Insomnia: What it is and How to Treat it


Insomnia is a word we hear a lot when it comes to having trouble sleeping. The NHS describe it as “difficulty getting to sleep or staying asleep for long enough to feel refreshed the next morning, even though you’ve had enough opportunity to sleep.” If you’re experiencing trouble sleeping at night for extended periods of time, there’s a chance you’re suffering from insomnia.

The Causes

Insomnia can be caused by a variety of events and situations, as well as other ailments. Stress and anxiety can lead to a loss of sleep, but it can also be caused by mental illnesses such as depression or schizophrenia.

Any other health conditions that affect breathing, hormones, the heart, the brain and the joints can also disturb sleep for days, even weeks. Other sleep disorders can cause insomnia such as restless legs syndrome or sleep apnoea.

Pregnant women can also suffer from insomnia for a number of different reasons, including changes in hormone levels and gastroesophagal reflux (heartburn).

How to Cope with Insomnia

Because of the nature of insomnia, it may seem difficult to treat, but there are plenty of ways to get back to a normal sleeping routine.

Avoid caffeine during the day: While you’re experiencing symptoms of insomnia, you should avoid any products that contain caffeine, including tea, coffee and fizzy drinks

Avoid large meals at night: Large meals means that your digestive system is working much harder and for longer. This could lead to heartburn or indigestion if you attempt to sleep too soon after eating.

Plan and prioritise your sleep: Set yourself a time to get to bed and this will eventually become a pattern that will be naturally included in your daily routine.

Get plenty of exercise: Having at least 60 minutes of exercise every day will help you sleep a lot better, even if you’re not suffering from insomnia. If the gym isn’t an option, do some exercises at home or even going for a long walk can make sleep a lot easier.

Comfort: Some joint or muscle pains may be caused by a bad quality or old bed. It may be a good idea to consider a more comfortable bed if physical pain is preventing your sleep.

Noise and light: While we sleep, our brains are still working at full power. Our bodies naturally react to light and noise even while we think we’re not aware of it. Use thick curtains or blinds, an eye mask and earplugs to stop you being woken up.

Relaxation: A warm bath before bed or reading a book can help our bodies become more ready for sleep. Any activity that relaxes you can help before sleeping. As they don’t require any mental strain, we can focus on when our bodies are ready to sleep.

If you feel you’re not ready to sleep, don’t try. Get up and do something until your body naturally prepares itself for sleep.