Difficulty falling asleep each night over and over again could be a sign of insomnia. Many people around the world struggle with this condition and want to know exactly how to beat insomnia. This sleeping condition or disorder affects millions of Americans every year.
Some people are lucky, in that they only experience insomnia under unusual circumstances. Like, for example, after a busy day of activities or exercise that prevents them from sleeping.
But millions of Americans have chronic or acute insomnia. It’s not a good condition to live with. In this in-depth article, we’ll go into great detail about this common disorder and some share some strategies on how to beat insomnia.
You’ll learn all about insomnia, its causes, its symptoms, what happens if it’s left untreated, a range of cures and treatments, and how to live better with insomnia. Read on to learn more.
If you are worried that you might be suffering from insomnia - always seek medical advice.
What is Insomnia?
Many of us have had difficulty falling asleep off and on since we were young. But insomnia, as diagnosed by sleep specialists, is a much more serious disorder. It’s not just about the difficulty in falling asleep or staying asleep or even that you aren’t able to enjoy quality, uninterrupted sleep.
Insomnia is a condition of the brain, in that you aren’t as tired at night as you should be. It’s not that you aren’t physically tired. Your muscles may be tired, and you could develop a headache in the evening due to mental exhaustion.
But your mind and other parts of the body are awake. As the hour's tick by and it’s long after midnight, you struggle with even feeling slightly tired. You could also feel jittery as if the very act of lying down was like drinking a cup of coffee.
Many long-term insomniacs report that it’s only at night that they feel the most awake! Are you more alert past the midnight hour than you ever were during the day?
That’s the seriousness of insomnia. It can affect the rest of your life, just because your body is nowhere close to getting the rest it needs. Insomniacs feel perpetually tired during the day.
They drink more caffeinated beverages like coffee, tea, and soda to try and stay awake. They also reach for sugary foods and snacks to quickly give them a temporary boost of energy.
They struggle to focus on work tasks, have shorter tempers because they’re more stressed, and they could have relationship problems as well.
Most office hours begin early in the morning, so that’s incompatible with an insomniac’s sleeping schedule, or lack thereof. The human body can’t function on only a few hours of sleep a night—or no sleep at all.
Insomnia Affects Every Age
It doesn’t matter how old you are; insomnia can be a difficult problem at any age. Children who have insomnia can’t focus as well in school and may have temper problems in the evenings.
They don’t have the mental or emotional capacity yet to be able to deal with their surges in feelings, even when they are well rested. Take sleep away, and they are in danger of having it affect the rest of their lives.
The same goes for teenagers with insomnia and sleeping problems. School workloads, athletic practices, their extracurricular activities and the pressure of trying to get into a good college can give them lots of life problems. They are becoming more emotionally mature, but that’s a slow process.
Teens are also learning to drive, and they aren’t experienced enough to be able to react on the road. So, vehicular accidents are more common. Sleeplessness can be detrimental and might even have long-lasting consequences.
Adults, from college age onward into their forties and fifties, can have many problems with insomnia. Adults have the mental and emotional capacity to function on only a couple hours of sleep, but it’s certainly not sustainable for more than a night or two in a row.
Adults also have children of their own or are caretaking for elderly parents, so they’re responsible for the welfare of others. An insomnia-suffering adult can have lapses in judgment and make mistakes.
Health problems are one of the underlying issues in seniors, which can make them especially vulnerable to insomnia. The actual pain and stiffness in ageing joints reduces the ability to be fully well-rested. Also, seniors can worry about health problems, family problems, and other serious topics, leading to sleeplessness.
No matter who you are and what your age, you can have insomnia.
What Causes Insomnia?
Insomnia has many causes. Some of them are physical, some of them are mental, and some of them are emotional.
1. Chronic Pain
What are the physical causes of insomnia? One of the most recognisable and familiar is a pain in the body. This is most often seen in the elderly, although any age can experience it. When you lie down at night and don’t have any distractions keeping your mind occupied, pain in your body can flare up and cause insomnia.
