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Insomnia is a form of sleep disorder characterised by an inability to sleep and/or to remain asleep for a reasonable period during the night. Sufferers typically complain of being unable to close their eyes for more than a few minutes at a time, or of 'tossing and turning' through the night.

If insomnia continues for more than a few nights running, it can become chronic and cause a sleep deficit[?] that is extremely detrimental to the sufferer's well-being. Insomnia interrupts the natural sleep cycle[?], which can be hard to restore. Some insomniacs unwittingly perpetuate their complaint by napping in the late afternoon or early evening, leading to wakefulness at bedtime and more insomnia. Others push their bodies to the limits, until their sleep deficit causes severe physical and mental effects.

Many people who feel they are suffering from insomnia may actually have a lower physical need for sleep than they believe they do. A normal part of the ageing process is to sleep more lightly and for shorter periods of time, and some elderly people toss and turn in bed late at night or early in the morning when their body has no physical need for more rest, because they believe that they must 'need' X amount of sleep to be rested.

Insomnia is a common side-effect of some medications, and it can also be caused by stress, emotional upheaval, physical or mental illness, dietary allergy and poor sleep hygiene[?]. Insomnia is a major symptom of mania in people with Bi-polar disorder, and it can also be a sign of hyper-thyroidism[?], depression, or other physical complaints with stimulating effects.

Cures for Insomnia
Many insomniacs rely for long periods on sleeping tablets[?] and other sedatives[?] to try to get some rest, even though these types of medication are only intended for short-term use. Others use herbs such as valerian, chamomile, lavender, hops, and/or passion-flower.

Some traditional 'cures' for insomnia involve drinking warm milk before bedtime, taking a warm bath in the evening, exercising vigorously for half an hour in the afternoon, eating a large lunch, then a light evening meal at least three hours before bed, avoiding mentally stimulating activities in the evening hours, and paradoxically, making sure to get up early in the morning and to retire to bed at a reasonable hour.

Chinese medicine practitioners have been treating insomnia sufferers for hundreds of years, usually involving a long initial acupuncture session, dietary and lifestyle analysis, and many follow-up appointments, taking care of the problem over several months, even years.

Although they seem unscientific, many of these 'cures' are sufficient to break the insomnia cycle without the need for sedatives and sleeping tablets. Warm milk contains high levels of tryptophan, a natural sedative. Lavender oil and other relaxing essential oils[?] may also be used to help induce a state of restfulness.

Ativan provides possible treatment.

Removing probable causes of insomnia:

  • Avoid all caffeine if you can't sleep. Caffeine is responsible for most cases of insomnia, including insomnia in night-shift workers. Caffeine is found in coffee, tea, mate (Ilex paraguaiensis), guarana, cocoa, kola nut[?] (this includes all cola drinks[?]); it is also found in "pep-me-up" sodas like Red Bull and similar, chocolate bars and other candy, and some people simply pop caffeine pills. Drink herbal teas or plain water instead of caffeine-containing liquids, and avoid the caffeine pills, too.
  • Is the bedroom dark enough? Some people are very sensitive to light. Getting darker curtains might help.
  • Is the bedroom quiet enough? Loud snores might disturb not only the sleep of the snorer's room mate, but also that of the snorer him/herself.
  • Do you have sleep apnea? A sleep lab can tell you yes or no. Sleep apnea makes for restless sleep, and a strong sense of insomnia.
  • Do you exercise? The body requires exercise to balance its energies and circulate crutial chemicals. Half an hour of walking a day is sufficient for most, though some people might require more exercise.
  • Sometimes lack of sleep is indicative of some emotional problem that's not being dealt with. If a person is not happy with their lifestyle, or they are putting off problems that should be dealt with, it can often result in sleeping trouble. Just as your body has nutritional requirements, everybody has social and environmental requirements. Sometimes, spending more time out with friends can help.
  • Do you have depression? If you wake up too early and can't get back to sleep you might want to visit a MD.
  • Obscure allergies, such as dairy allergies, can sometimes cause sleeping disorders. Other symptoms may be very mild, such as slightly stuffed sinuses. A nutritionist can make helpful dietary and suppliment recommendations.

A multifaceted approach
Most people who have cured their insomnia have done so by reviewing and experimenting with many different cures. Usually, a combination of dietary and lifestyle changes is the most helpful approach. As with many similar health problems, a determined, across-the-board holistic approach to sleeping problems is the most effective solution.

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