Sleep is an important component of our daily activities. It not only provides rest to our conscious mind, it is also the 'repair-time' for the body. Adequate sleep is essential for optimal functioning of the mind and body, especially those tasks that involve our cognitive resources like attention and concentration, learning and memory. Newborn infants can spend 16 to 18 hours per day in sleeping in early months of growth which decrease to 6 to 8 hours per day over years.
However, with increasing studies, work pressure and responsibilities, we somewhere end up compromising on our sleep which then can have long term effects.
Insomnia or difficulty in initiating or maintaining sleep is a common sleep disorder that is encountered very frequently. It can lead to daytime drowsiness, irregular sleep patterns, difficulty in attention and concentration, irritability, use of alcohol to fall asleep, night-time eating behaviours and overall decrease performance and productivity.
Insomnia can be the primary disorder or it can be the manifestation of underlying psychiatric illness like depression (most common), anxiety disorders like generalized anxiety disorder, panic disorder, schizophrenia or due to substance use like alcohol, cannabis, cocaine etc. At times, insomnia can be due to certain medical conditions too.
What is sleep hygiene?
Sleep hygiene basically means doing activities that will help in maintaining sound sleep and full daytime alertness. Before starting any medication for insomnia, it is important that we have a good sleep hygiene. Some of the tips are mentioned below:
- Maintain regular sleep timings
- Maintain regular exercise schedule
- Give yourself an hour to wind up before going to bed
- If you are preoccupied with something, write it down on a paper and deal with in the morning
- Keep the bedroom quiet, dark and comfortable.
- Avoid afternoon naps
- Exercise just before sleep to wear yourself out
- Eat heavy meal just before sleep
- Drink coffee or tea at night
- Smoke cigarettes
- Watch television or laptop if you cannot get sleep
- Use alcohol to fall asleep
- Eat in bed
- Talk on the phone
- Watch the clock
If all the above points are followed meticulously, you will notice a significant improvement in your insomnia.
If however, your insomnia is chronic or lasting more than 1 month, it is advised that you seek professional help rather than self-medicating. It is also advised not take any sleeping pills without recommendation of doctor as side-effects like drowsiness, dependency, rebound irritability can develop on long-term use without proper guidance.