The pain can come from any number of areas. You can have joint pain and stiffness, which can be caused by anything from dropping temperatures to arthritis concerns. You could have pain connected to a medical issue, like recovering from surgery or broken bones. You could also have chronic muscle aches and pains, like fibromyalgia and depression-related pain.
Another physical cause of insomnia is over-active nerves. You have an estimated 100 billion nerve cells throughout your body.
Over-active nerves can be caused by mental or emotional situations or can be the result of earlier trauma to the body, like a severe injury. As soon as you lie down, those over-active nerves start to twitch and pulse in your body, causing you to stay awake.
If you suffer from chronic pain - check out this great resource for people with persistent pain.
One possible physical cause of insomnia is blood sugar issues. Insomniacs are particularly prone to having problems with blood sugar because they like to eat sugary foods to keep their energy up throughout the day.
Those sugary foods provide a quick boost of energy, followed only a few hours later by an energy crash. If you eat sugary foods or consume caffeinated beverages too close to bedtime, you are definitely in the danger zone for experiencing insomnia.
Unusually high amounts of physical activity can contribute to insomnia. If you’re typically more sedentary and then walk around an amusement park all day, that is a significant difference in physical activity and will keep you awake at night.
Your body isn’t used to that, and so your muscles are worked harder than usual. You could experience active muscles or a surge in feel-good hormones that prevent you from feeling sleepy at bedtime.
4. Travel and Jet Lag
Have you recently travelled to a different part of the world? Jet lag is frequent and can be a source of insomnia even after you’ve come back home and readjusted to your standard time zone.
You could also experience insomnia while travelling due to the stress of airports, aeroplanes, sleeping in unfamiliar hotel rooms, and changes in daylight hours or temperature while abroad.
Are you taking any medications? One common side effect is sleeplessness because the medicines are powerful and trying to remedy your other conditions.
Any of these physical causes could be giving you insomnia.
Mental Causes of Insomnia
Your brain is at the centre of controlling all of your body’s functions, including your ability to get tired and fall asleep at night. Mental reasons often cause insomnia.
Do you have racing thoughts at night? Does your brain never stop buzzing? This is one of the most common causes of insomnia. Mental stress results in a mind that is wide awake long past midnight. Your brain becomes hyperactive as soon as you lie down.
A recent study from Johns Hopkins University found that some insomniacs are in a constant state of heightened information processing. Normal brain functions slow in the evening, but when they don’t, that produces insomnia.
Many people experience insomnia and sleeping difficulties in the days leading up to an important deadline or event. The pressure to get everything done produces mental strain and sleeplessness.
You can see this in reality competition television shows. The participants usually report they can’t sleep the night before a final competition.
Likewise, a change in your daily mental tasks can also produce insomnia. If you’ve started taking a new class, begun a new job, or are pursuing a new course of study, you could have problems sleeping. Your brain is doing something new, and this massive influx of information can keep it processing long into the night.
Emotional Causes of Insomnia
Your emotional well-being is just as essential to your health as your physical well-being. So, when you’re not feeling well or feeling normal, you can have problems with insomnia.
1. Feeling Overwhelmed
One of the most common feelings insomniacs experience is being overwhelmed. The brain can’t handle all of the buzzing thoughts and stress in your life, so you don’t feel up to the task and can also feel overwhelmed.
2. Significant Personal Changes
Have you had any significant family changes recently? If you’ve had an illness or a death in the family, that is majorly stressful. Having a new baby or having your children move out can also cause you to lose sleep.
3. Negative or Stressful Situations
Negative or stressful social situations can wreak havoc with your peace of mind and also cause insomnia. If you’re not feeling emotionally included and happy and secure with the people around you, then the cures and treatments for sleeplessness can help.
