Good Night, Sleep Tight

Inspiration Hub , Personal Wellness

Adequate sleep is important to our health and well-being. While it is not uncommon for people to suffer from occasional sleep disturbances, insomnia or chronic sleep problems can have adverse effects on our learning, memory, thinking, attention, and emotions. It can affect our school and job performance and lead to errors and accidents in our daily lives. Recent studies have even shown a link between inadequate sleep and a variety of serious health problems, such as obesity, diabetes, hypertension, and depression.

Insomnia is not just defined by the number of hours you sleep every night. The quality of sleep is equally important as the length of time spent on sleep. The amount of sleep a person needs also varies according to individual conditions and habits. While most people need between 7 to 8 hours of sleep a night, some people may do well with less or more. The retired or elderly, for example, may need less sleep because they are living a relatively relaxed life.

Symptoms of Insomnia

  • Difficulty falling asleep, such as taking more than 30 minutes to fall asleep
  • Waking up frequently during the night and having trouble going back to sleep
  • Waking up too early in the morning and having trouble going back to sleep
  • Feeling tired and unrefreshed when awake
Sometimes, we cannot fall asleep even when we are tired.

Types and Causes of Insomnia

  • Acute insomnia (short-term) can last from one night to a few weeks. It is often caused by emotional or physical discomfort and can be related to a single, specific event. Causes of acute insomnia include:
    • Significant life stress (death of loved ones, breakup of relationships, exams)
    • Illness
    • Environmental factors like noise, light, and extreme temperatures
    • Experiences that disrupt a normal sleep schedule (jet lag, moving into a hostel)
  • Chronic insomnia (long-term) is diagnosed when a person experiences insomnia at least 3 nights a week for one month or longer. It often occurs along with other health problems and can be caused by many conditions, such as depression, long-term stress, and pain.

Getting a Good Night’s Sleep

For most people, sleep disturbances are often caused by health problems or psychosocial stressors. In treating insomnia, it is important to identify the root of the problem and actively deal with it. In the meantime, however, the following are some general suggestions that may improve your sleep:

  • Stick to a regular sleep schedule: Go to bed and wake up at around the same time each day.
  • Don’t take naps: Try to avoid taking naps during the daytime (especially after 3:00 p.m.) since it may make you less sleepy at night.
  • Avoid stimulants: Avoid caffeine, nicotine, and alcohol late in the day. The caffeine in coffee, colas, teas, and chocolate and the nicotine in tobacco are stimulants and can keep you awake. Alcohol can also interfere with sleep quality.
  • Avoid heavy meals and beverages: A large meal can cause indigestion that interferes with sleep. Drinking too much fluid at night can cause you to wake up frequently to urinate. However, a light snack before bedtime may help you sleep better.
  • Exercise regularly: Exercise may help you sleep. However, try to avoid exercising within 3 hours before bedtime since it may stimulate you and make it harder for you to fall asleep.
  • Maintain a comfortable sleep environment: Make sure that your sleeping place has all the necessary physical comforts, i.e. the room is dark and quiet with the right temperature, your bedding is clean and comfortable, etc.
  • Avoid working/studying in bed: Your bed is a place to sleep and rest only; don’t use it for studying or working.
  • Take time to unwind: Follow a daily routine to relax and unwind before sleeping, such as taking a bath, watching TV, or listening to music.
  • Overcome your fear of insomnia: If you can’t fall asleep and don’t feel drowsy, don’t worry about how it may affect you the following day. You can either get up and read or do something that is not overly stimulating until you feel sleepy. Alternatively, you can stay in bed and practice some relaxation exercises to help you unwind and rest.
  • Manage your worries: If you tend to worry about things while lying awake, get up and write them down or try to make a “things-to-do” list. This may relieve you of those worries for the night and allow you to sleep with greater peace of mind.
Having adequate quality of sleep allows you to embrace daily challenges.

If your sleep problem persists or deteriorates despite your own efforts to overcome it, don’t hesitate to consult a medical doctor or counsellor.

Good Night & Sleep Tight!