Insomnia Basics


Sleep is an essential part of good health. A good night's sleep can help you feel good, look healthy, work effectively and think clearly. 

But sleep is not always so easy to come by. If you sometimes have trouble falling asleep or staying asleep, you're not alone. There are many people around the world who suffer occasional or chronic insomnia. People often are surprised to learn that daytime drowsiness is not an inevitable, harmless byproduct of modern life, but rather a key sign of a sleep problem that could be disastrous if not treated.
 
Most often, insomnia lasts for just a short period of time, a week at most. When the difficulty in sleeping lasts for more than six months, it is considered a chronic condition. The chronic insomnia is troublesome because it can affect your work, your health, and your social relationships.
 
The causes of sleeplessness are many and varied. 'It can be due to a medical condition, such as chronic pain from rheumatism or arthritis,' says Professor Jim Horne, who runs the Sleep Research Laboratory at Loughborough University. 'Or it can be chemical, as a result of drinking tea, coffee or alcohol. Chronic or long-term insomnia is often associated with depression or anxiety, and environmental factors certainly contribute.'
 
And sleepless nights, staring wild-eyed into the darkness, are worse than bad dreams,
                                                       
For too many people a good night's sleep is an elusive goal. The consequences of fatigue from chronic sleeplessness include accidents in the car and at work, a dramatically increased risk of major depression, and worsening physical illness.
 
The treatment for insomnia should begin with what is known as “sleep hygiene.” Sleep hygiene consists of ten philosophies:
 
  • keep a regular sleep schedule
  • exercise regularly but avoid exercise before bed
  • go to bed when sleepy
  • do relaxing and enjoyable activities before bed
  • keep the bedroom quiet and comfortable
  • do not eat a large evening meal
  • if you are not sleeping within 20 minutes, get up and return to bed when you are sleepy
  • if you must take a nap, limit it to 30 minutes
  • avoid alcohol, caffeine, and nicotine
  • have your pharmacist check your medications for stimulating drugs 
Immediate relief is available, in the form of hypnotic agents, for persons who have difficulty in falling or remaining asleep or who cannot obtain restful, restorative slumber. However, long-term improvement usually involves behavioral therapy. These therapeutic approaches must be integrated if the patient's short- and long-term needs are to be addressed.


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