What is insomnia and how to get a good rest?

Recommendations to prevent and treat insomnia

What is insomnia and how to get a good rest?

Do you suffer from insomnia? If you are here, it is because you probably suffer from this common sleep disorder, where you have trouble staying asleep or falling asleep. In some more severe cases, both are present. It may also be that you wake up too early and can’t get back to sleep. You have probably been like this for some time and want to get your life back on track.

You are suffering the consequences of too little sleep or poor sleep quality. Furthermore, you may not feel rested when you wake up. Insomnia not only drains you of energy and impairs your mood, but it also diminishes your work performance. Additionally, it can happen that people who suffer from insomnia suffer difficulties with their partner, due to their constant awakenings and getting up during the night, damaging their partner’s sleep. This condition, besides damaging their health in the short and medium-term, also worsens their quality of life.

It is common for many adults to experience short-term insomnia, which may last a few days or weeks. These short episodes are mostly due to stressful situations.  However, there are also people who suffer from long-term insomnia, which can last for a month or more. In this case, insomnia may be the main problem, but it may also be associated with medications or other conditions. Regardless of what type of stress you suffer from, sleep clinics can help you reduce those endless sleepless nights.

What is insomnia?

Insomnia is a defense mechanism, which tells the brain that it is suffering more from the loss of oxygen at bedtime than from not sleeping. The objective of this defense mechanism is that you do not sleep and thus do not present symptoms due to lack of oxygen.

Sleep apnea is the loss of oxygen because breathing is interrupted by snoring. This loss of oxygen is called hypoxia, and what it does at the brain level is to release adrenaline every time you stop breathing. This means that, if you stop breathing 30 times per hour, you secrete 30 times adrenaline per hour. That causes your brain to be in a state of hyper-alertness. 

In addition, there is a sound threshold, which is the amount of sound you need to wake up. As a consequence of the amount of adrenaline released by hypoxia, the threshold decreases to its maximum, causing you to start waking up at the slightest sound. Thus, sleep becomes superficial, producing insomnia

If insomnia becomes severe, it can lead to mental disorders such as anxiety. For example, it is six o’clock in the evening, and it starts to get dark. That’s when you start to think: “I’m not going to sleep well and tomorrow I have an important work meeting or project presentation” This is how anxiety begins to originate, thus triggering a conditioned reflex. That is, your brain knows that it is getting dark, it knows that you are going to sleep badly and therefore prefers not to sleep, producing anxiety and leading to insomnia.

Below, Dr. Sobalvarro explains the mechanism of insomnia in detail:

How can you get a good rest?

The first step is to identify why you are not getting a good night’s rest. In general, the problem is usually that our mind does not stop thinking about daily worries. A good option for this is to keep a diary, where you can unload these worries. Also, what can help you, is to establish a good rest routine, where you start to relax before going to sleep. You can start by having a light dinner and drinking a little liquid. Then brush your teeth quietly, read a book, set the alarm clock, and turn off the light. If you repeat the same sequence every night, your brain will understand that you should gradually prepare for sleep. 

It may happen that you do not fall asleep the first few times you try to implement this routine. Don’t worry, think that a habit is not created overnight. If you are not sleepy, you can get up and do a quiet activity, such as doing a puzzle or painting.

physical activity to improve sleep

Some keys to prevent insomnia

The asleep clinic makes the following recommendations for a good night’s sleep: 

  • Be physically active. This will help you arrive more tired at bedtime and secrete various hormones that increase body and mental relaxation. It also stops daily worries and reduces the mental burden caused by stress. But be careful when doing the activity, as doing it too late can cause the opposite effect.
  • Meditate to avoid stress. There are apps, where you can listen to guided meditations. This can help you sleep faster, rest better and relax your mind from daily problems.
  • Correct bad sleeping habits. Try to maintain consistent bedtimes every day. Do not engage in activities that are stimulating before bedtime. Avoid naps and create a comfortable sleeping environment. It is also important that bedtime is not used for eating, working, or watching television. The use of televisions, computers, smartphones, video games, or other screens before resting affects your sleep cycle.
  • Avoid caffeine, nicotine, and alcohol. Coffee, cola, tea, and other caffeinated beverages stimulate your brain. Drinking them in the late afternoon or evening often causes you to lose sleep.

The nicotine found in tobacco is another component that can disturb your rest. 

Likewise, alcohol may get you to sleep, but it will prevent you from reaching your most restful phases, and you are likely to wake up during the night.

Not all patients have the same strategy to achieve restorative sleep, due to the multifactorial origin of insomnia. If you have tried these tips and are still experiencing symptoms, getting support from a specialized sleep clinic is the best next step to take. 

You may also be interested in: Do sleeping pills improve sleep disorders?

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