Insomnia affects around 60 million Americans, with cases ranging from mild to severe. And Insomnia is not just about the lack of hours of sleep. That is because some people who have insomnia can still sleep for eight hours. It is about the lack of quality sleep.
This may appear like a harmless condition, especially when you undergo it only once in a while. But when sleep deprivation becomes more frequent and continues for a long time, your body and mind start to drain. That leads to what is known as chronic insomnia, which results in more severe health issues.
To Treat Insomnia, many people take sleeping pills or other prescription drugs. Unfortunately, these can cause severe cases of addiction and dangerous health consequences. We’ll talk more about these in the following paragraphs.
Fortunately, there are some ways on how to treat insomnia naturally without medication. You can even do insomnia treatment at home. And yes, there are also alternative approaches on how to treat insomnia due to anxiety.
What is Insomnia?
It is first essential to understand insomnia and the factors leading to it before strategizing for ways to cope.
So what is insomnia? Insomnia is typically the complete lack of sleep. If from time to time or even every night, you can only sleep for five hours or less, insomnia may have gotten on you. And there’s more to that. Insomnia also signifies a lack of quality sleep.
Among the common insomnia symptoms is difficulty falling asleep, waking up in the middle of the night, early morning awakening, non-restful sleep as evidenced by periodic leg movements and other body movements, excessive snoring as seen in obstructive apnea, and sleepwalking. Other forms of manifestations are daytime tiredness or sleepiness, increased errors or accidents, ongoing worries about sleep, difficulty paying attention or focusing on tasks, depression or anxiety, and irritability.
Causes and Factors Leading to Insomnia
Among the common insomnia causes are:
Worrying on matters about work, family responsibilities, school, health, or managing finances can stir your mind active at night, leading to difficulty in sleeping. One practical is an example is Ana, who could hardly sleep because she keeps on thinking about her upcoming work presentation and how to close a deal with premium clients.
Untoward life incidents or trauma such as the death or illness of a loved one, job loss, divorce, mounting debts, severe bullying, and unsettled cases may also result in insomnia.
Travel or Work Schedule
Your body contains a circadian rhythm that acts as an internal clock, guiding various functions such as metabolism, body temperature, and sleep-wake cycle. Disrupting these will lead in insomnia. Among the underlying causes to these is jet lag from frequent traveling, working on a late or early shift, and frequently changing shifts. These can also lead to constant stress, a significant cause of insomnia.
Poor Sleep Habits
Poor sleeping habits and practices include daytime naps, irregular bedtime schedule, physical activities before bed, an inconvenient sleep environment, and making use of a bed for work, eating, or watching TV. Screens such as computers, laptops, video games, smartphones, or other devices just before bed can disrupt your sleep cycle. Even an electric fan on the ceiling, especially if it's noisy can make it hard for you to fall asleep.
Overeating Just Before Sleeping
It’s okay to have a light snack just before bedtime, but eating heavy meals or too much may lead to uncomfortable physical feelings while lying down. That will make it harder for you to catch sleep. A lot of people also suffer heartburn, a condition wherein, the acid and food from the stomach flows into the esophagus after eating. That may keep you awake. In particular, eating meat, fish, shrimps, clams, and other fatty foods pose a higher risk of heartburn.
Chronic insomnia can also correlate with certain medical conditions or the intake of certain prescription drugs. Recovering from the medical condition may help improve sleep, but insomnia may continue even after treatment.
Mental Health Disorders
Anxiety-related factors such as post-traumatic stress disorder can prevent you from falling asleep. Millions of people struggle with anxiety for a variety of reasons such as work, finances, family and relationships, business, and health. When unchecked on its early stage, distress can lead to depression, which aggravates difficulty sleeping.
Awakening too early in the morning can also be a manifestation of depression. Chronic insomnia develops with other mental health disorders, affecting the concentration and productivity of a person.
Various prescription drugs used for every type of chronic diseases can disrupt sleep patterns. Among these are antidepressants and pills for asthma or high blood pressure. Different variants of over-the-counter medications such as pills for abating pain, allergy and cold medications, and fitness products also exacerbate the problem. That is because they often contain caffeine and other stimulants which can interfere with sleep.
Illness or Disease
Many types of medical conditions lead to insomnia. Among these are Alzheimer’s disease, overactive thyroid, heart disease, chronic pain, cancer, diabetes, asthma, gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD), and others. The anxiety associated with these can only aggravate the lack of sleep.
If you have sleep apnea, the constant stoppage of periodic breathing throughout the night interrupts your sleep. Or if you have restless legs syndrome, unpleasant sensations in your legs and a virtually irresistible desire to move them around can also prevent you from catching sleep. Not only that, the irritation over such conditions can compound the situation.
Consumption of Caffeine, Nicotine, and Alcohol
Beverages and foods containing caffeine such as coffee, cola, and tea have stimulating effects. If you drink these late in the afternoon or evening, it will be harder for you to fall asleep. Tobacco products contain nicotine, which is also another stimulant that disrupts your sleep.
Some people are also accustomed to drinking alcohol, thinking that it will help them sleep. However, studies show that it prevents deeper stages of sleep and usually causes constant awakening throughout the night.
