Strictly speaking,, insomnia means complete loss of sleep, that is usually taken to mean sleep disturbances varying from poor quality of sleep to an inability to sleep.

Sleeplessness is an extremely common trouble, changing as many as 1 in 3 grownups at some time inside their lives. Sufferers may have trouble falling asleep or may complain of deficiency of sleep due to regular waking.

Investigations at slumber research laboratories have blown away the myth that everyone needs eight hours sleep a night. Actually, the number of sleep needed by individual individuals changes tremendously. The older we get, the less we desire. Margaret Thatcher is said to have managed with four or five hours and there have been other well-known short sleepers, including Winston Churchill and Napoleon.

Studies have demonstrated that many individuals with insomnia sleep considerably more than thev believe they do. Yet, additionally they have a tendency to awaken more often than normal sleepers. It’s the quality in place of the amount of sleep that’s frequently the difficulty in sleeplessness.

Sleep researchers consider the truly fundamental part of slumber contains slow wave sleep. This is the only time when the brain is completely at rest and it happens mostly during the first half of a night’s slumber. While that’s supporting, it doesn’t get away from the reality that there’s nothing more dispiriting than lying in bed exhausted unable to get to sleep.

Causes of Insomnia

The most common source of sleeplessness is worry about an issue, but other causes include physical ailments like sleep apnoea, resdess legs and environmental factors like sound and light. Sleeplessness may also be a symptom of a mental sickness. By way of example, individuals with stress or depression may find it hard to fall asleep. Nevertheless, some sleep specialists consider that rage and bitterness are more frequent reasons for sleeplessness.

Insomnia is defined in relation to one’s normal pattern of sleep. As people grow older their need tor sleep decreases. Whereas babies naturally sleep for upwards of 16 hours a day, adults need on average 7-8 hours and the elderly just 5-6 hours. It is when the pattern of sleep deviates from what is usual for the individual that there may be a problem.

By far and away the most common cause is worry, including worry about getting to sleep itself, so that a run of bad nights can be self-perpetuating. Although worry leads to difficulty in getting to sleep there is a reasonable night’s sleep once asleep.

Depression, by contrast, is not associated with difficulty in getting to sleep. Instead the sufferer wakes and worries in the early hours of the morning.

Environmental disturbances might include noisy neighbours or hot nights. Eating or drinking to excess disturbs sleep through discomfort or the need to pass urine during the night. Many people find that stimulants, especially tea and coffee, keep them awake. In older people illness often leads to insomnia – the pain from osteoarthritis, a chronic cough or the need to pass urine associated with prostate trouble.

Sleep Enemies

PRESSURE: When we’re stressed out, the creation of adrenaline increases, heightening alertness and making sleep difficult.

MELANCHOLY: Feeling low changes hormone levels and the sleep cycles of Non-Rapid Eye Movement (NREM) and Rapid Eye Movement (REM) sleep are frequently unbalanced.

ANIMOSITY: Bearing a grudge or plotting retaliation can prevent sleep entirely. Save inventing a clever response to your critical manager until daytime hours.

CAFFEIN: Java has an accumulative effect in the system and there’s concealed caffein in things like fizzy drinks and chocolate.

BAD HABITS: Smoking and heavy drinking cause sleeplessness and reduce sleep quality. It

has been revealed that smokers sleep less deeply than nonsmokers. Smokes increase one’s heart rate, blood pressure and adrenaline levels, hindering slumber. Booze wreaks havoc with the hormones controlling slumber.

MEDICAL CONDITIONS: Sleep apnoea

causes individuals to have loose muscles at the rear of the throat, which lead to snoring and blocking of the airways as air is sucked in. Individuals with this condition seem to choke and even though they may not fully awaken, the sleep pattern is disturbed.

An overactive thyroid gland produces too much hormone (thyroxine), the symptoms of which can contain sleeplessness. Foods that help control thyroid action include Brussels sprouts, cauliflower, broccoli and kale.

Symptoms of Insomnia

There may be constant tiredness and daytime drowsiness. Losing sleep on a regular basis will lead to poor concentration, tension and irritability. A complete lack of sleep even for just one night results in a serious fall in performance at skilled tasks or tasks involving judgement.

Treatment of Insomnia

Short periods of insomnia are self-limiting:

Eventually, the need for sleep catches up on you and you return to your normal pattern. Firstly, do something about whatever is disturbing sleep, be it noise, excess alcohol or pain. Then adjust eating or drinking patterns to avoid stimulants and reduce the amount of fluid you drink for a few hours before going to bed.

