Insomnia is a common condition in all age groups. There is no medication that is effective in reproducing natural sleep with its 5 stages including REM sleep.
Insomnia occurs when there is a hyperarousal of the sympathetic nervous system. This does not allow the relaxation and stimulation of the parasympathetic nervous system in order to achieve true sleep with all its stages. Also when one is awake with insomnia issues they are not able to be fully awake but are instead fatigued. It becomes a never ending cycle.
There are steps one can take to help eliminate insomnia.
- Avoid Alcohol and tobacco use. Avoid caffeine. Review the side effects of the medications you take because insomnia is a common side effect.
- Eat nutritious food and do not eat 2 hours prior to sleeping.
- Get adequate amounts of exercise during the day not prior to sleeping.
- Reduce dysfunctional thoughts about sleep such as I need to sleep, I will have a terrible day if I don’t get to sleep tonight etc…. This just adds “pressure” to sleep and compounds the problem.
- Remove clocks from the bedroom or at least from you sight while in bed.
- Remove TV, radio and books from the bedroom.
- Try to establish your bedroom as a stress free and work free area.
- Ensure your personal safety.
- Maintain a peaceful relationship with your partner.
- Try a relaxation practice such as breathing exercises or meditation.
Example of a breathing exercise:
Place the tip of your tongue against the ridge behind your front teeth and exhale completely through your mouth. Inhale through your nose for a count of 4. Hold your breath for a count of 7. Exhale through your month with a swooshing sound to the count of 8. Repeat this cycle three more times for a total of four breaths. The ratio of 4:7:8 is the key, not the actual time spent on each breath cycle. Practice at least twice daily, beginning with no more than four breath cycles at one time for the first month and increasing to eight breath cycles afterward if desired. This exercise can be used to increase presleep relaxation and to facilitate sleep onset in bed. (1)
1. David Rakel, Integrative Medicine fourth edition (Elsevier: 2018)page 85.