Anxiety and worry go hand in hand; they are often at the heart of insomnia. You lie awake at night analysing situations from all angles, which means you’re not getting the sleep you need to deal with problems in an effective manner. Most insomniacs cite worry about finances, relationships, their jobs, and even existential worries as the reason they can’t sleep at night.
It does come down to stress as the primary emotional cause of insomnia. It can come from any facet of your life, but it certainly doesn’t make you feel good. Your mind could then go over and over the stressful situation, trying to solve it. That leaves you with emotional feelings of anxiety, dread, and being overwhelmed racing thoughts, and night after night of sleeplessness.
What if Insomnia Goes Untreated?
Many people who have insomnia might think of it as just a part of normal life. It’s okay only to get a couple of hours’ sleep at night, right? You might even hear from a friend or coworker that they “barely sleep at all” and try to assure you they’re doing fine.
They might be able to physically function and be present, but there are some real dangers if chronic insomnia is untreated.
1. Chronic Sleeplessness
Being more than a little tired can be very hazardous to your health. Your mental reflexes won’t be as sharp, resulting in mistakes and accidents. You won’t be able to concentrate as much on sustained, focused projects or complex tasks.
You will be at a higher risk for mental stresses and strain, especially if the insomnia is long term. Your body won’t heal as quickly, won’t be able to expel toxins as readily, won’t absorb nutrients as well, and won’t repair tissues and vital organs as quickly. Your body needs sleep to do many processes, none of which can be completed without rest.
2. Mental Fogginess
Brain fog and mental cloudiness are two common symptoms of insomnia. You won’t be able to think as much!
This is especially troublesome if you are taking classes, involved in creative work, have a business to run, are under tight deadlines, or in highly concentrated fields like science and technology. Your mind will also tend to wander, rather than be able to focus.
Procrastinating on tasks isn’t an exclusive problem associated with insomnia, but it does occur. Since your mind is cloudy and you feel chronically tired, you won’t be up to check off the items on your to-do list. Not all projects can be put off.
You’re more prone to forgetfulness, too, which can lead to problems. You won’t have nearly as much energy to do what you want to do in life as well, which can lead to more stress and unhappiness down the road.
4. Changes Indisposition
When you were three years old and over-tired and cranky, you were probably put down for a nap. Sleeping improves your disposition and mood. When you have insomnia, this increases exponentially.
It can even lead to increased worry, anxiety, mood swings, anger and frustration, and depressive feelings and thoughts. You don’t have the rest you need to feel better, more energised, and cheerful. If insomnia is left untreated, it can have severe consequences with all of your relationships.
5. Safety Issues
From sleepy long-haul truck drivers to tired mechanical workers, you are at a much higher risk for safety issues and hazards when you are an insomniac.
Anyone operating a vehicle, in the transportation and construction fields, who deals with toxic chemicals and hazardous materials, or who works around heavy machinery should be especially attentive to their sleep health.
Accidents can happen even when you’re well rested, so you want to practice a high degree of safety and work to treat and cure your insomnia.
These are just a few of the many symptoms you can experience if your insomnia goes untreated. These are not small issues and could quickly escalate into more significant problems.
Tips on How to Beat Insomnia
Now that your lack of sleep at night has become a problem for you, what are some available cures and treatment options? There is no one pill for insomnia, although both prescription medications and over-the-counter drugs can treat short-term sleeping issues.
Those aren’t going to be as effective as the strategies listed below. Beating your insomnia will depend on the cause.
You will need to work with a sleep doctor or specialist to determine what’s causing your insomnia. Then they can create a custom-tailored treatment plan for you.
1. A Change in Diet
You can fall into a dangerous cycle with insomnia. You can’t sleep, so you eat sugary foods and drink lots of caffeine the next day to stay functional.
But those same foods and beverages change your blood sugar and end up keeping you awake at night. That makes you tired the next day again. Along with these types of foods, you might want also to start reducing your caffeine intake.
