Diet And Control Of Insomnia (inability to sleep)

What is insomnia?

Insomnia is the inability to sleep, or to sleep satisfactorily, and is the most common sleep disorder. It may involve restless or interrupted sleep, a reduction in the usual time you spend sleeping or, in rare cases, complete wakefulness. Insomnia is a symptom rather than an illness in itself: in the majority of cases, sleeplessness has an underlying cause.

Insomniacs may experience loss of energy, have problems with memory and concentration, and may feel ill, sleepy and frustrated. Poor sleep can be associated with accidents, lower work productivity and may worsen medical and psychological conditions. These consequences make insomnia an important health problem that deserves serious attention.

What causes insomnia?

  • Emotional distress, especially from internalised anger or anxiety.
  • Overusing substances such as caffeine (in coffee, colas and some “energy drinks”), nicotine, certain medications and herbal remedies.
  • Alcohol consumption may cause initial drowsiness, but this is usually followed by sudden wakefulness once the alcohol is metabolised. Paradoxically, insomnia may result from sedatives prescribed to relieve it
  • Disturbance of sleep timing is common in people travelling by air to different time zones and night shift workers
  • Environmental factors such as noise, extreme temperatures, bright lights and sleeping in unfamiliar surroundings can cause transient and intermittent insomnia.
  • Medical conditions: Many illnesses, such as ulcers, depression, diabetes, kidney disease and heart failure may lead to chronic insomnia. Shortness of breath from asthma or other medical problems such as heartburn, frequent urination and chronic pain from arthritis or leg cramps can also cause sleep problems.
  • Eating heavy meals close to bedtime.

Symptoms and signs of insomnia

  • Difficulty falling asleep and maintaining sleep, or waking up too early.
  • Waking up feeling un-refreshed or drowsy. In more severe cases of insomnia, people may feel fatigued, depressed, anxious or irritable.
  • People with insomnia often suffer from daytime sleepiness.
  • Forgetfulness and trouble concentrating.

Home treatment and prevention

  • Cut down on late-night snacks and late-evening heavy dinners. Experts recommend that you should not eat at least three hours before bedtime.
  • Moderate exercise helps control stress and releases natural stimulants, decrease the need for external stimulants such as caffeine. An exercise routine should help regulate your sleep cycles and make you feel sleepier in the late evening.
  • Establish a bedtime ritual of cues for going to sleep. These could include having a bath or drinking a glass of warm milk (milk contains an amino acid that is converted into a sleep-enhancing compound in the brain).
  • Cut down on daytime napping if it starts to affect your regular sleep patterns. Avoid napping within seven or eight hours of bedtime.
  • Avoid alcohol in the late evening.

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