We all have times when we can’t sleep. We lie in bed knowing that we have to be up early in the morning and the more we think about it the less likely sleep becomes. Instead of calming down to welcome sleep, our brains speed up and decide to start itemising everything we need to get done and worrying that we will be far too tired to actually achieve anything. The more we worry, the more awake we become and so the cycle goes on until eventually tiredness takes over, our brains give up and we drift into a peaceful, refreshing sleep. Unless of course, we have insomnia. Then we simply continue, regardless of how tired we are.
Having insomnia doesn’t mean that you never go to sleep, it simply means that you have problems with sleep. Insomniacs generally have trouble getting to sleep, trouble staying asleep or they wake too early every morning and according to statistics, a third of people will experience periods of insomnia during their lives. For insomnia to be diagnosed and treatment considered, a GP will usually expect a person to have experienced these sleep difficulties for two or more weeks.
I will hold my hands up and confess that I am an insomnia sufferer. I am one of the very ‘lucky’ people who experiences difficulties in both getting to sleep and staying asleep and when my insomnia really flares up, I also wake early in the morning with no chance of going back to sleep. I have been this way for about 15 years now and would probably be forgiven if I was a bit annoyed by this lack of sleep, but I happen to quite like my insomnia.
I have experienced periods when two hours of sleep a night would be my maximum, but right now four to five hours of broken sleep is what I average. Am I tired? Yes. Do I get irritable? Yes. Do I sometimes have days when I just cannot function properly? Yes. But on the flip side I also have more hours in my day than people who get the normal seven to nine hours of sleep per night and I like having these additional hours. As a keen fiction writer these extra hours are when I can lose myself in the lives of my characters without being disturbed. If I didn’t have these extra hours I’m just not sure when I would get everything done. It may be due to the fact that I am simply used to my sleep now, but I’m not in any hurry to find a cure. I have tried sleeping tablets and hypnotherapy but found that in both cases the negatives outweigh the positives.
Whilst I quite like my insomnia and do very little to actually reduce the symptoms, there are many people who need advice on how to get a better nights sleep. Over the years, these have been the most commonly offered pieces of advice from medical practitioners and other sufferers:
– Going to bed and getting up at roughly the same times every day will help to get your body into a routine. Your brain will naturally start to wind down once it has adopted the routine and you should find that you fall asleep quicker. It’s tempting to stay up late and have a lie in but it’s one of the worst things you can do if you are having sleep troubles.
– Making sure your bedroom is an appropriate temperature and is dark enough seems obvious but many people wake throughout the night because they are too hot or cold. Blackout blinds or curtains help to make sure you don’t wake up as soon as the sun comes up.
– No caffeine or heavy meals for roughly four hours before you go to bed.
– Alcohol is a tempting choice to help you go to sleep and it does actually work, due to its depressant qualities. However, because it is metabolised quickly it will keep waking you up to nip to the loo and so getting to sleep quickly is cancelled out by having to get up so often.
– Screens stimulate your brain in ways that things like reading a book don’t. If you have a habit of using your phone, tablet etc. in bed it will take longer for your brain to calm down ready for sleep.
– Maintaining a healthy lifestyle in terms of diet and exercise will have a positive impact on sleep.
Of course these are only tips to get a better nights sleep. If anyone is suffering from sleep difficulties then there are more options available and it is important to talk to a GP. On the other hand if you are happy to be awake throughout the night then say ‘hi’, no doubt I will be awake for a chat.