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Coping With Insomnia

Some people can sleep through thunderstorms, while some wake up at the sound of a feather dropping to the floor. Some awaken at the wee hours of the morning, unable to get back to sleep, while there are those who spend the entire night counting sheep, only to finally nod off once the birds start chirping. If you are one of those who have trouble falling asleep, or if you awaken too early, you may be suffering from a sleep disorder called insomnia.


There are three types of insomnia

Transient insomnia - A difficulty in falling asleep, that lasts for just around three to four days. It could be caused due to a change in your schedule, jet lag, too much caffeine, stress, illness or a sudden change. Fortunately, sleeping pills help in this case, as just taking a pill once or twice can kick you back into schedule. You will not develop a dependence on sleeping pills unless you have them regularly for around three weeks.

Short-term insomnia - This lasts a little longer than transient insomnia, and can persist for up to three weeks. Usually the death of a loved one, a divorce, financial problems or any persistent worry can lead to short-term insomnia.

Chronic insomnia - If your sleeplessness persists for more than a month, you have what is called chronic insomnia, and you should visit your doctor to make sure your insomnia is not a result of something more serious like diabetes, heart aliments, epilepsy. Pregnancy too causes sleep loss, and so does depression. If you wake up too early and are unable to go back to sleep, you could also be an insomniac. But if you fall asleep late, but then sleep like a log and constantly keep pushing the snooze button and going back to sleep, your insomnia is just the result of an overactive brain and imagination.

Here are some tips that should have you dropping off to sleep before that twentieth sheep jumps the fence.

  1. Practice deep breathing. Take a deep breath, and slowly exhale. Count your breaths. With each exhalation, imagine yourself descending deeper and deeper into yourself. You know the feeling you get when you are descending in an elevator? That's the feeling you are trying to latch on to, and it's pretty easy to do so. Practice it now! Close your eyes, and count downward from ten. Go down, deeper and deeper into yourself. You will feel instantly relaxed.
  2. Don't watch too much television before going to sleep, especially if you have an overactive imagination. Your mind will constantly keep replaying the dialogues you heard, and you will not be able to fall asleep. Channel surfing before turning in is fine, but watching too much of the same thing, for example, watching one entire Friends season on DVD or listening to the same music for a long time may translate into sleep deprivation.
  3. Exercise. Don't exercise too close to bedtime though, as those endorphins will be charging around your system and will not let you fall asleep.
  4. Avoid drinking tea, coffee or alcohol at bedtime. While you may feel you sleep better when drunk, the quality of sleep is not as good. A cup of warm milk is a better option. Some people find that they sleep better after drinking a cup of warm milk to which a spoon of instant coffee has been added. You could try this and see if it works for you. Instant coffee, which has been just stirred into the milk and not heated along with the milk, doesn't contain much caffeine and will not keep you awake. Or you could just use decaffeinated coffee.
  5. Don't keep looking at the clock wondering why you are not falling asleep.
  6. Make sure your room is dark. Perhaps your nightlight is disturbing you without your realizing it? Switch it off. Draw all the blinds.
  7. Make sure the room temperature is right. Don't be too hot or too cold.
  8. Perhaps your mattress is uncomfortable? Get another one.
  9. Take a warm water bath before going to sleep. It can be very relaxing.
  10. Try establishing a routine. Sleep at the same time everyday, and wake up at the same time every morning. Don't wake up late.
  11. If you cant fall asleep, don't stress about it. Get up and take a warm bath to relax you, or read a book till you nod off. Often, people stress about the fact that they are still not asleep, and this keeps them awake. Don't keep looking at the time on your neon glow-clock.
  12. Avoid sleeping in the afternoon.
  13. And finally, take up meditation. It helps.


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