The most common causes of insomnia and what to do about them
Insomnia is a common sleep disorder that makes you lose sleep or have poor-quality sleep. Insomnia can make it hard for you to fall asleep, stay asleep, or get deep and restful sleep. Insomnia may leave you feeling tired during the day and affect your mood, daily activities, and well-being.
A variety of factors can cause insomnia. Some people have trouble sleeping due to a medical or psychological condition. Other people have problems sleeping because of the medications they take. And for some people, lifestyle choices or environmental factors are at the root of their insomnia.
If you regularly have trouble sleeping, talk to your doctor about possible causes and treatment options.
Learn more about the causes of insomnia
Certain medical conditions can make it hard to sleep. These conditions include…
- Parkinson’s disease
- Restless legs syndrome (RLS)
Some medications can also make sleep a challenge. These include medications for…
- Heart conditions
- High blood pressure
- Thyroid problems
Psychological conditions like stress, anxiety, and depression all can take a toll on people’s sleep. These conditions are sometimes accompanied by racing thoughts or physical discomfort, which can make it difficult for people to relax, get comfortable, and fall asleep.
Some lifestyle choices can also cause issues with sleeping. These include working long hours, having an irregular sleep schedule, eating unhealthy foods, drinking caffeinated beverages, and using electronic devices, including phones, too close to bedtime.
Lastly, certain environmental factors can interfere with sleep. These factors include noise, light, and temperature. Ideally, you want your bedroom to be quiet, dark, and cool. If these conditions aren’t being met, try using a white noise machine, an eye mask, or a fan.
How is insomnia treated?
How you treat insomnia depends on its cause. If a medical condition is to blame, treatment will focus on the underlying condition. If the medications you take result in insomnia, your doctor may adjust your dosage or switch you to a different medicine.
Or, if your insomnia is due to a psychological issue, treatment will focus on addressing that. Treatment options for psychological issues include cognitive behavioral therapy, relaxation techniques, and meditation.
There are several relaxation techniques you can try to help you get better sleep. They include…
- Deep breathing – Take deep breaths in through your nose and out through your mouth.
- Visualization – Picture yourself in a peaceful place, such as a beach or meadow.
- Progressive muscle relaxation – Starting with your toes and working your way up, tense and relax each muscle group in your body repeatedly.
- Guided imagery – Listen to a relaxation recording that guides you through a peaceful scene.
If your insomnia is due to lifestyle choices or environmental factors, treatment will focus on changing your habits or environment. Some changes you might make include…
- Establishing a regular sleep schedule – Going to bed and waking up at the same time each day regulates your body’s natural sleep rhythm.
- Avoiding caffeine – Caffeine is a stimulant that keeps you awake. Avoid coffee, tea, and soda at least six hours before bedtime.
- Avoiding alcohol – Although alcohol may make you feel sleepy, it can disrupt your sleep later in the night. Avoid drinking alcohol within two hours of bedtime.
- Avoiding nicotine – Nicotine is another stimulant that keeps you awake. If you smoke, try to quit or cut back on the number of cigarettes you smoke each day.
- Avoiding large meals before bedtime – Eating a large meal close to bedtime makes it harder to fall asleep. Try to eat dinner at least three hours before you want to go to bed.
- Exercising regularly – Exercise helps improve your sleep. However, avoid exercising within two hours of bedtime, as you may have trouble winding down if you exercise too close to when you want to go to bed.
In some cases, your doctor may prescribe medication to help you sleep. These medications are called sleep aids. And you should use them only for a short period and under the supervision of a doctor.
If you think you have insomnia, talk to your doctor about possible causes and treatment options. Together you can develop a plan to help you get the restorative sleep you need.
Dr. Meghna Dassani has practiced dentistry for over two decades and is passionate about the role dentists play in whole-body health. You can learn more at her website: MeghnaDassani.com.
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