Individuals who suffer from insomnia have difficulty falling asleep or staying asleep, and do not feel rested when they wake up in the morning. Insomnia is not defined by the number of hours slept, since the amount of sleep needed can vary from one person to another, and our sleep requirements may decrease as we age. Generally speaking, it is estimated that adults need between 5 and 10 hours of sleep every night. The average is between 7 and 8 hours. The proper amount of sleep is the amount that allows an individual to wake refreshed, regardless of the number of hours slept.
Types of insomnia
Short-term or acute insomnia
Usually associated with stressors (e.g., loss of a loved one, job loss, divorce). This type of insomnia lasts a few days to less than three months.
Chronic insomnia is characterized by difficulty sleeping for at least one month and occurs at least three nights per week. This type of insomnia is often associated with medical conditions (e.g., depression, pain, Parkinson's disease, Alzheimer's disease).
Tips for better sleeping
It is important for individuals who suffer from insomnia to develop good sleeping habits. Here are a few tips to help you sleep better:
- Go to bed and get up at roughly the same time each day;
- Set aside at least one hour to wind down before going to bed;
- Create a restful environment by sleeping in a room that is quiet, dark, temperate and well ventilated;
- Only use your bedroom for sleeping and sex. Do not work, watch television or spend time on your cell phone, among others;
- Go to bed only when you are feeling sleepy;
- Do not force sleep. If you do not fall asleep within 30 minutes or so, go into another room, dim the lights and relax. While you can engage in relaxing activities (e.g., reading, listening to relaxing music) that promote sleepiness, avoid stimulating activities (e.g., work, email, internet, video games, house cleaning) at night;
- Avoid the excessive use of stimulating substances during the day. Avoid coffee, tea, chocolate and nicotine several hours before bedtime;
- Do not use alcohol or drugs to help you fall asleep;
- Avoid napping during the day;
- Avoid vigorous exercise later in the evening;
- Do not watch the clock at night as this will only make you anxious and make the problem worse.
Sleeping pills may be effective when dealing with insomnia. They should, however, only be used once the preceding recommendations have been put into practice. Furthermore, these medications should not be used on a daily basis for an extended period, as they may lead to dependency.
As previously mentioned, insomnia may be caused by a medical condition. Specific medication may therefore be required, which could also help you with your insomnia. Do not hesitate to contact your healthcare practitioner for additional advice.