Imagine going to bed and not falling asleep. The inability to fall asleep or stay asleep damages not only your mental health but also disrupts your biological clock. But insomnia is not just that. It is also waking up early in the morning and not being able to go back to sleep later. As a result, one always wakes up tired. Although the amount of sleep people need varies, one cannot deny that a good night’s sleep is irreplaceable.
Studies done by the American Sleep Association suggest that nearly 70 million Americans suffer from a sleep disorder, with insomnia being the most common. Furthermore, 30% of adults experience acute insomnia (short-term), whereas 10% suffer from chronic insomnia (long-lasting).
If you think you may be part of those statistics, you may be wondering how to deal with insomnia. Let’s break it down.
What Are the Symptoms of Insomnia?
Insomnia manifests itself in several ways. A few of insomnia’s symptoms are:
- Difficulty falling asleep, including the inability to find a comfortable sleeping position
- Waking up in the middle of the night, being unable to fall back to sleep, and waking up early
- Inability to focus on daily tasks, and difficulty remembering
- Sleepiness, irritability, depression, or anxiety during the day
- Tiredness or a lack of energy during the day
- Difficulty concentrating
- Acting aggressively or rashly
What Are the Causes of Insomnia?
There can be several underlying reasons behind someone displaying symptoms of insomnia. A few of the causes of insomnia include:
- Medical conditions like head injuries, hyperthyroidism, asthma, hypertension, headaches, ADHD, dementia, seizures, Alzheimer’s disease, etc.
- Mental illnesses such as major depression, anxiety, post-traumatic stress disorder, bipolar disorder, schizophrenia, etc.
- Consumption of psychoactive drugs, such as stimulants
- Consuming certain medications and herbs
- Caffeine, nicotine, cocaine, MDMA, or excessive alcohol
- Other sleep disorders such as sleep apnea
- Irregular sleeping schedules, including disruptions such as jet lag, work shift changes, and napping
- Hormonal imbalance or disbalance of the circadian rhythm
- Life events that cause fear, stress, anxiety, etc.
- Prolonged exposure to computer or mobile screens right before bedtime
How Can I Deal With Insomnia?
Insomnia treatment can be simple yet complex, especially with several factors playing a role. Here are a few ways you can effectively deal with insomnia and its symptoms:
1. Sleep in a dark room
Melatonin, a hormone secreted by the pineal gland, plays a crucial role in the sleep-wake cycle. As a result, it plays a vital role in regulating your body’s circadian rhythm. Levels of melatonin are the highest during the night. Sleeping in a dark room can improve melatonin levels in your body, hence affecting the overall sleep quality and the time required to fall asleep.
2. Stick to a sleeping routine
One of the most effective ways to overcome insomnia is to put yourself in a sleeping routine. A healthy sleeping routine means that you go to bed and wake up at fixed hours. If you do not fall asleep in 15min, move to some other room and indulge in a quiet activity such as reading or listening to slow music in dim light. When you begin to feel sleepy, get into bed.
Make sure not to move your wake-up time to compensate for the lost hours of sleep, and that your sleeping schedule gives you at least 7–8 hours of sleep. Furthermore, avoid taking naps during the day. However, if you do need to nap, stick to a power nap of 15–20min only.
3. Avoid bright lights before bedtime
Exposure to bright lights tends to have an arousing effect on the body. This can affect the melatonin production in your body, hence hampering your ability to fall asleep. Avoid watching TV, being on your laptop, or using your mobile phone at least 30min before your bedtime.
4. Move your body
Create an exercise routine for yourself. Exercise every day for nearly 30–45 minutes during the day, followed by stretching right before bedtime. Stretching before bedtime will help you ease the tension built up in the muscles after a long day, allowing you to fall asleep faster and tackle your insomnia one night at a time.
Meditation brings about many changes, both psychologically and physiologically. It relaxes your body, reduces and stables the heart rate, lowers blood pressure, and activates the parts of the brain that regulate sleep. It also increases the production of melatonin and serotonin. This way, meditation can help you overcome both insomnia and anxiety. Studies reveal that approximately 14% of Americans have practiced meditation at least once. They also report that mediation improves an individual’s anxiety levels by 60%.
Start by meditating for 5 minutes every day, gradually adding more minutes as you go on. You can also opt for a guided meditation where a voice leads you through meditation, instructing you to inhale and exhale. They may also ask you to visualize things, similar to what happens in the process of guided imagery.
6. Sleeping aids
Sleeping aids, also known as sedatives, sleeping pills, and tranquilizers, are medications that help you sleep well. You can either opt for an over-the-counter sleeping aid, like melatonin pills, or prescription sleeping pills from a healthcare provider to overcome acute insomnia.
Is Therapy an Effective Insomnia Treatment?
Though the methods above can help you manage your insomnia symptoms, therapy is the overall best treatment for insomnia. Therapy seeks to tackle not only the symptoms but also the root of the problem. It is not superficial. Therapy is recommended as the first line of treatment, especially for chronic insomnia. Therapists assist individuals in discovering how to deal with insomnia through therapy sessions.
Cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) as a treatment for insomnia is a structured program that assists you in identifying and replacing thoughts and behaviors that cause or worsen sleep problems with sleep-promoting habits. As opposed to sleeping pills, CBT assists you in overcoming the underlying causes of your sleep problems. It is one of the most effective therapeutic approaches for insomnia. A few other techniques are relaxation training, stimulus control training, and sleep restriction therapy.
Is Online Therapy Just as Effective?
A 2014 study in the Journal of Affective Disorders discovered that online therapy for depression was just as effective as face-to-face therapy. Furthermore, online cognitive behavioral therapy is an effective, acceptable, and practical form of health care, as per a 2018 study published in the Journal of Psychological Disorders.
The statistics prove that online therapy is as effective as face-to-face therapy. The availability of smartphones and the recent Covid-19 pandemic have opened the doors for online therapy, thereby expanding its horizons. Here are some of the boons of online therapy:
1. No geographical barrier
Since online therapy has no geographical barriers, you can be sitting at home on one side of the country and seek assistance from a therapist on the other. Another advantage of online therapy is that it does not require you to commute to your therapist’s office.
2. No time constraints
Unlike traditional face-to-face therapy, online therapy is more flexible in booking and cancellation. Furthermore, if you cannot take an hour out for the session, you can always opt for messages or emails. You can address your issues with your therapist, and they will get back to you with questions, feedback, and insights.
3. There is always someone
People often complain about not being able to find the right therapist. It could be due to their approach, methodologies, or just lack of chemistry between two people. Through online therapy, you can better find a therapist who suits your needs. It also makes changing a therapist easier. As a result, you will always have a therapist that’s right for you.
Online counseling makes therapy accessible to everyone while reducing costs. It makes therapy affordable, encouraging more people to seek assistance to overcome their battles, no matter how big or small they may be.
To conclude, prolonged difficulty in sleeping or getting enough sleep can be detrimental to physical and mental health. It can start to interfere with your daily activities. While adhering to a proper sleep schedule or taking sleeping pills can address some of insomnia’s symptoms, none of them can beat the long-term effects of therapy.
Therapy is not a one-size-fits-all thing, and our therapists understand that. Therapy is personal, and every therapist at DoMental has what it takes to come up with a plan that’s tailor-made to address your issues.