We often envy small children who so readily fall asleep anywhere and at anytime, wishing we were so lucky. Of course, we do grow up and life catches up will us all with any number of factors coming into play to interrupt what should be a very restful and rejuvenating time – sleep. Most of us would probably agree that as we age our sleep becomes worse . . . Well, that may be true, but as with many seemingly insurmountable problems in today’s world, poor sleep patterns are resolvable.
Insomnia is simply defined as having trouble “staying asleep.” Such a simple definition is woefully inadequate in describing what one feels like if he/she does not get enough sleep for that particular rest period. Again, the good news is, much of the experienced insomnia in this world is repairable.
The average adult requires between 7 ½ to 8 hours of sleep per night (or whatever the specific rest period is). However, as we age, we tend to require less sleep, 6 ½ to 7 hours. This may not be as much a factor of chronological age as life experiences. For example, as we age we live life, teenage love, new jobs, having children, our parents aging, etc. These experiences can weigh heavily on one’s mind, creating our mind to be very active, even when it should be shut down and resting – during sleep. As a result, sleep gets interrupted, which of course affects the physical and psychological elements of our being.
The first step in resolving any insomnia issue(s) is identification. Some symptoms of insomnia might be:
- Hard time falling asleep.
- Awake 3-4 times per night.
- Waking up not feeling rested.
- Day/night confusion.
- Change in sleep pattern.
It could be nearly impossible to isolate one particular cause for the development of insomnia in a person, but it is important to know what those potential causes might be. Here is a fairly encompassing list of causes for insomnia (remember, any one cause may or may not be a contributing factor in one’s insomnia issue – a full global picture should be reviewed before any action to remedy a sleep problem in undertaken):
- Cardiovascular disease
- Chronic pain
- Bladder issues
- Sleep apnea
- Dementia/Alzheimer’s disease
- External noise
- Late night eating
- Late night exercise
- Inactive life style
- Stimulant/anti-depressant medications
- Depression due to retirement, loss of personal identity, death of a spouse or close friend, etc.
As you might guess, insomnia is not something to mess around with for ignoring the issue with most likely lead to other ailments. Our bodies need their rest periods to regain strength, heal our wounds from the day’s battles, and prepare both mentally and physically for the challenges of tomorrow.
To take care of the issue of insomnia is not a simple fix, as mentioned earlier. First, make an appointment with your physician for a thorough physical exam. If there is any notion of insomnia, your doctor may order any number of exams to better understand what is happening in you. For example:
- EEG sleep study
- Overnight polysomnograph
- Mini mental exam
- Cardiopulmonary exam
- Upper airway exam
- Neurologic exam
- Blood tests
Often, sleep disorders (insomnia) require you to re-evaluate your sleep/bedtime routine, as many problems develop over time resulting in a change of routines. Here are some helpful hints to assist in creating a healthy routine:
- Go to bed the same time every day.
- Read before bed.
- Take a hot bath.
- No late night eating.
- Make certain the bedroom is quiet and dark enough.
- Practice “shutting off” your brain at night.
Sleep is something we all must have in order to survive. And, just like diet and exercise, good sleep patterns take work to make them successful with the end result being a more mentally and physically refreshed you after a good night’s sleep.
National Sleep Foundation
National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute
(Information for this article drawn from: www.drugs.com)