Do you consistently find it difficult to fall asleep or stay asleep? When you do finally sleep, are you dissatisfied with the sleep that you get? If you answered yes to these questions, then you may be experiencing chronic insomnia. In contrast to acute insomnia, which is characterized as brief and triggered by life circumstances, such as being stressed, chronic insomnia is disrupted sleep that happens at least three nights a week for a duration of at least three months.
Women are more likely to suffer from insomnia than men for a few reasons. Hormonal changes that occur during the menstrual cycle, pregnancy, and menopause can have an affect on sleep. Also, some medical conditions that cause insomnia, such as depression, anxiety, and fibromyalgia, are more common in women than men. Insomnia also becomes more common with age due to changes in activity levels, sleep patterns, and health conditions. Other common causes include caffeine, tobacco, alcohol, gastrointestinal problems, and a poor sleep environment.
No matter the cause of the insomnia, the symptoms are fairly universal. They include difficulty falling asleep, awakening in the middle of the night, awakening too early, not feeling well-rested, daytime tiredness, difficulty paying attention, and tension headaches. If insomnia is making it difficult for you to function normally during the day, see your doctor. Your doctor may treat your insomnia with cognitive behavior therapy (CBT), which helps you change your thoughts and actions that get in the way of your sleep. There are also medications that help treat insomnia if CBT does not prove helpful for you.
Good sleep habits can help you get a great night’s sleep and beat insomnia. Here are some tips:
- Try to go to sleep at the same time and get up at the same time everyday
- Avoid caffeine, nicotine, and alcohol late in the day
- Get regular exercise
- Keep your bedroom dark, quiet, and cool. Use a sleeping mask, earplugs, or a white noise machine if necessary
- Follow a routine to help you relax before bed, such as taking a bath or reading a book
- Use your bed only for sleep and sex
- If you lay awake worrying about things, try making a to-do list before bed