Simple tips for dealing with insomnia

Insomnia is a disorder characterised by difficulty falling asleep and/or staying asleep. Many sufferers get into bed at an acceptable hour but take longer than 30 minutes to fall asleep and report multiple night wakings. In severe cases, the periods of sleeplessness stretch on for hours. This means that those that suffer from insomnia live sleep-deprived.

Insomnia cannot be treated directly. What must be unpacked and addressed are the underlying causes. Here are the most common:

1. Depression
Mood disorders and sleep disorders go hand-in-hand as they are governed by the same batch of neurotransmitters. Mood disorders can be successfully treated with the use of anti-depressants that help in the production of dopamine. This means you will sleep better if you were struggling to fall asleep due to anxiety or irritability. It will also mean that you find it easier to do things during the day (like cook, exercise and work) which also improve both the quality of your sleep and how you feel about your life.

2. Allergies
Insomnia can be linked to underlying allergies – both environmental and food-related. Eliminating the allergies where possible and taking a course of antihistamines can ease the insomnia and get you back on track.

3. Addiction
Overcoming addiction is a great battle. Alcohol, prescription pills and recreational drugs like cocaine and tik all wreak havoc on sleep. Sleep disturbance is also considered a trigger for relapse into drug abuse, which is why it is vital that those recovering from addiction, do all they can to get their regular zzz’s every night. Only non-addictive sleeping tablets should be taken.

4. Hormonal imbalance
Pregnancy and menopause can trigger insomnia due to hormonal changes. Some individuals will require hormone replacement therapy to help them sleep until the transition period comes to an end. Many women report that massaging with essential oils (like lavender and chamomile) and/or taking a mineral supplement (such as magnesium and zinc) helps them fall asleep faster.

5. Anxiety
Lying awake counting your worries is unhelpful. Write down your problems, keep a gratitude journal and get yourself a pet. These will all reduce your anxiety, slow your heart rate and decrease your stress hormones.