Adverse Impacts of Insomnia
While some people brag that they could only sleep for six hours or less, experts warn that insomnia could lead to serious health consequences. The recommended sleeping hours per night is around eight to nine hours. Those who undergo sleep deprivation are at risk of the following:
- Daytime fatigue, irritability, and excessive sleepiness
- Increased weight gain and difficulty in losing weight
- The immune system may weaken, therefore, increasing susceptibility to diseases
- Elevated blood pressure, leading to a higher risk of diabetes and heart disease
- Constant chronic pain
- Worsen mental illnesses that could potentially lead to depression and anxiety
- Lost focus and concentration, therefore, poor performance at work
- Diminished motor functions, making driving dangerous
In the long run, all these immediate consequences can lead to long-term negative effects not just for the person’s health but also to this career, work, and relationships with others. There are already cases of people who went nuts because of insomnia. Now, you wouldn’t want that to happen, right? So here are some ways you can cope.
Approaches to Relieving Insomnia without Medication
Applying conventional medical practices may be useful for some reasons. Some products may help you catch enough rest. But prescribed sleeping pills don’t necessarily address the root causes of the problem. Studies show that some sleep medications can exacerbate a person’s situation and cause harmful side effects.
Sleeping pills may help you sleep through the night, but sleep is not necessarily restful or relieving. A person with insomnia can become accustomed to these pills and become tolerant over time, thus, requiring more pills to get the same sleeping effect. That leads to rebound insomnia, making it harder for the person to sleep without pills or medication.
Fortunately, there are alternative approaches to these. There are ways on how to treat insomnia naturally without medication. The most common of these are:
- Sleep Hygiene
- Brief Cognitive Behavioral Treatment Intervention for Insomnia
For this article, however, we will only focus on the best practices surrounding sleep hygiene. After all, it is a practical and effective insomnia treatment from home.
What is Sleep Hygiene?
Sleep hygiene is the collection of habits and practices that can help you catch sleep more easily and sleep more deeply. While there are standard recommendations, developing good sleep hygiene varies from one person to another slightly. Now, here is a list of the dos of sleeping. Apply these so you can slowly cope with insomnia and achieve quality sleep.
Do’s of Sleep Hygiene
- Make sure to stick to your regular sleeping routine. Make sure your method applies the eight-hour recommendation.
- Allot at least 30 minutes per day for exercise routines such as jogging, weightlifting, or walking around. As much as possible, exercise in the morning and afternoon. If you prefer a more relaxing method, practice yoga poses to help you catch sleep.
- Don’t forget to let the sunshine over you during early morning so you can gain a healthy dose of Vitamin D. During winter, use a lightbox during the early morning to help optimize your body’s rhythms and help alert re-energize your brain.
- Create a regular and rejuvenating bedtime routine, especially to deal with the daily stresses of work or school.
- Better to take a warm bath or shower before sleeping. That can help in relieving you from regular hustles and give your body and mind a boost of a relaxed mood.
- Create a convenient and relaxing sleeping environment. Make sure your bed is comfortable, and your room should not be too hot, too cold, or too bright. All these are elements of distraction during your sleeping hours. If possible, make use of an earplug and listen to calming music. You can also wear an eye mask. Also, your pillow should be comfortable. Weighted blankets are the suited types for this.
- Utilize your bed for sleeping and sex only. Don’t use it for other distracting purposes such as assignments, work, eating, or watching TV. All these could become regular habits and will prevent you from gaining a good sleep.
- If you feel sleepy, go to bed. But if you keep on tossing and turning, get out of bed. Do something gentle that can lull you to sleep, such as reading a book.
- Avoid always seeing at the time when trying to sleep. Better yet, turn your clock around.
- If you have upcoming alerts for texts, emails, or social media notifications, turn them off. You wouldn’t feel comfortable if the constant notifications keep on creating noises, right?
- If you always worry about something, keep a “worry journal.” Whenever something bothers your mind as you try to catch sleep, note it down on a piece of paper so you can revisit it the following morning. Taking note of worrisome thoughts will help you identify things you need to cope up with and eventually, forget slowly. It will also help in determining potential causes of sleep deprivation so you can then act accordingly to address these.
- If you cannot catch sleep after about 20 minutes, get out of bed, and do something you find relaxing, such as reading or meditating. You can also listen to relaxing music until you eventually feel sleepy.
- If you have a computer, better download free screen-dimming software, and among the popular programs are f.lux and Dimmer. These practical programs help prevent the stimulation of bright light if you’re tapping on your computer later at night. If not, turn off your computer at least an hour before you sleep!
How Weighted Blankets Help You Achieve Good Sleep
If you all the do’s of sleep hygiene overwhelms you, you can try a more relaxing alternative which is, using a weighted adult blanket. Adult weighted blankets are scientifically-proven to help a person cope with insomnia and achieve quality sleep. Previously, these were only recommended to kids. Thanks to research conducted by the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, it was found out that adult weighted blankets also showed a profound and immediate effect on adult problem sleeper.
The benefit of weighted blankets relates to their deep touch sense. Using it makes the body feel hugged, consequently, releasing chemicals in the brain which relaxes the person and helps him fall asleep.
Today, weighted adult blankets are considered among the best practical ways on how to treat insomnia due to anxiety. As hinted in the previous paragraphs, anxiety distracts a person and keep his mind active for as long as it takes. That leads to sleep deprivation. By addressing anxiety, a weighted blanket facilitates a person to a comfortable and quality sleep.
By the way, weighted blankets are also effective treatments for other types of disorders such as autism, especially among children.
So if you have trouble with insomnia and other sleeping disorders, do apply the tips as mentioned above. Of course, don’t forget to buy your adult weighted blanket. There are tons of displays out there, both online and in malls and stalls. Have an enjoyable and quality sleep ahead.