The evening sets in. A fear screams in my head.
My routine work, Eh! — I am drained!
How do I describe you, my dear friend? (Says Arpit)
Indeed, I find solace after talking to you for some time. I wait for this hour everyday as if it would provide me some relief from the insomniac episodes I face regularly.
Will I ever find a solution to it? I talk to people, try finding relief and again I revisit the same topic every day.
I am in a fix. My productivity is deteriorating in spite of multiple efforts. Needless to say, I am stressed out and sleeplessness comes handy.
My regular symptoms: I feel exhausted, wore down, hollow, poor decision capability, heavy burning eye lids. Nothing excites me about the morning.
What bothers me, Doctor is that — I am very proactive even after multiple episodes of sleeplessness.
I can’t take it anymore. I am going to sip some coffee to feel that adrenaline rush and sooth my soaring headache. Cigarette and coffee. That is what I do often.
Whoa! Its 3 AM.
I am working and watch videos.
Morning sets in. I feel this bizarre lack of energy. I am on my bed, unable to fight this feeling. How do I go to work? What do I do to resolve this problem? Should I start medication —sleeping pills perhaps? My entire lifestyle is a haywire right now.
Pushing myself —I wake up, no time to shower. Rush for work, I sit down to work and again a fear seeps in. Will I get some sleep tonight? Some quality sleep.
This is Arpit’s story, a 25 year old bright workaholic who has been battling insomnia since last 3years. He is tired and is seeking help. So, do many of us when we feel we have no other alternative than to pop a pill and make ourselves get that peaceful sleep.
So, how do we address this problem naturally?
Brief Insight Insomnia:
Like my friend, Arpit stated his problem. This is primarily sleeplessness, a sleep disorder where people have trouble sleeping.
You may have difficulty falling asleep and a constant fatigue feeling.
‘Insomnia’ is typically a health problem that is associated with daytime sleepiness, low energy levels, irritability, lethargy and a depressed mood. Insomnia is sometimes short term, but it may also last for days or weeks and sometimes it marries you.
So, how do we deal with this health problem?
On the outset, you may feel it is common fatigue but if it is persistent in nature and you have hard time dealing with it, definitely get it check. It might be ‘Insomnia’.
lethargy,difficulty falling asleep, frequently waking up from your sleep, dizziness, irritability.
Who gets affected:
It affects mostly adults. ‘Insomnia’ can affect all age groups. Approximately 35-50% of the general population suffers from this health issue.
Almost 10% of them have chronic insomnia. Women fall prey to it often as compared to men and this impacts overall fitness.
Most often insomnia is due to poor lifestyle habits — like skipping breakfast, not following a disciplined routine, killing the urge to sleep. Others are long-term illness, psychological reasons (like overthinking, finding difficulty calming down), certain heavy medications, allergies and fluctuating hormone levels.
It is estimated that about 35-45 percent of Americans report symptoms of Insomnia every year.
What causes it?
Severe illnesses: some health issues like COPD (chronic obstructive pulmonary disease), Restless leg syndrome, Pulmonary Fibrosis, Sleep Apnea, Pneumonia, Tuberculosis etc. cause sleeplessness chronic pain, chronic fatigue syndrome. Also, congestive heart failure, some forms of tumors can trigger Insomnia.
Psychological reasons: Many a times depression, fear, anger, panic attacks, overthinking, finding difficulty to find solace or calm in the present.
Stomach and digestive health issues: like Acid reflux, Irritable bowel syndrome, Gastritis and poor functioning liver.
Hormone fluctuations: If there is any fluctuation in hormonal levels during pregnancy or menstruation.
Whatever might be the reason, it needs to be addressed soon. Any underlying medical needs immediate attention.
Some common other reasons are exercise-induced insomnia in Athletes and withdrawal from Alcohol and other sedatives like pain relievers.
Phases of Insomnia:
The worry seed: It all begins with a thought. Paranoia sets in. Even if you have had a satisfying day, there might be something that lingers on in your head. You may think about tomorrow’s meeting or about some family member, maybe your not so happening love life etc. It can be absolutely anything. We often have no idea how a small episode is going to impact us. That’s the ‘worry seed’ in there.
