Perspective

Waking up before the alarm clock (2)

Other common causes of chronic (long term) insomnia include;

• Poor sleep habits. Poor sleep habits include an irregular bedtime schedule, naps, stimulating activities before bed, an uncomfortable sleep environment, and using your bed for work, eating or watching TV. Computers, TVs, video games, smartphones or other screens just before bed can interfere with the sleep cycle.

• Eating too much late in the evening. Having a light snack before bedtime is not bad, but eating too much may cause you to feel physically uncomfortable while lying down. Many people also experience heartburn, a backflow of acid and food from the stomach into the esophagus after eating, which may keep you awake.

Chronic insomnia may also be associated with medical conditions or the use of certain drugs. Treating the medical condition may help improve sleep, but the insomnia may persist after the medical condition improves. Additional common causes of insomnia

include:

• Mental health disorders. Anxiety disorders, such as post-traumatic stress disorder, may disrupt sleep. Awakening too early can be a sign of depression. Insomnia often occurs with other mental health disorders as well.

• Medications. Many prescription drugs can interfere with sleep, such as certain antidepressants and medications for asthma or blood pressure. Many overthe- counter medications — such as some pain medications, allergy and cold medications, and weight-loss products — contain caffeine and other stimulants that can disrupt sleep.

• Medical conditions. Examples of conditions linked with insomnia include chronic pain, cancer, diabetes, heart disease, asthma, gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD), overactive thyroid, Parkinson’s disease and Alzheimer’s disease.

• Sleep-related disorders. Sleep apnea causes you to stop breathing periodically throughout the night, interrupting sleep Restless legs syndrome causes unpleasant sensations in your legs and an almost irresistible desire to move them, which may prevent one from falling asleep.

• Caffeine, nicotine and alcohol. Coffee, tea, cola and other caffeinated drinks are stimulants. Drinking them in the late afternoon or evening can keep you from falling asleep at night. Nicotine in tobacco products is another stimulant that can interfere with sleep. Alcohol may help you fall asleep, but it prevents deeper stages of sleep and often causes awakening in the middle of the night.

Insomnia and aging

Insomnia becomes more common with age. As you get older, you may experience:

• Changes in sleep patterns. Sleep often becomes less restful as one ages.

• Changes in activity. You may be less physically or socially active. A lack of activity can interfere with a good night’s sleep. Also, the less active you are, the more likely you may be to take a daily nap, which can interfere with sleep at night.

• Changes in health. Chronic pain from conditions such as arthritis or back problems as well as depression or anxiety can interfere with sleep. Issues that increase the need to urinate during the night ― such as prostate or bladder problems ― can disrupt sleep. Sleep apnea and restless legs syndrome become more common with age.

• More medications. Older people typically use more prescription drugs than younger people do, which increases the chance

Risk factors

Nearly everyone has an occasional sleepless night. But your risk of insomnia is greater if: • You’re a woman. Hormonal shifts during the menstrual cycle and in menopause may play a role. During menopause, night sweats and hot flashes often disrupt sleep.

Insomnia is also common with pregnancy.

• You’re over age 60. Because of changes in sleep patterns and health, insomnia increases with age.

• You have a mental health disorder or physical health condition. Many issues that impact your mental or physical health can disrupt sleep.

• You’re under a lot of stress. Stressful times and events can cause temporary insomnia. And major or long-lasting stress can lead to chronic insomnia.

• You don’t have a regular schedule. For example, changing shifts at work or traveling can disrupt your sleep-wake cycle.

Complications

Sleep is as important to your health as a healthy diet and regular physical activity. Whatever your reason for sleep loss, insomnia can affect you both mentally and physically. People with insomnia report a lower quality of life compared with people who are sleeping well. Complications of insomnia may include:

• Lower performance on the job or at school

• Slowed reaction time while driving and a higher risk of accidents

• Mental health disorders, such as depression, an anxiety disorder or substance abuse

• Increased risk and severity of long-term diseases or conditions, such as high blood pressure and heart disease

What you can do about it

There are a number of things you can try to help yourself get a good night’s sleep if you have insomnia. These include;

• setting regular times for going to bed and waking up

• •relaxing before bed time – try taking a warm bath or listening to calming music

• •using thick curtains or blinds, an eye mask and earplugs to stop you being woken up by light and noise

• •avoiding caffeine, nicotine, alcohol, heavy meals and exercise for a few hours before going to bed

• not watching TV or using phones, tablets or computers shortly before going to bed

• not napping during the day

• writing a list of your worries, and any ideas about how to solve them, before going to bed to help you forget about them until the morning

Advice

Please visit your doctor if sleeplessness persists for upward of 5 or more days.

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