Insomnia occasionally happens to everyone, like after a stressful day or before a big event. Chronic insomnia, however, occurs for at least a month and causes serious disruptions in your life. Sleep problems make it difficult to concentrate, disrupt your relationships and make you irritable and tired all day. Understanding the causes of chronic insomnia, however, make it possible to understand the next step and how you can treat this problem and get more control over your life.
Causes of Chronic Insomnia
Evidence shows that chronic insomnia runs in families, with more than a third of people suffering showing a family history. Certain conditions like depression, anxiety and ADHD also increase the chances of insomnia. Individuals who work night shifts are also likely to suffer from chronic insomnia due to a disrupted circadian rhythm. Even your lifestyle can cause this problem. For example, keeping a television in the bedroom can contribute to sleeplessness. Along with substance abuse, even underlying medical conditions can contribute to the problem. Everything from heart disease and arthritis to sleep apnea and restless leg syndrome play a role in the condition.
Treatment for Chronic Insomnia
So what do you do when you find yourself unable to fall asleep or get a good night's rest? There are three main approaches to treating the problem: sleep hygiene habits, behavioral therapy and medication.
Sleep hygiene refers to simple habits you can use to prepare your body for rest and improve your sleep at night. Start by setting a regular time to go to bed and rise in the morning and stick to this schedule even on the weekends. Don't simply go to bed when you feel tired. Avoid taking naps during the day, especially in the afternoon, and only use your bed for sexual activity and sleep. Don't read, watch TV or work in bed because the bed should only be associated with sleeping to help you fall asleep at night. Avoid exercising before bed, which increases alertness, and try taking a warm bath two hours before bed to change your body's core temperature rhythm. Keep your room cool and make sure you spend some time in the sun every day to keep your body's circadian rhythm in check.
Behavioral therapy involves learning how to relax and get a proper night of rest. There are many methods that may be used, including relaxation training, stimulus control and sleep restriction. Behavioral approaches are designed to reduce the times you wake up at night while also reducing the time it takes to actually fall asleep to below 30 minutes. About 70 to 80% of people who receive behavioral therapy without drugs have improved sleep, compared to about 75% of patients who take sleep aids.
Finally, medication can be used to treat chronic insomnia as well. This can include herbal supplements like chamomile and lavender to OTC or prescription drugs. It's important to remember, however, that prescription and OTC medications can have side effects, like withdrawal symptoms, and should be recommended by a doctor after trying other methods.