The effects of lost sleep are serious and debilitating. Tiredness causes difficulties with making decisions, concentrating, getting things done, and just maintaining an interest in life. It can also make us irritable, less tolerant of things that go wrong, snappy and more emotional. If we’re fatigued we start making mistakes, forgetting things, saying ‘no’ to social occasions, and shutting down. We can lose friends, disappoint our loved ones, and let workmates down.
We can drag ourselves through the whole day, nod off on the couch, and barely manage what we have to do. We long for bedtime, yet, when we finally let ourselves crash onto the mattress our eyes go “ping!” and we’re wide awake – for hours! Why?
Everyone’s insomnia story is different and there are many different initial causes of poor sleeping. Sometimes it’s a big life event, like a wedding, that takes months of planning – often thought about after the lights go out. When the big occasion has finally taken place, the habit of thinking and worrying in bed remains. Sometimes it’s caused by a trauma in life such as a break-up, sometimes by a pressure such as exams. But just as many insomnia stories start with no apparent cause.
Identifying the initial cause is not that important. Fixing the problem is. But many different things can be going on for different people. There may be deficiencies in essential vitamins and neurotransmitters, necessary for good sleep. Some of the Vitamin Bs are very important for sleep, and they can be easily depleted by a stressful lifestyle. Melatonin is another important biochemical that has a role to play in sleep. Through certain circumstances our bodies can become deficient in melatonin, or its supply to us might become out of sync, such as in shift workers or teenagers who stay up late. Being aware of our own personal bio-rhythms is essential for returning to a good sleep routine.
Substances that we take into our bodies can be part of what prolongs our insomnia. Coffee is a significant one, as is anything with caffeine in it – energy drinks, coca cola, tea. You might not need to give them up for life, but it’s a good idea to set them aside until you have overcome the sleep problem.
Being uptight, stressing, and worrying all make it less likely that we will achieve good sleep. Learning to relax, how to reduce worrying, and stress management techniques are essential for a good night’s sleep. Getting involved in yoga, learning tai chi, having a massage, soaking in a hot bath, and inhaling lavender, are all activities that can help you sleep better tonight.
Should you take medication? Sleeping tablets are very effective in helping most people settle down enough to get a good sleep. But unfortunately all sleep medication is habituating. That means your body will get used to it and you will start to find the dose you were taking is no longer effective so you have to take more. So it is always only a temporary solution.