Rates of insomnia have been increasing dramatically, which is concerning because there is no single health-related behavior, over both the short and long-term, as important as getting good sleep.
In this blog post, we’ll learn about recommended behaviors and natural approaches — including natural supplements — that can help prevent, lessen, and cure, insomnia.
What is Insomnia?
The inability to fall asleep or to stay asleep throughout the night is a condition known as insomnia, and it is among the most common of all medical complaints; approximately 1/3 of all people experience a period of insomnia at least once during their lifetime.
Short-term insomnia is very common and has many causes such as stress, travel, or other life events. It can generally be relieved by simple sleep hygiene interventions.
Long-term insomnia lasts for more than three weeks and should be investigated by a physician with a potential referral to a sleep disorder specialist, which includes psychiatrists, neurologists, and pulmonologists who have expertise in sleep disorders.
In addition to mood disorders, chronic insomnia is also associated with hypertension, cardiovascular disease, obesity. These conditions can be life-threatening, and will certainly reduce the quality of your life.
What is the Main Cause of Insomnia?
Insomnia is characterized by difficulty falling asleep, difficulty staying asleep, or waking up too early in the morning. It is symptomatic of a large number of physiological disorders; if you are having difficulty sleeping, chances are that an underlying health problem is to blame.
Illness, infection, mental health disorders, and medications can all keep you from getting the proper amount of rest. Hormone and neurotransmitter imbalances can affect your body’s ability to fall asleep, and dietary deficiencies can cause insomnia, as well.
Exposure to toxic elements such as heavy metals, molds, and other environmental pollutants has also been shown to impair sleep.
By determining what is causing your insomnia, your health care provider will be better able to help you design a plan for managing your sleep problem. To find out what is keeping you up at night, your doctor may ask you a series of questions about your lifestyle, your sleeping environment, and even the sleep habits of your partner.
A variety of lab tests can also be useful in pinpointing the cause of your insomnia in the event that a health problem is involved.
Is Insomnia a Mental Illness?
Insomnia is rarely an isolated medical or mental illness but rather a symptom of another issue. Poor sleep, however, has been shown to significantly worsen the symptoms of many mental health issues. Approximately 50% of insomnia cases are related to depression, anxiety, or psychological stress.
Around 75% of adults with depression suffer from insomnia. Early morning wakefulness can be a sign of depression, along with low energy, inability to concentrate, sadness, and a change in appetite or weight.
Many anxiety disorders are associated with difficulties sleeping. Obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD) is frequently associated with poor sleep. Panic attacks during sleep may suggest a panic disorder.
Poor sleep resulting from nightmares may be associated with posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD). More than 90% of people with PTSD related to military combat have been found to have symptoms of insomnia.
Is Insomnia a Serious Problem?
If you are not getting the sleep that you need, your insomnia may eventually lead to serious consequences for your health. In the short term, your alertness and focus are impaired, which can have a negative effect on your school or work performance.
Relationship problems may result from irritability due to lack of sleep, while fatigue may prevent you from participating in your normal activities.
In the long term, the complications of insomnia can be even more severe. Poor sleep increases the odds of cognitive problems.
People with sleep apnea, for instance, have a heightened risk for developing mild cognitive impairment approximately 10 years earlier than healthy individuals. Poor sleep has been associated with the development of Alzheimer’s disease and other dementias.
How Can You Cure Insomnia Naturally?
All of the scientific data shows the connection for both medical and mental illnesses: good sleep is necessary for recovery—or prevention. The first step to getting back to sleep is to treat the underlying cause.
The following guidelines listed here are a first-line natural approach to treating insomnia naturally.
- Avoid bright lights (including the television and computer) for at least two hours before bedtime;
- Stick to a constant sleep schedule, with a consistent bed time and wake-up time;
- Exercise daily, but not within three hours of bedtime;
- Make sure your bedroom is for sleeping – keep the TV, computer, and any other distractions in another room;
- Make sure your sleeping environment is cool, dark and quiet;
- Avoid alcohol, caffeine, smoking and heavy, spicy foods for 4-6 hours before going to bed;
- Establish a pre-sleep routine: a warm bath, a few minutes of relaxation or meditation, etc.;
- Limit daytime napping to 45 minutes or less;
- If you wake up and can’t get back to sleep within 10 minutes, get up and do something productive. When you begin to feel sleepy, go back to bed and try again.
When adjustments to your sleep hygiene are not enough, these other natural treatment options can also be considered with your medical professional:
- Sleep restriction is a form of therapy that increases “sleep efficiency” by decreasing the amount of time that a person spends in bed awake. This involves very strict rules regarding the amount of time that a person can lay in bed for at night which gradually increases over time.
- Cognitive behavioral therapy can help you control or eliminate negative thoughts and worries that keep you awake.
- Light therapy, also known as phototherapy, can be specifically helpful in people with a condition called “delayed sleep phase syndrome.”
Over-the-counter and prescription sleep medications are best avoided; they may help you fall asleep, but they can be habit-forming, and they have a variety of negative side effects.
Instead, make an effort to put the right nutrients into your body through diet and natural supplements; it makes a world of difference in supporting deep, refreshing, and restorative sleep.