Insomnia is something that is profoundly affecting our lives. It is draining our energy, affecting our health, our mood, our relationships and much more. In this article we will have some tips how to take care of insomnia.
There are at least three types of insomnia:
- Initial Insomnia: The person takes more time to fall asleep.
- Intermittent Insomnia: the person sleeps, wakes up, sleeps, wakes up with many awakening episodes during the night.
- Terminal Insomnia: the person wakes up very early, at dawn and cannot go back to sleep. In fact, this insomnia is the most common in cases of depression.
We can also distinguish between:
- Transient Insomnia: Occurs only for a period of a person’s life. Usually because of some temporary short time stress.
- Chronic Insomnia: it is the one that disturbs the person for many years.
- Organic Insomnia: it is caused by some brain injury related to psychiatric diseases. In some way, all insomnia is organic because it affects the body.
Some studies show that insomnia is more common in people who are divorced, separated or widowed. It can also affect people with a low level of education, with low family income and unemployed, and may be more common in women than in men. Insomnia can arise when the person is overloaded with possible deep personal and interpersonal conflicts, in deep marital problems, in the face of unemployment, after an accident with hospitalization and in the absence of social support. Many have insomnia because they suffer from excessive anxiety, or because they stop breathing during sleep, overuse prescription drugs, or abuse caffeinated beverages. Night shift workers can also develop insomnia by desynchronizing the normal sleep-wake rhythm.
Among the drugs that promote insomnia are amphetamines used in formulas – these formulas to suppress appetite, also some antidepressants, binge drinking or chronic alcoholism. There are people who develop insomnia due to bad habits, such as having a television in the bedroom and watching TV until late, having a heavy meal at night, close to bedtime, for living in a noisy environment and sleeping during the day. And in the case of mental illnesses, insomnia appears in depression, and even more so in cases of excessive anxiety, in schizophrenia and in the individual with bipolar disorder, in the sense of getting very little sleep due to mental agitation and euphoria in the euphoric phase.
Psychologists and Psychoanalysts admit that insomnia can be the result of excessive anguish related to inner conflicts, in which the individual is unable to mentally elaborate what ails him. These conflicts overrun the protective function of the dream, generating a collapse of the dream’s symbolization function. They also believe that some people have insomnia because they have repetitive nightmares that cause them to wake up several times. This type of insomnia is normally related to a past traumatic event, or activated by a difficult existential situation, which produces an important burden of anguish for the person, generating a mental elaboration process during the night.
Tips to Deal with Insomnia
First, take care of your environment: Use a comfortable bed and pillows, a quiet, dark room with a pleasant temperature. Avoid noise, the presence of someone who snores in the environment and light, so as not to disturb your sleep. Use curtains or blinds to cut out the light coming in from the street. If you can’t use a curtain or blind, use a mask or small towel over your eyes. If you only feel comfortable and relaxed to sleep with some light, use a small, dim lamp next to your bedroom. But try to solve your anxiety so you can turn off the light. If there are other noises from the street or a factory nearby, for example, use earplugs.
Second thing is to change your lifestyle by exercising physically each day. Brisk walking in nature is the best thing to do. Do not sleep during the day. Go to bed only when you are tired and sleepy, always at the same time, even on weekends. If you can’t sleep, get up and go back to bed only when you’re drowsy. Maintain a routine of 7 to 8 hours of sleep a night. Always get up at the same time in the morning. Used to sleep late, after 22 hours? Get up earlier the next morning and your body will be ready to go to sleep earlier the next night.
Avoid obsessive thoughts like: Oh I’m not going to sleep! Oh my God, my mind won’t relax! Instead, think about this: I’m going to lie down, I’m going to relax and let sleep come. He will come when he can, just be patient with your organism. Don’t be mad at yourself because you don’t sleep. Don’t eat, don’t drink and don’t watch TV in the bed you sleep on. Avoid alcoholic beverages to try to sleep; do not ingest anything. If you get up in the middle of the night, don’t eat anything. Avoid too much liquid in the late afternoon, until bedtime.
The third aspect to help with insomnia is relaxing an hour before bed, for example, with a warm bath, avoiding TV. Swap stimulating reading for relaxing reading. Cultivate gratitude and joy. Avoid getting angry easily. Accept what you cannot change. Eliminate as much stress as possible. Avoid work overload. Take your meals calmly. Avoid assuming what is not your responsibility. Learn to say no so you don’t get overwhelmed. Look how much you can do, right?
Live today! One day at a time. Have a moment of relaxation in the middle of the day, it can be taking a walk after lunch, meditating at the Creator while looking at a beautiful landscape, saying prayers of gratitude throughout the day.
The fourth aspect is self-confidence. Research shows that people with a low level of self-worth are more prone to insomnia. So stop criticizing yourself, don’t reject yourself. And remember that even if you have a character flaw, as we all do, there is something positive that you have as well. We all have the ability to choose better behaviors. Practice setting boundaries for abusive people. You can speak firmly without attacking people.
The fifth aspect that helps with insomnia has to do with food and drinks. Eliminate stimulants such as coffee, black and green tea, chocolate, cola-type soda, guarana, and alcoholic beverages. Alcohol dehydrates, produces thirst at night and releases adrenaline that excites the brain. Eliminate food full of additives, fried foods, weight loss drugs, such as those that have amphetamines that cut sleep. Dinner should be a light snack, preferably two hours before bedtime.
The Sixth Aspect, Sleep Inducing Medications. Sleep medications should only be used for a short period of time, a maximum of four weeks, with extreme caution. A good alternative is hops, whose scientific name is Humulus Lupulus. Hop capsules with 250mg, using 2 to 4 capsules one hour before bedtime. Valerian, which is Valeriana Officinalis, can also be used in capsules with 250 mg, 2 to 4 capsules an hour before bedtime. Lemongrass tea, melissa or chamomile, help with sleep quality. Melatonin can be used under medical supervision for a short time.
The seventh aspect is psychotherapy. Cognitive-behavioral therapy was shown to be superior to zolpidem, which is a synthetic sleep inducer, in the study with 54 patients. In this type of psychological therapy, one learns to eliminate worrying thoughts, chronic pessimistic ideas, negative beliefs that disturb relaxation and thus disturb sleep.
Put these tips into practice and your quality of sleep will improve. Good sleep!
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Dr. Cesar Vasconcellos de Souza is working as a psychiatrist and international speaker. He is author of 3 books, columnist of the health magazine “Vida e Saúde” for 25 years, and has a regular program on the “Novo Tempo” TV channel.