One of the quickest ways to sleep better is to change your diet. You can keep a food diary either on a tech device or in a notebook, to track what foods you eat.
Sleep specialists recommend you stop all carbohydrate and sugar consumption well before bedtime, and preferably in the afternoon. That will give your body a chance to process all the nutrients you’ve eaten well before bedtime.
Healthy fats, like avocado and small amounts of cheese, can be eaten in the evening. Your dessert might be inadvertently keeping you up at night. So, reduce your sugary and carb-heavy foods.
2. Nutritional Supplements
Highly processed and nutrient-deficient diets lack the essential components your body needs for healthy sleeping functions. Your insomnia could be treated with nutritional supplements. The first nutrient you’ll want to try is magnesium. It’s found in almonds, cashews, spinach, bananas, broccoli, and other foods.
Potassium is another nutrient that can help your body naturally fall asleep and sleep deeper. Potassium is found in foods, like bananas, sweet potatoes, cantaloupe, and beets.
Tryptophan, commonly found in milk and turkey, is the reason you feel tired after Thanksgiving. It has long been a sleep-inducing nutrient. Nuts, cereals and mushrooms have selenium, which also has antioxidant properties and helps protect cells from damage; most vitamin supplements include selenium.
If you’re not getting enough magnesium, potassium, tryptophan, or selenium from foods, you’ll want to try these nutrients and see if you can sleep better.
3. Other Herbal Remedies to Treat Insomnia
Anyone who has had long-term sleeping issues has probably tried many herbal remedies. There are plenty available on the market, and actual users highly rate many of them. You can try melatonin, which has been a hormonal supplement used by thousands of sleeping problem sufferers.
Chamomile is probably the most popular relaxing and sleep aid herb, although lavender, GABA, valerian, passionflower, and Vitamin B12 can help.
You’ll be able to find herbal teas, supplements, and powders available at health food stores or in online markets and retailers. Essential oils can also be used for sleeping issues and problems.
Have you ever tried this natural form of healing? It has helped millions of people who’ve suffered from all kinds of ailments for over 200 years. Homeopathic doctors can help guide your natural insomnia and sleep aid recovery.
One of the most popular is called Lachesis, named after the Greek goddess of sleep. Another is called Gelsemium. Homeopathic doctors examine all of the factors in your life, including your work, relationships, diet, fitness, history, and all medical conditions to prescribe a remedy that works for you.
5. Stress Relieving Physical Activity
Insomnia can also be treated and cured by physical movement. It’s best if you seek out a particularly calming and relaxing form of exercise that isn’t likely to cause you to “wake up” your body; that way, you’ll be able to sleep better at night.
Some forms of gentle yoga will help, as will peaceful nature walks and non-strenuous hiking. You might want to try swimming, too. Tai chi is a gentle martial art that is similar to yoga and helps move your body.
6. Consulting a Sleep Therapist
If you’ve discovered your insomnia comes from emotional stresses, trauma, or persistent anxious and depressive thoughts, you might want to seek psychiatric treatment.
Talk to a professional about what’s troubling you. They can help get to the root cause of why you can’t sleep at night and might be one of the most effective cures for chronic insomnia. It’ll help ease your worries.
These treatments and cures for insomnia will be best if you try each one to see if it works for you.
How to Live Better with Insomnia
Yes, you can live a better life and improve your sleeping habits each night. That will ensure that you can fall asleep faster and sleep even deeper than before. What are some excellent tips to help improve your insomnia condition?
1. Empty Your Mind
Most insomniacs report that their brain won’t stop at bedtime. Those thoughts and stressful scenarios keep repeating over and over. You’re not going to be able to solve the problem, but your brain keeps going. The best thing to do is to get in the habit of emptying your mind before bed. Get out a sheet of paper and a pen or pencil.
Write down all of your thoughts by hand. You can list them out or do a “conversation” style writing on the page. Aim to empty all of the ideas, situations, and scenarios in your mind, no matter what you’re thinking about.
