Medical corner

INSOMNIA

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Do you struggle to sleep no matter how tired you are? Or you lie in bed all night just watching the clock and praying the day dawns fast? Insomnia is a very common problem that takes a huge toll on your health, mood, performance, productivity, thinking and even your emotions. Insomnia is a sleep problem characterised by difficulty falling/staying asleep for hours long enough to feel refreshed after waking up. There are no absolutes when it comes to defining insomnia because the number of hours needed for a good sleep varies in individuals. “Is it difficult for u to fall asleep?”
“Is it difficult to stay asleep for as long as u desire?”

If you said yes to the questions, you have insomnia. Because of the differences in body make-up, insomnia is defined by quality of sleep, not number of hours. So it is quite subjective. Even if you sleep 8 hours in a night and you wake up feeling drowsy, used, tired and unable to function well, it may be a pointer to insomnia. However, in some individuals, they can’t even sleep at all. They just lie there and roll from one end of the bed to the other. It’s insomnia. Although insomnia is the most common sleep complaint, it is actually a symptom of another background problem; which may be medical or not.

The good news about insomnia is that with some adjustments to your lifestyle, you can treat your sleep problems on your own without drugs. That is why insomnia is divided into primary and secondary insomnia by sleep experts. This is based on if there’s any underlying cause. Primary insomnia is when there’s no underlying medical issue. Secondary insomnia is when it has medical causes e.g. asthma, depression, etc. Arthritis, cancer, heartburn, parkinson’s disease, hyperthyroidism, kidney disorders, chronic pain are medical causes of insomnia. Insomnia can be short term or long term, depending on if it is less than/more than 3 weeks. Chronic insomnia usually has medical causes. Short term (acute) insomnia on the other hand usually has temporary causes like painful heartbreak, impending exams or a long road trip.

Insomnia symptoms are difficulty falling asleep, or going back to sleep after being awake, frequently waking up at midnight, drowsiness. More insomnia symptoms include non-refreshing sleep, inability to sleep without taking alcohol or sleeping pills, daytime drowsiness. Untreated insomnia only leads to depression, irritability, impaired concentration, memory problems, reduced performance at work/school. Occasional insomnia can be caused by significant life stress- such as death of a loved one, loss of a job or a very traumatic breakup. Environmental issues like extreme heat/cold, bright lights, noise, or drugs such as those used in allergy, cold, may cause insomnia. Working late night shifts, history of mental disorders, using too much caffeine, herbs, alcohol and sleeping tablets may cause insomnia.

Simple tips for preventing insomnia include keeping a consistent sleep schedule, that means sleeping and waking up around the same time everyday. Avoid caffeine/energy drinks late at night, avoid exercises just before sleep, use your bed ONLY for sleep & sex. Not for any other use. Avoid buying over-the-counter sleeping drugs without a doctor’s prescription. Some of them lose potency over time & have bad side effects. Not all cases of insomnia require any drug use. Sometimes looking inwards and addressing the cause e.g if you had a breakup or a job loss. Do not take any heavy meals late in the evening, just something light at night is fine. No alcohol, caffeine,or nicotine at night as well.

One of the easiest ways to prevent insomnia is to get on the bed at night, turn OFF your phones/tabs and stay away from Twitter/Instagram. Avoid taking naps during the day. Make your bedroom comfortable; preferably dark, quiet and cozy. Take away any workfiles or schoolbooks. Put off the lights. Never leave the TV on. Wear ear plugs if noise/sounds is an issue. Use sleeping masks if your spouse wants the light on. Make it a habit to restrict your bed to ONLY sleep and/or sex. Your bed should not be turned to a library, an office or a dining table. Never carry uncompleted school/office work to the bedroom. Take a cold bath. Put on slow soulful music, RnB or Country music works well.

Get out of bed when you can’t sleep. Don’t force yourself; rolling around only increases anxiety. Take a bath or a cold drink. Then sleep. Move bedroom clocks out of view, anxiously watching the minutes tick by while you can’t sleep only increases frustration. Use alarm clocks instead. Don’t associate your bed with frustration, anxiety or hopelessness. If you have mentally defeating thoughts before sleep, even drugs may not work.

If all the above tips do not work in getting you a quality sleep, do see a doctor or a sleep disorder therapist. Drugs will be prescribed. Thanks for your time.

Have a lovely week ahead filled with great nights of quality sleep.

Culled from tweets by @drolufunmilayo
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About the author / 

Patrick Jennifer

My name is Patrick Jennifer............ Talkative extraordinaire (aspiring OAP), Professional 'carer', Wanna-be writer, and I am sweetness personified.

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