Insomnia or lack of sleep is a very common problem. Most people experience it at some point or the other in their lifetime. Chronic insomnia or lack of sleep over a long period of time can lead to mental and physical health problems such as depression, anxiety, high blood pressure etc.
There are several medications and home remedies for sleep, but they can cause habituation in the long-run. It is better to manage long-term sleep problems with ‘Sleep Hygiene’, i.e. developing healthy sleep habits.
- It is important to fix a bedtime and waking time. Once the body gets into a rhythm, it feels naturally sleepy at the regular sleep time.
- Long naps during the day are avoidable. The body feels naturally sleepy during the afternoon. At that time, short naps of 30-45 minutes are okay.
- Stimulants such as caffeine, nicotine and alcohol should be avoided 4-6 hours before bedtime. Alcohol may make you drowsy and help in sleeping, but it disrupts sleep in between as the body starts metabolising the alcohol.
- Similarly heavy, spicy or sugary dinner should be avoided 3 hours before bedtime. The digestion process disrupts the sleep routine.
- Exercise helps in getting regular and deep sleep. Regular exercise is very much recommended, but strenuous exercise is avoidable just before bedtime.
- The use of laptop or mobile from the bed, or watching TV from bed should be avoided. The body should associate the bed with relaxation and sleep.
- A light snack such as warm milk with some sugar, as well as food rich in tryptophan such as a banana, can be helpful.
- Establishing a soothing pre-sleep routine also often helps. This may include a warm bath, light music, reading a book, breathing exercises and avoiding loud sounds and worrisome thoughts.
Also, some medical conditions and some medicines also cause sleep disturbance. Consult your Family Physician to discuss if your sleeplessness could be coming from some of these causes.