Insomnia. That phenomenon of tossing and turning in the bed, spending endless nights deprived of sleep, can be a debilitating problem . Sleep is a basic requirement for sound mental and physical health, and lack of sleep can cause serious problems in functioning of the human body and mind.
It is estimated that 20- 30 % of the population suffers from insomnia at some time or the other ( source :http://www.medicalnewstoday.com/articles/9155.php )
Insomnia is commonly divided into three types:
• Transient insomnia – occurs when symptoms last from a few days to a few weeks.
• Acute insomnia – also called short-term insomnia. Symptoms persist for several weeks.
• Chronic insomnia – this type lasts for months, and sometimes years. According to the National Institutes of Health, the majority of chronic insomnia cases are secondary, meaning they are side effects or symptoms resulting from another primary problem.
Insomnia has many causes, medical, behavioral or otherwise. Some of these causes are :
• Medical- Medical conditions such as Obstructive sleep apnoea, Restless legs syndrome (http://www.webmd.com/…/restless-…/restless-legs-syndrome-rls) , asthma, chronic pain, low back ache etc
• Medication-related- medication for hypothyroidism, hypertension, depression etc
• Psychological- anxiety, worries etc can all lead to insomnia. Depression has been shown to feed in into insomnia and vice versa.
• Lifestyle habits- using computers, watching TV close to bedtime, use of stimulants such as alcohol and caffeine etc can all predispose to insomnia.
A healthy adult needs between 6-8 hrs of sleep every day. Quantity of sleep less than this can be termed as insomnia. Our brain has a sleep cycle and a wake cycle—when one is turned on, the other is turned off—insomnia can be a problem with either part of this cycle: too much wake drive or too little sleep drive. It’s important to first understand what could be causing your sleep difficulties.
Insomnia causes a general feeling of uneasiness , making it difficult to perform at optimum efficiency. Chronic insomnia has heavy repurcussions upon the quality of life of an individual.
The conventional treatment of insomnia consists of sleep medications. Some of these are: Zolpidem (Zolfresh), Alprazolam ( Alprax), Diazepam ( Calmpose) and others. These are effective in the short term, but have side effects and may lead to rebound insomnia in the long term. Ultimately, sleep hygiene , sound dietary and lifestyle habits etc are the best remedy against insomnia.
Some alternatives to these drugs are:
• Melatonin capsules- these have been seen to provide a feeling of calm and restfulness, by affecting the sleep cycle
• Lavender oil- Lavender oil inhalation provides a sense of tranquility for the mind and body
• Warm milk , honey and turmeric- this proves to be an effective home remedy for insomnia. Try this !!
• Soothing, relaxing music provides a sense of tranquility, making it easier to fall asleep
• Breathing exercises such as Chandrabhedana Pranayama
Uttimately, one has to go through a process of trial and error to find an effective cure for insomnia. Sound sleep is worth the effort taken, because a well-rested body and mind is like a machine that is kept active by proper use and proper rest.
-By Dr. Abhimanyu Bishnu, MBBS, MHA
Disclaimer: This information is not to be taken as treatment advice. Please consult your personal physician before starting any therapy.