What happens when you try to fall asleep? Do you toss and turn in bed, count objects in vain, or stare at the ceiling? Or, do you find yourself waking up several times at night?
If your answer is YES, then you have difficulty falling asleep. Many people experience trouble falling asleep at one point in their life.
Sleep difficulty can affect your mental and physical health. It can also make you suffer from trouble concentrating during the day or frequent headaches. Some people only feel reinvigorated after sleeping for six to seven hours.Adults need at least eight hours of sleep to feel refreshed and rested. In addition to frequent headaches or trouble concentrating, other signs of trouble falling asleep include:
• Waking up early
• Taking longer to fall asleep
• Daytime fatigue
• Low energy throughout the day
• Dark circles under the eyes
If you also have trouble controlling emotions, react slowly, and need caffeinated drinks to keep going, it is a sign you have a sleep disorder. But what causes sleeplessness, and is there treatment for such?
Causes of sleeping difficulties
Many possible reasons can explain why you are unable to sleep. Your sleeping problems may fall under three categories that include your medical conditions, lifestyle choices, and sleeping habits.
1. Medical conditions causing sleeping difficulties
• Chronic pain: arthritis, fibromyalgia, headaches, inflammatory bowel disease, etc.
• Respiratory problems and allergies
• Neurological conditions: Parkinson’s disease
• Endocrine problems: hyperthyroidism
It is worth mentioning that pain has a correlative relationship with trouble getting sleep. The more pain you feel, the more difficult it is to fall and remain asleep. Similarly, lower threshold or tolerance for pain can cause sleep difficulties.
There are also other medical conditions that can cause sleep disorders. These include insomnia, restless leg syndrome, narcolepsy, parasomnias, and sleep apnea.
Treatment for trouble going to sleep or sleep disorders varies depending on the underlying cause and type of disorder.
Treatment can include:
• Melatonin supplements
• Sleeping pills
• Cold or allergy medication
• Surgery to treat sleep apnea or a breathing device
• Medication for an underlying health problem
2. Lifestyle changes causing sleeping difficulties
• Too much caffeine close to bedtime – caffeine causes disruptive effects on sleep patterns and delays timing of the body clock. The result is reduced sleep time.
• Too much alcohol close to bedtime – alcohol disrupts the duration and structure of sleep states. It can also alter sleep time and make it longer for you to fall asleep.
• Spending time on bright screens before bedtime – using a digital device close to bedtime disrupts the production of melatonin, a hormone that tells the body when to sleep or wake up.
• Nighttime exercises close to bedtime – exercises are stimulating activities. The stimulation makes it challenging for the body to relax and fall asleep.
• Poor stress management – stress causes heightened anxiety and varied arousal responses (hyperarousal). These can cause trouble falling asleep and staying asleep.
Note that sleep and diet are related. When you eat too close to bedtime, this interferes with your rest patterns. Furthermore, foods and drinks that cause heartburn such as alcohol, peppermint, tomatoes, citrus fruits, etc can disrupt your sleep.
You need to adjust your lifestyle to improve your sleep patterns and quality of sleep. In this case, you should consider:
• Eating a diet full of fish and vegetables, and reduce sugar intake.
• Reducing anxiety and stress by exercising. However, ensure you exercise in the evening or at least 3-4 hours before bedtime.
• Limiting your intake of caffeine, especially late in the afternoon or evening.
• Decreasing tobacco and alcohol use.
• Eating meals low on carbohydrates before bedtime
You should also create and stick to a regular sleeping schedule as this can improve the quality of your sleep. Other forms of treatment you should consider include cognitive therapy, sleep restriction therapy, and stimulus control.
3. Sleeping habits causing sleeping difficulties
You should never force sleep since you are training the brain to recognize that the bed is not for sleep. You are forcing yourself to sleep if you are:
• Meditating before sleep
• Drinking tea
• Putting on gentle music
• Stretching to relax your body and mind
• Reading a magazine or book before bedtime
• Thinking about your everyday life including boring stuff
In most cases, doing any of these activities before bedtime interferes with the body clock or your sleep patterns. While there is nothing wrong with doing these activities, consider doing them several hours before bedtime.
What you do during the day and before bedtime can have an impact on your quality of sleep. The activities named above can either contribute to trouble getting to sleep or encourage healthy sleep. To treat these habits, consider:
• Keeping a consistent bedtime schedule
• Using your bed for sleep only
• Making your bedroom relaxing and quite
• Avoiding consumption of tea, coffee, or alcohol before bedtime
You need to have a relaxing sleep routine and avoid certain habits that can give you a hard time sleeping.