Insomnia, which is most often defined by a person’s acute difficulty with sleep, is the most common of all sleep disorders. In fact, it affects about one-third of adults in the United States, with a significant increase as people age.
There are varying degrees of insomnia caused by many different conditions, such as underlying physical or medical problems, stress, depression, tragedy or trauma, other mental disorders, environmental conditions, medication side effects, or lifestyle. Insomnia as a result of any of these causes has one main commonality: it hinders daily functioning and affects one’s health in the long run.
What Does Insomnia Look Like?
People with insomnia often have frequent awakenings in the middle of the night, early awakenings in the mornings, insufficient sleep, daytime exhaustion, lack of concentration, irritability, nervousness, depression, and/or forgetfulness. This level of sleep deprivation has major impacts on cognitive functioning, causing daily tasks to become draining.
Chronic insomnia occurs at least 3 nights a week for 3 months or longer (with nightmares weaved in). This is often believed to be a behavioral pattern, which means it could be addressed with cognitive behavior therapy–talk therapy that makes you aware of inaccurate or negative thinking.
The elimination of negative self talk is primary in this technique, and individuals are taught to discriminate between one’s own thoughts and the actual events that occurred in reality. The thought is, the most direct route to changing dysfunctional emotions and behaviors is to modify the inaccurate and faulty thinking.
Biofeedback and neurofeedback can also be applied in order to create a restful night’s sleep. Biofeedback is a process that enables an individual to learn how to change physiological activity for the purposes of improving health and performance. Neurofeedback is a form of biofeedback in which individuals respond to their own brain waves or other electrical activity of the nervous system.
Addressing Insomnia at Home
While it’s best to get professional help on something so hindering to everyday life, there are some smaller ways you can help yourself get some shut-eye. At the least, you can eliminate things that may be adding to the problem.
One thing to consider is the noise or lack thereof in your bedroom. Some people can’t sleep with any sound whatsoever. For those of you who are the same way, eliminate all sound. That means no TV, no fans, nothing. For others, however, sound is a necessity. Many people require a soft “white noise” in the background to help lull them into a calming sleep. Ceiling or portable fans, white noise machines, or the sound of rain or thunder are popular ones. Be careful not to allow disturbances within the sound, such as a faulty fan that has sporadic clicks or creeks. This can be distracting and counterproductive.
If your mind won’t stop reeling, try some basic breathing exercises. At the center of yoga practice is breathing, which is a coping mechanism for surviving each difficult pose. Breathing through the movements can be the same as breathing through difficult moments–in this case, the moments when you’re overthinking and trying to sleep.
Digital devices are one of the most common distractors from sleep today. It’s difficult to not look at those alerts or notifications, even at 10 o’clock at night. Many people use their phones for their alarm in the mornings, but you can still do this while turning your phone on airplane mode during the night. This eliminates alerts and distractions while still allowing you to have your necessary alarm.
Doing mindful and calming meditation, while listening to serene music or sounds as the day winds down, can get you a step closer to the sleep you need. However, for those with severe insomnia, health professionals like those at The Brain Performance Center can step in and identify the core of the problem. In turn, they can give you the right treatment for you to overcome those sleepless nights.