You’ll be surprised how well this works. Once you’re finished, your mind will be like a blank canvas. If you have any further restless thoughts in the night, it’s okay to write those down, too. Then you can get back to sleep.
2. Create the Perfect Sleep Environment with a Restful Bedroom
Although a cluttered, messy bedroom doesn’t directly cause insomnia, it certainly gives your tired brain one more thing to worry about. Take some time to fully and completely clear out your bedroom.
Don’t forget to clean under your bed, too. You might want to treat yourself to some comfortable, new high quality and hypoallergenic sheets, pillowcases and blankets.
How does your mattress feel? If it’s too soft or too firm, now would be an excellent time to upgrade and get a mattress that helps your insomnia. What about the room temperature?
Did you know that you sleep better in a cooler room? Try turning down the thermostat or investing in an extra air conditioner to keep your bedroom cool at night. You’ll sleep deeper, too.
Set up a clean bedside table with a book to read or your “empty the mind” pages. You’ll want to remove your television from the bedroom. You can apply essential oils, or use an aromatherapy diffuser to make it even more restful. Make your bedroom a relaxing, inviting environment that promotes sleep.
3. An Electronics-Free Evening
The glowing screens from tablets, smartphones, laptops, and other devices keep your mind buzzing and awake long into the night. Starting in the evening, at least an hour before bed, turn off these devices. Give your brain time to wind down and get into a sleep mode gradually.
Television screens can also provide the same effect, so you’ll want to turn that off as well. Instead, prepare for a relaxing evening. You can start to create your ritual, all geared towards helping your mind feel better. You’ll probably also sleep better at night.
4. Learn How to Say No
A lot of the stress in your life that’s causing insomnia comes from having too much on your plate. Many obligations are a must in your life, that is true. However, you can probably start to move off many projects that are causing you the most stress.
You can delegate to others who can take on the job, or you can choose to walk away if given the option. Saying “no” might not seem like a way to cure insomnia, but it does help. Sometimes most of the problems in life come from one source. Say “no” to what’s causing more stress.
5. Prioritise Projects
Another way to live better with insomnia is to prioritise all of your life projects. Many insomniacs are very creative, productive, and energetic people. Their minds are going quickly and creating plenty of ideas. Unfortunately, those same ideas can then wreak havoc on your peace of mind.
Take some time to fully assess all of the areas of your life—family, friends, marriage, kids, finances, work, hobbies, volunteer work, etc. Now go through each area and write down your top three most important goals or projects.
Archive everything else into a specific location, and only concentrate on what’s most important in your life. Many advocates of simpler living say that it helps your mind and feels emotionally uplifting. It will also help your sleeping, especially with worries and anxiety.
6. Ease Off the Pressure and Be Kind To Yourself
It might seem like every single task on your daily to-do list is urgent, but it isn’t. If you have too much on your plate and are having difficulty delegating or removing it from your life, then ease up on the pressure you put on yourself to get everything done.
You might find that you’re pressuring yourself too much because others are pressuring you. That’s going to produce mental strain, anxiety, and worry, which won’t help your insomnia.
All of these tips for helping will make your life with insomnia that much better. There are millions of people who suffer from chronic and long-term sleeping problems. You can get the help you need.
Now that you’ve learned many ways that you can beat, treat, and live better with insomnia, the number of sleepless nights in your life will start to decrease.
You will feel so much better without being tired during the day. Those who’ve had insomnia and have begun to treat it report that they’re amazed at the amount of energy they have now that they’re fully rested.
So, begin tonight to help cure your insomnia. Eat a light dinner and reduce or eliminate carbs and starches, as well as sugars and sugary foods. Turn off the television and the smartphone before bed.
Settle in bed and empty your mind by writing out your thoughts on the page. You can also write about making a plan to heal yourself from this disruptive sleeping condition. These small steps can get you on your way to learn how to beat insomnia.