Ease Your Insomnia Naturally
Insomnia is the medical term that is used when people have difficulty getting to sleep or staying asleep for long enough to feel refreshed when they wake up. Many people experience problems sleeping at some point in their life and just deal with it as a temporary issue. Statistics show that up to a third of people in the UK have episodes of insomnia. It tends to be more common in women and more likely to occur as we get older.
What is insomnia?
We know that insomnia is abnormal sleep but what is normal sleep? This is hard to judge because everyone is different. Your sleep pattern changes with age, lifestyle, environment and diet. These are some of the common symptoms of insomnia:
- Difficulty falling asleep
- Waking up during the night
- Waking up early in the morning
- Feeling irritable and tired and finding it difficult to function during the day.
What causes insomnia?
It is important to get at the root cause of insomnia rather than just treating the symptoms. The most common culprits are stress, anxiety and depression but it can also be caused by conditions such as schizophrenia and asthma. Some people suffer from insomnia because of medications and alcohol or drug misuse.
What can you do about insomnia?
There is a range of things you can do to help you get to sleep. When insomnia first sets in, try these simple changes to your lifestyle:
- Avoid caffeine later in the day
- Avoid heavy meals late at night
- Set regular wake up times
- Use thick curtains, blinds or an eye mask to blank out bright light and earplugs to reduce noise.
If that doesn’t work, you can try some of the following natural remedies.
Honey has been used for centuries to treat sleep problems. It contains high levels of omega 3 fatty acids, which help reduce tiredness and fatigue. Also, the sugars in honey naturally balance blood sugar levels and produce serotonin, which is the hormone that improves our mood and relaxes us. A relaxed person is much more likely to fall asleep quickly and stay asleep until morning.
Apple cider vinegar
The Greeks are credited with discovering that apple cider vinegar has some impressive properties. It triggers the release of tryptophan, a substance that is metabolised into serotonin and promotes general health.
A relaxing bath
The warmth of a warm bath will make you feel relaxed and can be even more effective when combined with a hot drink and relaxing music? Simply have a cup of herbal tea, such as chamomile or passionflower, while you soak in a bubble bath with a few drops of essential oil in it.
When to see your doctor
At some point you may need to seek medical help for your insomnia. See your doctor if you’re finding that insomnia is affecting your daily life (work and relationships). Your doctor may ask you about your sleeping routines, your daily alcohol and caffeine consumption, and your general lifestyle habits, such as diet and exercise.
They will also check your medical history for any illness or medication that may be causing your insomnia.
Keeping a sleep diary
Before you see your doctor you may want to keep a sleep diary so that you can tell them exactly what is going on. You should keep a sleep diary for a minimum of two weeks, recording information such as:
- the time you go bed
- how long it takes you to get to sleep
- the number of times you wake up in the night
- what time it is when you wake up
- episodes of daytime tiredness and naps
- what time you eat meals, consume alcohol, take exercise and when you are stressed.
The first step in your treatment will be to identify and treat any underlying health condition, such as anxiety. In some cases, doctors have successfully used a technique called cognitive behavioural therapy for insomnia – this is a type of talking therapy that can help you avoid the thoughts and behaviours affecting your sleep.
Sleeping tablets should always be the last resort and are often only used in the short-term with the smallest possible dose.