In this modern age of constant bombardment by stimuli, more and more people are finding that they are having trouble sleeping. There are several causes for this. Emotional distress, changes to routine, napping during the day, lack of exercise, lack of exposure to natural light, medication side-effects, excessive consumption of alcohol, caffeine or nicotine, and even watching television or reading can all contribute to insomnia.
Those discussing sleep problems will first look for emotional distress. Anything that a person is worried about, that is causing concern or stress, could keep them awake. Put simply, we have all had nights of tossing and turning in bed because we were worried about something, be it finances, relationships, work, or some worry over basic needs such as shelter, eating, clothing, or family. These factors could all keep us awake.
In some instances, seeking counseling with a professional could help relieve these worries. Another solution could be simply talking to a friend or spouse who would help relieve the worry or stress.
Getting a new job or going back to school or any change to our routine schedule could affect being able to sleep normally. Jet lag or anything that disrupts the bodies natural system could contribute as well. A new job start time may cause you to get up earlier or later than you were previously used to. So could taking new school classes earlier in the morning. To get back to a routine, a person may need to get back to a set schedule as soon as possible. This means going to bed and getting up at the same times each day so that the internal clock gets reset to this new routine.
The body seems to respond better to natural light than to artificial lighting. If someone works in an environment where all they see all day is dim lighting or fluorescent lighting, they may have trouble sleeping at night. Some people wake in the dark, work all day in artificial lighting conditions, and then go home at night in the dark as well. The body may be craving the stimulus of natural sunlight. So a simple solution may be to get out during the day at lunch to go for a walk in the sun outside. Studies have shown that people getting exposure to natural sunlight in the afternoon sleep better at night. Also, exercising two to four hours before bedtime may help release stress and tension in the body, allowing for more restful sleep.
The next factor to look at as possible causes to insomnia are stimulants. Those who drink excessive amounts of alcohol may find that it is difficult for them to get to sleep or stay asleep. Smoking before bedtime could also be a factor, because the nicotine found in cigarettes is a stimulant. A stimulant is defined as an agent, especially a chemical agent such as caffeine, that temporarily arouses or accelerates physiological or organic activity. Drinking beverages high in caffeine content such as coffee or soft drinks earlier in the evening or too close to bedtime could keep you awake later. Soft drink labels on the side of the can or bottle disclose the caffeine content in the drink.
Medication side-effects may also contribute to insomnia as could eating habits. Indigestion or the eating of spicy foods could cause stomach discomfort that could lead to problems with falling asleep or cause a person to wake up during the night.
Reading before bed can be a good aid in falling asleep, because it can take your mind off of your days worries and focus your mind instead on the story. But if the story causes the reader to feel confused, worried, threatened, or angry, then that reading could instead cause insomnia. The same is true for watching television. Watching a program that causes positive emotions will help with sleep more than shows with violence or high volumes.
An aid to falling asleep could be listening to soft instrumental music or even nature sounds. Some drug stores or pharmacies even sell music players that will play earth sounds of nature. These soothing tones help calm the brain and cause it to focus on restful relaxation. It is also important that the bedroom is sleep-friendly and only used for sleep. Comfort is important, so make sure bedding, sleep attire, and room temperature are all optimal for sleep. If the room is too cold or too warm, it may cause trouble sleeping. Any outside noise of unwanted light could be factors as well.
Insomnia is characterized by taking more than 30 to 45 minutes to fall asleep, waking up many times each night and not being able to go back to sleep, sleep that is unrefreshing, or waking up too early.
Another factor in sleep habits is aging. Older people are thought to be lighter sleepers because they tend to enter into deep sleep less as they get older. During the night, people experience cycles of R. E. M. (Rapid Eye Movement) or shallow sleep followed by non-R. E. M. Or deeper sleep. Older people spend less time in non-R. E. M. Sleep which may cause them to sleep less and wake up earlier in the morning.
There are other possible serious health conditions that could need to be diagnosed by a health professional. Sleep apnea is a condition that causes a person to stop breathing for up to 10 seconds at a time multiple times during sleep. There are remedies for this condition including sleeping with the aid of a machine called a C-Pap machine.
Narcolepsy is a condition where the brain causes the person to fall asleep during the day, possibly without notice and/or multiple times throughout the day. Another condition, called parasomnia, causes people to partake in activities during sleep such as walking around, rearranging items in the room or home, consuming strange foods they would not normally eat, or other odd behaviors. This condition is usually treatable as well.
We live in an age of computers, cell phones, video games, and lots of noise and light. Our lives are full of stress and worries. Sometimes we drink too much or do not eat right. Our schedules may change or we may undergo some sort of change to our environment. Our emotions might get the best of us at times. All of these things may be factors that cause us to have trouble sleeping. But in most cases with some effort, we can battle our insomnia. So if you are still awake later and do not want to be, you could always try the age-old remedy for trouble sleeping- counting sheep.