Do You Have Insomnia Without Knowing It? Sleep Health Tips You Need

7 minute read

The American Academy of Sleep Medicine estimates that about 30% of adults have symptoms of insomnia. That’s almost a third of all people not getting the rest their brains and bodies need on a regular basis.

Insomnia isn’t like it’s portrayed in movies and television shows where the sufferer is wide awake and productive during the night. In fact, insomnia can have an almost polar-opposite effect, causing someone to toss and turn throughout the entire night and then struggle with clear thought and productivity during the day.

If you have a hard time falling asleep, staying asleep, getting up too early, or you feel like your sleep wasn’t restorative, you may have insomnia. Here is what you should know and what you can do.

Insomnia Basics

There are two types of insomnia: primary and secondary. Primary insomnia happens when sleeplessness is not connected to something known. Some of the reasons for primary insomnia can be:

♦ Stress

♦ Travel or work schedules

♦ Poor sleeping habits

♦ Types of foods or time of meal

While there may be a reason for primary insomnia, including but not limited to the ones listed above, it typically cannot be directly attributed to something medical, psychiatric, or environmental.

The criteria for primary insomnia underscore that it must not be triggered by a known cause, that it occurs more than just once or once in a great while, and disrupts your day-to-day activities.

Secondary insomnia happens when the cause is known. Quite frequently in secondary insomnia cases, the cause comes from one or more of the following conditions:

♦ Drug abuse, caffeine, nicotine, and alcohol use

♦ Medication (prescribed and over-the-counter) side effect

♦ Psychiatric or mental disorder

♦ Medical condition or illness

♦ Hormonal imbalances

♦ External situations, such as newborn children or environmental noises

Stopping the Insomnia Cycle

For people who suffer from insomnia, the lack of sleep itself can cause distress and leave you wondering why you can’t sleep, acutely aware of your window of opportunity ticking away.

Night after night you approach to sleep with some anxiety about whether you will sleep and find you’ve created a stress-based sleep cycle that is zapping your energy, leaving you mentally foggy, and compromising your health.

If you have secondary insomnia, then medical intervention may be necessary to help you resume a normal sleep cycle. But for people with primary insomnia, i.e., you don’t have an easily identifiable cause for your sleeplessness, the following techniques used alone or in conjunction may help you find relief.

Breathing Exercises

There are a variety of breathing exercises that you can try to help you reduce your stress and relax your body so you can sleep.

Mindfulness meditation is a practice of focusing on your breathing and the here and now.

♦ The 4-7-8 breathing technique, also known as relaxing breath, has been credited with being able to put people to sleep in a minute.

♦ Bhramari pranayama is a breathing technique that has you humming like a bee to calm and soothe the nerves in your brain and forehead.

♦ Buteyko method is used to treat asthma and other respiratory conditions and can help you relax by focusing on nasal breathing and using a Control Pause.

These are just a few options, you can find many more online and experiment with them to see if something works to help you relax and sleep more soundly. The next tips all fall under the practice known as “sleep hygiene,” meaning the routines and actions you take to maintain healthy sleep.

Cool Down

The body needs to cool down during the night to further transition into deeper stages of sleep. Rather than cooling down, some people seem to get hotter during the night. Women going through hormonal changes, specifically menopause, are particularly at risk for hot flashes during sleep.

If you get hot in the middle of the night and find that you then have trouble falling asleep, finding ways to cool down could help. Try using a fan with a remote control so you can adjust it without leaving the bed, turn down your thermostat at night, sleep in light layers of blankets, or invest in cooling sheets and pillows.

Avoid Blue Lights

Blue wavelengths of light are beneficial during the daytime but at nighttime they become disruptive. Most of our electronics with screens and energy-efficient lighting features blue wavelengths.

If you’re having trouble sleeping, the light you’re exposed to could be throwing off your natural circadian rhythm. Harvard Health published information based on one of their studies looking at the effects of blue light on your sleep and overall health. They found that blue light suppresses melatonin, your sleep hormone.

| Related: Blue Light Protection Tips for Eye Health |

They suggest protecting yourself from blue lights as bedtime approaches by not looking at bright screens for two to three hours before bed, using protective blue-blocking glasses or an app that will filter this light, and exposing yourself to a lot of natural daylight during the day.

Practice All Day

One technique that seems to work is to think about your sleep throughout the day. Don’t stress oversleep, but practice relaxing at various times throughout the day. Try practicing breathing techniques to master them and reset yourself while you’re awake. Use mindfulness meditation to relieve stress at work.

By putting relaxation at the forefront throughout the day, a few different things happen to your body. You become better at relaxing, you don’t save up all of your stress until the end of the day, and you prepare your mind and body for the sleep that will come at the end of the day.

The Bottom Line

Insomnia is an inability to fall asleep, stay asleep, or get restorative sleep. The inability to sleep regularly can disrupt your life and cause you to fall into a cycle of stressing over your lack of sleep and not being able to sleep due to stress.

If you suffer primary insomnia, you may find relief by learning some breathing and relaxation techniques. Practicing these throughout the day can not only make you better at the, but they can set the stage for deeper sleep when night time comes.

Some other solutions to primary insomnia include avoiding blue light and adjusting the temperature during the night for more restorative sleep.

If you’re not having any luck in using a self-help method to sleep, you may want to speak with your primary healthcare provider to make sure you don’t have secondary insomnia. It might also be time to try some other methods or consider using medication to help you sleep.

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