Setting Up A Sleep Ritual 101
In today’s world, we’re always switched on. Our work lives have blended into our private lives; our social lives continue even when we’re alone. We’re texting and chatting, snapping and messaging all hours of the day and night. If we don’t have a sleep ritual, it’s tough to put all our electronic entourage away and get prepped for some deep, invigorating and restorative sleep.
Also interesting: Why Waking Up In The Middle Of The Night Isn’t Always Insomnia
Healthy, restful sleep isn’t something that just happens. No one slams everything down abruptly, dives for the bed and slams dreamland. A better way to get the sleepy times going is to set up a sleep ritual, which is simply a consistent routine that signifies to the mind and body that sleep is on the way. Creating a bedtime ritual helps our body’s circadian rhythm wind down.
Two critical caveats:
- Your sleeping area needs to be reserved for sleep and sex. It shouldn’t be a secondary command center for your work. Leading to that…
- Put work away. That can be hard! The temptation to drag work into bed with us can be powerful, but don’t give in.
Building Your Sleep Ritual
- Try making an “evening inspection” routine. Take a walk around your place, turning off lights, checking door locks, closing shades—whatever you do to prepare your home for nighttime, make it part of prepping yourself for sleep.
- Next, take care of your evening hygiene. Brushing your teeth or completing an evening beauty routine takes place now.
- Power off the gadgets. Blue light from electronic screens triggers the brain to stay in wakefulness. The last hour or half-hour before bed should be free of electronics. Electronic screens produce blue light, which is great for promoting wakefulness and an alert mind. However, that’s not so good when you’re trying to get some sleep. Excessive blue light keeps people awake. If you must use your phone, check to see if it has a blue-light filter. Many cell phones and laptops have a setting that reduces or even eliminates blue light emissions. Getting rid of blue light in the evening helps our natural body rhythm shift into sleep mode.
- Arrange your bedroom for maximum rest efficiency. If you’ve got mounds of clothes between you and your bedroom door, pick ‘em up and move ‘em over. Walking through a maze in a cluttered room isn’t conducive to lowering our threat awareness levels.
- Head to your bedroom! Your bedroom needs to be cozy. For most people, a cool room, anywhere from 65 to 75 degrees, promotes good sleep. Some people enjoy a relaxing bath before bed, but others find that an unnecessary, even distracting habit. Bedtime is all about comfort. Don’t forget that! It’s all about you and what soothes your tired body and mind.
- Avoid alcohol but add restful drinks. Some beverages do have the ability to encourage sleep. Brewing a cup of sleepy-time tea can be comforting as a ritual, and chamomile tea is known to encourage drowsiness. Warm milk also helps some people to start nodding off.
- Avoid vigorous exercise before bed. It might be tiring in the day, but intense, even moderate exercise shifts the body into a revved-up, high-powered metabolic mode.
- Remember the adage “nothing changes if nothing changes.” Sneaking work into bed with you won’t help you get deep, refreshing rest. Reading till the late hours can be enjoyable, but unless that’s a habit that helps you unwind and promotes great rest, it’s not going to help you out suddenly.
- Make adding a tiny bit of soft scent to your bed—or yourself part of your shutdown sleep ritual. Lavender, bergamot, and valerian are just a few calming scents
- Say Goodnight. Tell yourself goodnight just like you do everyone else.
- Sleep rituals, like morning routines, are specific to each person. After all, no one’s needs are 100 percent identical to anyone else’s. As with all things in life, it’s important to stay open to experimentation, keeping what works and tossing what doesn’t.