Sleep is as much of a necessity as food and water. At some time during your lifetime, you are likely to experience difficulty sleeping, also known as insomnia. Insomnia can affect anyone of any age and is common in young people. While it is not a life-threatening illness, insomnia can be distressing and this is particularly true when you feel so exhausted you find it difficult to carry out all of your usual daily activities.
Insomnia can fall into two main categories: chronic insomnia, which can last weeks, months or years, and transient insomnia, which lasts for only a few nights or weeks and is usually associated with stressful life events, such as examinations. Insomnia is characterised by difficulties in falling asleep, sleeping lightly and/or restlessly and waking up early and being unable to fall back to sleep. Insomnia can cause you to feel tired during the day, experience frequent headaches and lack concentration. You may even find yourself turning to the use of sleeping pills or alcohol to help yourself to get some sleep.
There are several causes of insomnia and oftentimes, the cause may not be immediately obvious. You may experience insomnia at times when you are experiencing anxiety, depression or worry. These states of mind are commonly encountered at university, particularly if you have moved away from home for the first time. Noise and discomfort can cause insomnia and can result from living in noisy halls of residence or sleeping in an uncomfortable student bed. Recreational drugs, including caffeine, nicotine, LSD, heroin, cocaine and cannabis can cause insomnia, as can sleeping pills and tranquillisers.
Insomnia is a problem that you can resolve yourself. However, in order to cure your insomnia, you must be committed to making changes to your lifestyle. If noise and discomfort are the cause of your insomnia, you will need to look into your living arrangements.
If your bed is comfortable, you could change your mattress or move your bed into a different position. Ensure that your bedding is clean and that you are of a comfortable temperature at night.
If light troubles you at night, purchase blackout curtains or try sleeping with a mask over your eyes. Use earplugs if your room is noisy and you cannot do anything about it. Try relaxation exercises to reduce your stress levels before bed and keep an MP3 player by your bed so that you can use it to mask noises if you need to.
If stimulants such as caffeine, alcohol and food additives are keeping you awake, you will need to cut these substances out of your diet. Certain types of food and drink will interfere with your sleep-wake cycle, particularly if consumed before bed. If you are having problems getting to sleep, try eating a meal high in carbohydrates two hours before bedtime. Warm, milky drinks can also be helpful.
If you are unable to find a specific cause for your insomnia, you should aim to break your cycle of insomnia by exercising regularly and establishing a routine at bedtime. You should ideally go to bed and wake up at the same time each day, even if you do not want to. An hour should be set aside for bedtime so that you can relax both mentally and physically. During this time, you could take a warm bath or a light walk before taking yourself to bed. If you find that your mind will not switch off at night, you could create a list of your thoughts and replace any negative thoughts with positive ones. By establishing a bedtime routine, you will reinforce the connection between going to bed and getting to sleep.
This post was penned on behalf of OCVC.