How to Beat Insomnia and Get a Good Night's Sleep

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Experts suggest that adequate sleep is a necessary component in enhancing creativity, sparking innovation and increasing energy. Conversely, the lack of sleep results in fatigue, heart disease, high blood pressure, low immunity, depression, and shortened lifespan. Insomnia can be described as the inability of an individual to fall asleep or stay asleep. This inability is influenced by two brain processes: the homeostatic mechanism that causes sleep and circadian rhythm that develops alertness. The circadian rhythm fluctuates throughout the day with varying levels of alertness based on your body's internal clock. For instance, an individual who sleeps at 11 pm and wakes up at 6 am has the highest level of alertness at 8 am, which then decreases until about 3 pm when it rises again and diminishes towards 8 pm. Ideally, such an individual should record the lowest levels of alertness between 2 and 4 am.

When this pattern is disturbed, the result is insomnia. The three patterns of lack of sleep include the inability to fall asleep within 30 minutes, inability to maintain sleep by numerous interruptions within the night, and early morning awakening. Insomnia can be either short-term or persistent, but in either case, it is a symptom of a problem as opposed to being an independent disease. Short-term insomnia occurs as a reaction to change or stress following an illness, travelling, changes in weather or a traumatic experience. Chronic insomnia, on the other hand, is often attributed to stress and anxiety. It tends to become habitual, such that the individual becomes aware of his lack of sleep and becomes fixated on this inability; hence, being unable to sleep or sleeping for brief periods. This condition is more pronounced in women than men, due to fluctuation in progesterone levels at different times of the menstrual cycle. High levels of progesterone during ovulation tend to induce sleep during this time, and low levels during menstruation, pregnancy and menopause deprive them of sleep.

In addition, lack of a good night's sleep can be caused by personal and lifestyle factors. Personal factors include medical conditions such as chronic fatigue syndrome or coronary heart disease; sleep disorders such as narcolepsy, sleep apnea and snoring; parasomnias like sleep walking, sleep enuresis (bedwetting) or nightmares; grief; and stress. Lifestyle factors include sleep disorders due to circadian rhythm such as shift work, jet lag, sleeping too early or too late; effect of engaging in physical activities, which induces sleep; maintain a balanced diet to improve sleep; use of alcohol and other drugs like caffeine and nicotine that disturb sleep; and environmental factors such as excess light, noise, and a stuffy atmosphere combined with a lumpy pillow or mattress.

Many people tend to associate lack of sleep with the environmental factors mentioned. An uncomfortable mattress can interfere with your sleep especially if it is either too soft or too hard, or sags in the middle. As such, getting a special mattress that meets your preferred sleeping conditions can be a great help. If your bed is comfortable, you should seek alternative measures such as practicing good sleep hygiene. This includes avoiding daytime naps, avoiding nicotine and caffeine at night, exercising at least 4 hours before bed, sleep restriction to the right time, and controlling your sleep environment factors such as noise, light and temperature. Alternatively, you can try other non-medical options such as relaxation therapy that includes playing soothing music before going to bed, and stimulus control like going to bed only when you are sleepy.

About the Author:

This article was written by Mary S. from Acute Healthcare (http://acutehealthcare.com.au/). She has contributed many websites with her health and homecare related articles.

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