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Welcome to my blog post “All About Insomnia – Your Questions Answered” As Insomnia is such a life changing event, I wanted to try to answer the sort of questions I get asked all the time, by lot’s of different people, some Insomnia sufferers, others just interested in our stories. I hope I can help you whether you have just started suffering or you’re a long-term sufferer. I know from my own experience that Insomnia can be beat. But you will need help. See if some of these questions and answer help you today?
What is insomnia?
According to medical groups Insomnia is “difficulty falling asleep or staying asleep”.
What are the symptoms of Insomnia?
There are 4 main symptoms of Insomnia-
- Difficulty falling asleep
- Problems with getting back to sleep after waking during the night
- Waking up too early and not being able to get back to sleep
- Feeling unrefreshed by sleep no matter how long you have slept for
If you have Insomnia, you may be Sleep Deprived. Signs of Sleep Deprivation are:
- Irritable Mood
- Unable to concentrate for long periods
- Finding even small tasks more difficult
- Falling asleep or feeling tired during the day
Do I have Insomnia?
You will obviously know if you are having these difficulties but how do you know when you actually have Insomnia. There is a medical Insomnia scale called the Athens Insomnia Scale. This allows GP’s & other medical experts to determine how bad your Insomnia is. They are marked from 0 to 3. 0 being no problem & 3 being very unsatisfactory sleep. There are also several sleep factors such as-
- Sleep induction
- Awakenings during the night
- Final Awakening
- Total sleep duration
- Sleep quality
- Well being during the day
- Functioning capacity during the day
- Sleepiness during the day
Each of these factors has the 0-3 scale & a cut off of 6 is used to determine that you have Insomnia, so if you score a 3 for sleep induction & a 3 for Sleep quality, then you will be defined as having Insomnia. Of course, you can work this out yourself and make your own diagnosis, but I believe it is better to seek medical investigation to your sleep problem. You will also notice that the latter part of the factors are regarding your performance during the day, because if you haven’t slept well, you will obviously feel tired the next day and a sort of vicious circle begins which can have major impact on your life and the life of those around you.
What types of Insomnia are there & what Causes them?
There are basically 3 types of Insomnia, measured by length of time you have Insomnia for. These are-
Each type has its own causes. If not treated, a relatively simple short-term bout of Insomnia can turn into a more complex long-term Insomnia problem.
This is quite short-term but can still last from a few days to a week. Usually caused by short-term worries or stress from:
- A nagging issue such as relationship problems
- Jet lag, especially from long haul flights
- Worry about a future event, such as a job interview or an operation
- Stress, maybe from your job or your boss
- Sleeping in a new place such as a Hotel
- Excitement about an upcoming event, such as holiday, marriage.
- Illness or pain, making it harder to sleep
All these effects are short-term so you should get back to your normal sleep once they have passed. The best thing to do is to carry on your normal routines and try not to worry about sleep, as this is what causes the problem of Insomnia.
Acute or Short Term Insomnia
This can last for several weeks and can be caused by:
- A long illness, maybe causing frequent toilet visits
- Stress or upset about a trigger or recurring problem
- Bereavement after the death of someone close to you
These are all problems that should get better over time, so the best thing you can do is try to keep to good sleeping hygiene, such as:
- Try to avoid alcohol
- Try to avoid coffee
- Not using cell phones, tablets, etc before or during bed
- Write a worry list
These Acute bouts of Insomnia are usually caused by temporary changes to your mindset. This could lead to further problems if something isn’t done about it.
This is the worst one and the one that has plagued me for the last 8 years. Chronic Insomnia is really long-term Insomnia. It is defined as Chronic if the person has trouble falling or staying asleep at least 3 nights per week for 3 months or longer. Some people with Chronic Insomnia have a long history of sleeping difficulty.
The causes for this type of Insomnia are:
- Bad sleeping environment
- Miss-timed sleep
- Long term health problems
- Long term stress & anxiety
- Poor sleep hygiene
- Conditioned or learned Insomnia
What are the patterns of Insomnia?
Along with the 3 types of Insomnia, insomnia can also be classified by 3 patterns. These are:
Onset Insomnia – Falling Asleep Problems
Commonly caused by-
- Having nagging problems on your mind
- Going to bed when not sleepy
- Sleeping in uncomfortable bed or environment
One of the best ways to deal with Onset Insomnia is to only go to bed when you are really tired. Exercising during the day can also help.
