If you’re tossing and turning, unable to fall asleep at night, and then hitting the snooze button again and again the next morning you’re not alone. Insomnia and difficulty sleeping is a common problem that most people experience at one (or more) time in their life. According to the American Academy of Sleep Medicine 30-35 percent of adults in the U.S. are afflicted with insomnia.
Although everyone is susceptible, it is more likely to affect older adults – especially women – as well as anyone experiencing stress or suffering from certain health problems. Everyone knows the clichéd way to overcome insomnia: counting sheep. However, there are many more effective insomnia treatments, both medical and natural, but first you need to learn about insomnia symptoms and insomnia causes to understand how you can start getting the sleep you need.
A neurologist and sleep medicine physician at the University of Alabama at Birmingham (UAB), Amy Amara, M.D., Ph.D., says there are many contributing factors to sleep loss. After treating patients at the UAB’s Sleep/Wake Disorders Center Amara says the best way to wake up feeling healthy and energized is simply to get a good night’s sleep. Unfortunately, with insomnia, that often feels like an impossible goal.
Amara has a few suggestions to help those suffering from insomnia: “Cooler environments are helpful for promoting sleep. A hot bath just before bedtime may be helpful because the body temperature decreases quickly after getting out of the tub, thus promoting sleep. The best sleep environment is cool, dark and quiet.” She also recommends regular exercise, going to bed earlier and keeping all electronic devices away from the bedroom – including your cell phone.
In severe cases of insomnia, patients are often recommended to sleep specialists, who will perform tests that will help you better understand the nature of your sleep patterns and your individual sleep needs. Before seeking professional help, it’s beneficial to learn more about insomnia, so you can try to cure the problem naturally.
What should you know about insomnia
Insomnia is an affliction that can take us by surprise. After many years of successful sleeping habits we can suddenly find ourselves lying awake at night, unable to sleep, watching the minutes tick by. For some, the sleeping issues might disappear after a few days, but for most, insomnia is persistent and unrelenting. It keeps you from falling asleep, staying asleep, and if you do finally manage to fall asleep, insomnia will make it that much more difficult for you to wake up in the morning.
Insomnia is a disorder that causes you to have poor quality of sleep, regardless of how early you go to bed, or how many hours there are until morning. You wake up feeling groggy and sapped of energy. Insomniacs often find themselves having difficulty at work and in social settings; a lack of sleep effects your mood, health and overall quality of life.Continue reading… Luckily, if you know the causes and symptoms of insomnia, you are more likely to find a successful treatment.
Causes, Symptoms and Risk Factors of Insomnia
When you are suffering from insomnia, the symptoms are persistent and often easy to spot. They include:
- Difficulty falling asleep at bedtime – it often takes more than 30 minutes to fall asleep
- Waking up often during the night – and often being unable to fall back asleep
- Waking up much earlier than planned – unable to get more than six hours of sleep
- Feeling restless and unwell in the morning, following by a general tiredness all day
- Becoming easily irritated, anxious, stressed and often depressed
- Declining ability to focus or complete tasks – and there is an increase in accidents or mistakes
- A decline in health – stomach and intestinal stress, tension headaches
- Constantly worrying about being able to sleep – frustration leading to anxiety
Unfortunately, the causes of insomnia are plentiful and varied. Difficulty sleeping can be attributed to almost anything, from stress at work to changes in diet to new medications. A few of the more common causes are:
- Changes in daily schedule or irregular sleep schedules
- Depression, stress and anxiety
- Medical conditions and certain medications
- Caffeine, nicotine and alcohol
- Eating too late, or too close to sleep
- Lack of exercise or a decline in social behavior
- Changes in health or the development of certain ailments
- Aging, which often means less restful sleep, changes in our internal clocks, pain and arthritis and increases the frequency of urination
Although everyone can develop insomnia, your risks are greater if you are a women, are older than 60, have a mental disorder, are often traveling, make frequent changes to your work schedule or if you are under a great deal of stress. If you are suffering from insomnia, there are ways to help you regain your health. There are foods to help you prevent insomnia as well as more natural ways to help you sleep.
Natural remedies to help you sleep better
If you have been suffering from insomnia and want to feel better, there are some natural remedies to help improve your sleep, and you can try them at home.
Stay cool and calm – your body needs to stay cooler while sleeping so avoid electric blankets or out of season duvets which can cause you to overheat and disrupt sleep.
Include physical activity in your daily routine – boosts your heart rate and blood flow to help you sleep better at night.
Follow a bedtime ritual – habits die hard, so if you go to sleep at the same time each night your body will be more prepared to sleep when the time comes.
Use a natural sleep remedy/aid – valerian root, cherry juice and chamomile tea are all natural sleep remedies that have been proven to aid sleep.
Foods to help prevent insomnia
There are many foods that contain naturally occurring substances that can help you improve your sleep and reduce chances of insomnia. Also, be sure to reduce your intake of caffeine, alcohol, nicotine and spicy foods. Foods to add into your pre-sleep diet to help maintain a healthy sleep pattern include:
- Walnuts – contains tryptophan, a sleep-enhancing amino acid that converts to serotonin
- Chickpeas – contains tryptophan
- Turkey breast – contains tryptophan
- Cherry juice – contains tryptophan
- Almonds – contains magnesium, a mineral needed for quality sleep
- Dairy products – contains calcium which helps to trigger melatonin
- Green leafy vegetables – kale and spinach have high levels of calcium
- Lettuce – contains lactucarium, which has sedative properties
- Tuna and Salmon – have high levels of vitamin B6 which helps produce melatonin and serotonin
- Pistachios – high in vitamin B6
- Bananas – high in vitamin B6 and potassium, which also aids sleep
- Raw garlic – high in vitamin B6
- Cereal – it contains carbohydrates and calcium, both aid in sleep
- Chamomile tea – helps to increase glycine, a chemical that acts as a mild sedative and can relax nerves and muscles
- Honey – helps raise insulin levels to allow tryptophan to enter the brain
- Valerian root – often used as a sedative
Insomnia has many causes and the symptoms often disrupt your sleeping habits as well as your ability to function in daily life. Learning more about insomnia will help you understand prevention and treatment methods. If your insomnia is persistent and you notice a decline in your health and energy, try using the tips suggested above to help you sleep better. If there is no improvement or for severe cases, always consult your doctor to learn more about causes and treatment.