The panic sets in: We all know worry is no good for our health. However, many a time it gets uncontrollable and then panic seeps in. Sleepless nights get common and you wonder what could be going wrong. The worry seed has grown up and it has started impacting your health. Sound sleep is far away.
The final stage: Symptoms of anxiety show up — every night becomes a nightmare. You would mostly be wondering what went wrong and how do I improve these symptoms. Daytime would be filled with lethargy, dizziness, and lack of interest and irritation would be on rising. Falling asleep looks like a task and you only catch good sleep after popping some sleeping pills or medication. All of this impacts your cognitive ability and you may find yourself often confused and delusional.
Types of Insomnia:
Well, if a person usually sleeps during the day and is active at night it is termed as “Nocturnality”. Coming back to stages of Insomnia. They are primarily of two types;
Generally, a brief episode. This happens due to many reasons like any tragic life event, any stressful job or a change in job (night shifts), travel-induced insomnia or short-term illness.
Surprisingly, stress has a major role in causing ‘Insomnia’. In case of chronic insomnia — some stressful events like death of a loved one, a very stressful job, separation or divorce or illness of any family member can disturb the routine.
Any major illness like Asthma, COPD, Sleep Apnea, Lungs Fibrosis, Tuberculosis.It may also happen due to certain medications — medicines used to treat Anxiety, Depression, Asthma, High blood pressure, COPD, Tuberculosis, Allergy induced cold and cough reduce the quality of sleep.
This is a rare disorder often not understood by your family and doctors. A condition between ‘Sleep’ and ‘Wakefulness’. A person with paradoxical insomnia often spends hours lying awake at night, while others may see them as sleeping (this is because they appear to be sleeping). This causes sleep deprivation and since it is misunderstood it is difficult to diagnose. Often sleep studies are conducted to understand the problems.
Rhea (name changed) was in her early 40’s and was advised a sleep test for her chronic insomnia. Her family members couldn’t sense anything except her snoring.
She was slightly overweight and was otherwise active.
The final day of the test arrived.
I had many doubts in my mind. (in her words)
I was made to change into comfortable night dress and the technician stuck some wires with some gel-like substance on it. The only comfort I had was that I had opted for this sleep test at my home. The wires had some sort of electrodes towards the end of it. So, this was stuck all over my upper body (face, chest, forehead)
I was petrified! How am I even going to sleep with this?
I could barely move my body with wires everywhere and all this made me feel suffocated and then I refused to cooperate. After much consoling — I decided to put on the mask and was being constantly monitored by the technician. There were some graphs going on in the laptop. I remember the night was very depressing for me. I felt sick and extremely tired the next day.
Although, I barely slept for 2 hours and felt extremely sleep deprived. My reports said something different. It showed I had slept for around 6 hours. How could this be possible?
She was a patient with sleep apnea but later after multiple sleep tests she was diagnosed with ‘Paradoxical Insomnia’.
Such is the complexity of this one.
Go the herbal way.
A glass of warm milk a day keeps the doctor away. Yes, introduce Milk (you may choose low-fat milk as well if you have troubles digesting). Milk increases the levels of serotonin in our brain. This further induces sleep and acts as a sedative to put the wandering brain to rest.
Honey is a super-food. Just like Milk — it contains sleep-inducing amino acid, tryptophan that can reduce episodes of sleeplessness. You can add one or two teaspoons of honey into a glass of warm milk or warm water and sip it before bedtime.
Cinnamon aids digestion, helps you lose weight and alleviates your stress but did you know that cinnamon can also promote good sleep?
You can take few sticks of cinnamon and steep it into the hot boiling water for about 15-20 minutes. Now, add honey to this water and have it before bedtime. Regular intake will improve your immune and induce calmness and reduce stress which is mainly responsible for Insomnia.
This helps in decreasing anxiety, Almonds are a rich source of phosphorus, manganese riboflavin and helps boost melatonin. This helps cure ‘Insomnia’.