It often helps to make a ritual for going to bed:

Preparing the bed, having a warm bath and a small warm drink. This sets up the mind for sleep psychologically. Avoid daytime snoozes since this lime will be lost from nighttime sleep.

Once you are awake, the usual advice to get up and do something useful until you feel drowsy is rarely practical. It is better to make a warm drink, read and go back to bed. If you regularly wake, delay going to bed until you feel drowsy even if that is in the early hours of the morning. It is difficult to treat the effects of stress and anxiety; a short course of sleeping tablets may be unavoidable.

Drug treatment

So-called hypnotic drugs are used in the short-term treatment of serious insomnia. Modern sleeping tablets are very safe unless taken with alcohol. People can get used to them within a couple of weeks of regular use, so they should be kept for occasional use only. The drugs most commonly used are short-acting benzodiazepines, such as temazepam. Even so, these may have a hangover effect the next day. Some newer drugs such as zopiclone are claimed to avoid this. Depression should be treated specifically.

An apparent physical or mental cause for sleeplessness will be treated.

■ For longterm sleeplessness with no apparent cause, electroencephalograms (records of brainwave patterns, also called EEGs) and an evaluation of respiration, muscle activity and other bodily functions during sleep may be useful in detecting the extent and pattern of the issue.

■ Maintaining a log of sleep routines may additionally be helpful. sleep practices for insomniacs are few and far between but you could ask your GP to make enquiries for you.

■ Sleeping tablets or tranquillizers may be prescribed as a short term measure, but just for serious cases and usually as a last resort.

Complementary Treatment of Insomnia

Bach flower remedies – the remedy depends on the cause, for example, agrimony for sleeplessness caused by hidden worries behind a cheerful facade.

Acupuncture -Massage fosters calm, especially if given by your partner last thing at night. Aromatherapy – try adding six drops of lavender or chamomile oil to your bath, or sprinkle them onto your pillow.

Nutritional therapy – cut out coffee; try taking supplements of B vitamins and magnesium.

Other therapies to try: most have something to offer.

Encouraging Great Sleep

■ Take a fresh look at your bedroom. It should be a peaceful refuge for sleep. If there’s a TV, move it someplace else. Litter can have an unsettling effect thus pay particular attention to keeping the bedroom tidy and free of litter. Put money into a pair of heavy drapes to keep out the light. Additionally, the atmosphere shouldn’t be overly stuffy. Your bed should be solid and if it’s past its finest, set plywood under the mattress.

■ Eat well during the day. Carbs like wholemeal bread, wholegrain cereals and pasta are significant for great slumber. There’s an established connection between high- carb foods and the body’s skill to sleep. Carbs help produce serotonin, a calming hormone that regulates sugar in the body. A low blood sugar level can result in poor sleep.

■ Make sure the last meal of the day is filling. Lettuce, banana and avocado are great late night bites because they contain tryptophan, which is an all-natural sleep-inducing substance.

■ Fit in some sort of exercise in the day, even if it’s only a walk. Inactivity is a significant source of sleeplessness, because the fresh energy ceases us sleep. Additionally, it means that toxins that are discharged by moving around develop in the body and make folks feel uncomfortable and achy.

■ Read or see something relaxing the last hour before bed to help unwind.

Have a relaxing bath with essential oil of lavender added. While you’re in there, drink a warm glass of milk with a little honey. Milk also contains tryptophan and honey is an early treatment for sleeplessness. If milk doesn’t work for you, try a herbal tea including camomile or valerian.

■ Prepare the bedroom by dimming the lights and placing a number of drops of a relaxing essential oil for example jasmine in an incense burner.

■ Turn the alarm clock to the wall so you can’t worry about not being asleep. This in itself causes sleeplessness.

■ Bedtime is frequently the only time couples have alone but don’t make an effort to discuss tough problems because adrenaline will be discharged, ensuring lousy slumber.

■ Slumber will come more readily if your pulse rate is slow and your blood pressure is down. This can be helped by lying pretty still and controlling your moves by taking deep, slow breaths and concentrating on the procedure for respiration; the nearer you’re to sleep the slower your pulse rate will be. To help you do this you are able to concentrate on relaxing various parts of your body. Begin with your brow and relax any frown. Then loosen the muscles of the jaw, chin and neck. Make your arms feel lax. Become alert to the pressure of your body lying on the bed and after that slowly loosen the muscles down your legs until they can be fully relaxed, including your toes. Many people find this procedure so soporific they are asleep before they get to their feet.

■ Another trick is to empty your head and think about a favourite thing. Mine is black velvet. Every time another idea creeps in, concentrate on the favourite thing again.