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Insomnia is one of those horrible maladies that are normally symptomatic of an underlying disease whether that's psychologic or physiological.
Causes of Insomnia
- Psychological: depression, anxiety, stress,
- Medication: anti-depressants, thyroid medication, high blood pressure medication
- Medical problems: asthma, allergies, thyroid disease, pain, organ disease (liver, kidney etc)
- Sleep disorders: sleep apnea, snoring, restless leg syndrome, narcolepsy
- Lifestyle: smoking, drinking, eating or exercising close to bed time
Insomnia is when you have difficultly getting to sleep, even staying asleep or waking up far to early in the morning. This can obviously start taking it's toll when it goes on for more than a few days leaving you fatigued and irritable.
Getting a full nights sleep is very important to the body as that is when it does most of it's repairs such as rebuilding muscle and sorting out all of the information you have processed during the day.
Stages of Sleep
During the night (or day) your body will go through what is know as a sleep cycle which is made up of 4 stages:
- Drowsiness - preparing for sleep
- Light sleep - heart rate slows and body temperature decreases
- Deep sleep - difficult to wake and will be groggy for a few minutes is done so, brain waves are slow, blood flow goes to the muscles for repair and replenishing
- REM (rapid eye movement) or dreaming - eyes moves very quickly under the eyelids, arm and leg muscles are paralyzed, breathing is shallow, heart rate and blood pressure increase.
Throughout the night your body will experience a few of these cycles, normally 4-6 depending on how long you sleep for and the length of each stage but the vital stages are Deep sleep and REM.
Tips to Help you Sleep
But what happens if you can't sleep? As a fellow insomniac I can tell you there are hundreds of things to try with the most recommended being:
- Regular bedtime and waking up time even on the weekends
- Don't get into sleep debt - if you miss an hour one night make it up the next
- Don't nap during the day
- Exercise but not close (3 hours) to bed time
- Reduce you caffeine and alcohol intake
- Stop smoking
- Don't have a huge meal before bed
- Make your bedroom as comfortable as possible using thick curtains and plenty of cushions
- Use your bedroom for sleeping and sex only
- Block out all noise from your bedroom
If those don't help then you can always use sleeping tablets from your health care provider but then they come with their own set of side effects and problems.
If you're like me though and you've tried ever variation under the sun for all those tips above and still can't sleep then the only thing I can advise is to keep working on your health, take care of yourself and if you have an underlying medical condition get to grips with that.
Aside from that advise I'm in the same boat as you. If you're reading this at 5am when you should be sleeping and have any other tips you want to share drop me a comment and I'll try it out.