The anti-anxiety magic tea. This tea acts on your mind and body quickly and relaxes it. Yes, a powerful relaxant — it has been previously used to treat many forms of Insomnia. In fact, people with anxiety seizures and high blood pressure have highly benefited from this herbal preparation. You can drop a tea bag into a mug of boiled water or use loose passion flower tea leaves and strain it and enjoy your tea.
It is also available as capsules but checks the expiry date before purchasing one for yourself.
Breathing helps you deal with Insomnia. This is essentially helpful when your body is oxygen deprived or stress levels have gone up. More oxygen shall help relax your brain and body — this will beat the stress down and in return promote sleep.
Practice breathing in through your nose for 4 seconds. Now, hold it for 7 seconds and breathe out through your mouth (please note) for 8 seconds. You may repeat this process and find your overall mind calming down.
We wonder what could have caused partial/complete natural sleep loss. However, we do not pay attention to the details.
Getting 7-8 hours of good sleep is significant for our health. If we do not follow this our mind and body shall start to give up and our immune would go for a toss.
So, what exactly is sleep hygiene?
Well, firstly stop indulging in any disruptive habits. Like taking excess Coffee to beat stress or having lots of junk items that is difficult to digest. Do not sleep during the day if you have a hard time falling sleep at night. Cultivate positive thoughts and create a positive image of yourself. Think about any beautiful place you would like to visit and add beautiful dimensions to it.
Hit the bed hard. Cuddle yourself up in your quilt and prepare to sleep. Think you are feeling heavy, exhausted and you need to shut down your system.
Your bedroom is meant only for sleep. ‘Pure sleep’. Please do not slouch all the time and watch TV or play video games and talk sitting or lying on the bed. Do not get into exciting conversations or raise any sad or depressing topic that will make you worry and disrupt your sleep.
Stay away from gadgets, laptops, mobile phones. Instead, read a book (Yes, as children we all have tried studying and bam! we were asleep in minutes — do not practice this you suffer from chronic Insomnia)
Stay away from any form of light. This tricks your brain. It delays the release of melatonin, a hormone that induces sleep.
Switch off the lights and prepare yourself to sleep. You may use eye masks and use heavy curtains to keep away the lights from outside.
Well, noise can keep you awake so make sure you do not get exposed to any unnecessary sounds as far as possible. Use earplugs. Listen to soft music which will help your brain calm.
Use a comfortable mattress and pillow. Nothing should come between you and your comfort sleep.
A good schedule, yoga, meditation can help your body to get accustomed to a pattern. This shall help you deal with Insomnia. Many a times youngsters work late at night or are working in night shifts at their workplace. This can also trigger Insomnia. Try and avoid working late till night. Do not sleep during the day (except small naps). If unavoidable, please maintain a good diet and lots of fresh fruits and vegetables in your diet.
Power of meditation
- Yes, it reduces anxiety (practice mindfulness meditation) and helps beat stress.
- It gives you a strong robust immune
- It increases the level of good hormones, primarily serotonin to keep you motivated and energetic
- It helps improve your breathing (helpful in lung diseases like (COPD, Apnea, Fibrosis, and Hypertension)
- It calms you down and promotes sleep
‘Mindfulness meditation’ — allows you to concentrate on a sound, image or chanting mantra example – ‘Om’. This improves your overall health and sleep comes naturally.
As stated in my earlier blog on Cold & Flu home remedies — the fragrance of these oils is therapeutic and can calm your senses. Just use few drops while showering and see the results. This acts as a relaxant and sends the signal to the brain to calm down and promotes sleep.
For how to use it, go through our blog;
Insomnia that is chronic and Severe
Sedatives like Zolpidem, Lorazepam, Temazepam, Ramelteon, Triazolam, Estazolam, Flurazepam, Quazepam are advised to the patients but these medicines have side effects too. So, first try the natural ways mentioned above to treat this health problem. In case the problem doesn’t seem to get better, consult a doctor.
Remember ‘Fitness’ is supreme and can’t be compromised upon. Cheers!