How-to Guide to Fighting Insomnia
Do you get enough sleep? When you wake up, do you feel refreshed—and able to tackle the day’s activities? If your answer to any of these questions is no, fixing this problem is essential since your health depends on it.
Getting a sufficient amount of good-quality sleep is as important as getting enough exercise and eating well. Your body and mind are repaired and regenerated during sleep.
Here is a short guide to help you combat insomnia and get the restful sleep that you have dreamed about.
Sleep requirements vary from person to person, based mainly on age. The specialists at the National Sleep Foundation recommend the following number of hours of sleep a night, by age group:
- 0 to 3 months: 14 to 17 hours
- 4 to 11 months: 12 to 15 hours
- 1 to 2 years: 11 to 14 hours
- 3 to 5 years: 10 to 13 hours
- 6 to 13 years: 9 to 11 hours
- 14 to 17 years: 8 to 10 hours
- 18 to 64 years: 7 to 9 hours
- 65 years or more: 7 to 8 hours
PROBLEMS LINKED TO LACK OF SLEEP
In the short term, lack of sleep can cause general tiredness, poor moods and a decline in performance at work or school. It may reduce alertness and put you at a greater risk of accidents. It can also cause drowsiness and irritability, as well as concentration, attention and memory problems.
In the long term, lack of sleep can lead to a weakened immune system, reduced life expectancy and serious health problems:
- high blood pressure
- cardiovascular disease
- type 2 diabetes
- depression and anxiety
FACTS AND FIGURES ON INSOMNIA
Did you know that:
- In Canada, the incidence of insomnia rose by 42% between 2007 and 2015, from roughly 17% in 2007 to nearly 24% in 2015, according to the most recent statistics.
- On average, we get one hour less sleep a night than our ancestors did a century ago. Our modern lifestyles, increased stress and the proliferation of technology in our lives are likely to blame.
- Women experience symptoms of insomnia more frequently than men.
Insomnia is a sleep disorder defined by the following clinical features:
- Difficulty falling or staying asleep
- Waking up often during the night and having trouble getting back to sleep
- Waking up too early in the morning
- Feeling tired when you wake up.
Insomnia can be short term, lasting from a couple of nights to several weeks, or chronic, occurring at least three nights a week for a month or more.
There are two types of insomnia: primary insomnia, which is not caused by a health problem, and secondary insomnia, which is caused by a health condition (arthritis, gastric reflux, depression, thyroid problems, etc.), the use of medications, or drug or alcohol consumption.
Insomnia has multiple causes:
- Consuming certain foods and beverages during the evening meal or before bedtime: red meat; spicy food; foods high in fat, sugar or carbs; chocolate; coffee; tea; alcohol; soft drinks; energy drinks; etc.
- The sleep environment: too much light, ambient noise, or temperature too hot or too cold in the bedroom, as well as watching TV, listening to the radio, looking at your phone, working on your laptop, playing video games, etc.
- Lack of physical activity
- Stress and anxiety linked to worries or problems at home or at work
- Mental or physical health problems
- Gastric reflux or the need to urinate during the night
- The use of certain medications
- Jet lag and non-standard work schedules (shift work)
- Other sleep problems such as sleep apnea, snoring and restless legs syndrome
- Age: older people are lighter sleepers and more sensitive to noises.
ADVICE ON GETTING A BETTER NIGHT’S SLEEP
1. Maintain a regular sleep schedule
Create a sleep routine so your body gets used to going to bed and getting up at the same time every day. This will make it much easier to fall asleep.
2. Arrange your bedroom to promote sleep
Your bedroom is a place to sleep. It is therefore advisable to arrange it this way. Opt for opaque curtains that block as much light as possible, maintain a cool temperature (18 degrees C), reduce ambient noise as much as possible. It's important to keep this room exclusive to sleep, don't work in your bedroom, and don't watch TV either.
3. Create a relaxing bedtime routine
In order to promote sleep, it is important to put your body in relaxation mode. It can be very difficult to fall asleep if we are very upset. Take a bath, read, listen to soft music, do breathing exercises, etc. Find ways to help you relax and practice them before bedtime.
4. Free your mind
It can be difficult to fall asleep when we all ruminate on our thoughts of the day once we go to bed. To help the mind let go, take a sheet of paper and write down what is bothering you. This will greatly help you let go of intrusive thoughts.
5. Naps that aren't too long during the day
It may be tempting to take naps during the day when we suffer from insomnia, but this will only contribute to your evening insomnia. If you absolutely must doze off during the day, prioritize short naps (about 20 minutes) and do them in the early afternoon.
6. Avoid the consumption of coffee, alcohol and nicotine
Try to limit your coffee intake during the day and don't consume caffeine after 4:00 p.m.
7. Limit food and drink too close to your bedtime
Eating large meals or drinking too much fluid at night can affect your ability to sleep.
8. Do physical activity during the day
Moving will allow you to deplete your energy reserves and help you fall asleep more quickly at night. Be careful not to exercise too late in the evening, as this could have the opposite effect. Keep a buffer period of at least 3 to 4 hours between your physical activity and the time you go to bed.
9. Opt for foods that promote sleep
According to some preliminary scientific studies, certain foods predispose us to sleep and are worth trying in the hours before bedtime, such as: Morello cherry juice, almonds and walnuts, milk, turkey, bananas, oily fish, kiwis, chamomile or passion flower tea, white rice and oatmeal.
10. Avoid looking at the clock in bed
Looking back at the hours can be stressful, especially when we know we have to get up early the next day. In order to limit this stress, which will only contribute to your insomnia, turn your dial over so that you don't see the time.
11. Limit pain
If you suffer from chronic pain, ask your doctor to prescribe a medicine that will give you relief and allow you to sleep.