More than 40% of Canadians suffer from some form of a sleep disorder, with an estimated 3.5 million of those individuals (aged 15 and older) suffering from insomnia.
There are two different forms of insomnia. Acute insomnia and chronic insomnia.
Acute insomnia is usually brief and often happens as a result of stress (for example, having to write an exam the following day or from receiving bad news.) This type of insomnia usually resolves itself once the stress has diminished. Insomnia is considered chronic when your sleep is disrupted for three or more nights per week for at least three consecutive months. Things such as shift work, certain medications, environmental changes, certain disease or disorders (such as stress and anxiety), and medications can all cause chronic insomnia, and it can affect one’s day-to-day activities such as attending work, school, or hanging out with friends. You can even develop insomnia as a result of having unhealthy sleeping patterns (i.e. not going to sleep at a normal time, sleeping in late, etc.) Individuals who suffer from chronic insomnia usually need treatment to help them fall back into a normal sleep routine. That treatment often includes medications; however, Dr. Ali Ghahary first likes to recommend some other natural home remedies for patients to try.
One of the biggest reasons why people have so much trouble falling asleep is because they tend to watch TV or listen to music when in bed. While some individuals say that they find background noise to be soothing and have no problem falling asleep with it, it can be quite a distraction for others – so try going to sleep without it. Computer use is another common culprit of insomnia, especially in teenagers and young adults. To ensure you fall asleep, it’s important that you have a sleep-friendly environment. This means no electronics – including cell phones. If you happen to keep your cell phone nearby when you are asleep, turn off the volume so that you’re not disturbed by any incoming e-mails or text messages. For some added comfort, sleep experts also recommend keeping curtains and blinds drawn and having your room be around 60 degrees in temperature.
If it’s stress that’s causing you to have difficulty getting a good night’s rest, first identify what’s causing that stress. Once you have identified the trigger, you’ll be able to tackle it head on and improve your overall quality of life, including how much sleep you’re getting. The less stressed you are, the less likely you are to stay awake thinking about it. To relieve minor stress, Dr. Ali Ghahary recommends practicing breathing exercises. In addition, Dr. Ghahary also recommends partaking in low-impact exercise. Walking for as little as 30 minutes per day can be enough to help calm the mind. Try not to exercise late in the evening, however, as this can actually have the opposite affect and keep you awake at night. You should also avoid stimulants in the evening such as caffeine and energy drinks, as these will also keep you awake. Instead, try a cup of hot chamomile tea. It’s caffeine-free and has been used as a natural sleep remedy for many years – and it’s also great for your health!
As mentioned, medications are sometimes considered to help paints with severe insomnia. There are many medications designed to help a person fall asleep. If you are prescribed any of these while taking other medications, it is important that you double check with your pharmacy that there are no interactions. When combined, some medications may actually increase or decrease the dose of one or the other, and could even have life-threatening consequences.