Sleep Maintenance Insomnia – Keep Waking Up in the Night
Also known as middle of the night insomnia. This relates to waking up in the middle of the night, then having problems getting back to sleep. This is the type that has plagued me for a number of years, but I have learnt how to deal with it nowadays. I have since found that nearly everyone wakes up in the middle of the night, but they don’t remember as they simply go back to sleep. It only becomes a problem when you lose that ability to go back to sleep. There are a number of basic rules to getting back to sleep quickly. Some are-
- Don’t try to force yourself to sleep
- Avoid turning on the lights
- Avoid looking at your phone
- Keep calm and try breathing techniques taught in that post
- Try not to start thinking about whatever worries you might have until tomorrow
Terminal Insomnia – Waking up too Early
No,it doesn’t mean you can die from Insomnia, its terminal in the “end of night sense”!
Also known as late Insomnia or end of the night Insomnia, waking up early in the morning and can’t get back to sleep.
Usually caused by poor quality sleep, a type of light sleep that you can very easily be woken from. I have also suffered from this and still do sometimes. Some people naturally wake up early and feel great. It only becomes a problem if you’ve woken up early and now feel terribly tired throughout the day. The worst time for me as always been 5 am in the summer when it’s light. But you can help yourself by learning a few tricks such as-
- All of the previous Sleep maintenance rules
- Blackout blinds or curtains
- Sleep mask
- Earplugs to erase the noise of pesky early morning traffic
People with depression can sometimes experience Terminal Insomnia has they spend more time in REM sleep. This is a very light stage of sleep that you can easily be woken from. Older people can also be vulnerable to Terminal Insomnia. This is often because they get sleepy earlier and as a result wake up earlier.
Identifying your Insomnia
Now you know the types, patterns & symptoms of Insomnia you should be able to now identify your insomnia and at least be able to give it a name, such as Chronic Sleep Maintenance Insomnia. By identifying your insomnia, you can narrow down the potential cause and perhaps discover which course of treatment would be most beneficial.
Treating Your Insomnia
One of the major events in my whole life has been my Insomnia Journey, from the onset of my sleep problems to where I am now-Sleeping regularly. It’s been a tough long road, with many twists & turns, and yes, I still have the occasional blip, so it’s not perfect by any means, but I have leaned along the way, what works for me and what doesn’t. We are all different, so I cannot guarantee what will work and what won’t. But what I can say is you have to remain positive that you can beat your insomnia. Any negativity and your insomnia will pounce like a Tiger. If you have an illness related Insomnia, it will obviously be more complex to find solutions, which may be more to do with medications than positive thoughts and CBT. Nevertheless, it is still good practice to put some of these ideas into place. Here’s my list of how to treat insomnia.
- Sleep Hygiene
- CBT (Cognitive Behavioral Therapy)
- Natural Sleep Aids
- Light Therapy
- Sleeping Pills
There are a lot of bad habits you can pick up along the way to Insomnia, and there are many ways to treat them. Start in the bedroom and try to give yourself a routine before bed maybe in the order like this-
- Try to go to bed the same time every day & wake up same time every morning if you can
- Avoid bright lights in and around your bedroom inc the bathroom (bright lights confuse your bodies circadian rhythm)
- Ditch the phones, tablets, laptops & TV’s- This is a must-The blue light emitted will disturb your sleep
- Avoid coffee & alcohol before bed
- Invest in comfortable mattress – My mattress buying guide here
- Invest in comfortable pillows
- Invest in blackout blinds or curtains
- Invest in some earplugs
- Invest in a light therapy machine
- Invest in a sleep sound machine
- Invest in some sleep hypnosis CD’s/books (Paul McKenna is my fav)
Is fast becoming the treatment of choice due to its proven effectiveness in published scientific trials. It consists of a range of techniques that include-
- Stimulus control – Forming a strong mental association with your bed and falling asleep
- Sleep restriction – Encourage your body to fall asleep fast and improved sleep efficiency
- Relaxation training – Learn how to block stressful thoughts and replace with relaxing ones
- Cognitive therapy – Changing your unhelpful mind-set about sleep and creating a more positive helpful picture of your insomnia
- Sleep education – Learning good sleep protocol and ditching all the bad habits you’ve picked up
Natural Sleep Aids
There are a whole range of natural sleep aids, some of which will definitely help, some may not. Unfortunately, it’s a bit of a guess and I suggest you try one, see it works, if it does great, if it doesn’t try another. These include:
- Sound Machines – My sound machines review here
- Herbal Sleep aids
- Self help books
- Binaural beats
I have included a link to where I have reviewed some of these products, what to buy, where to but, all for your convenience.
Light therapy can be ideal if you don’t have problems staying asleep, but rather, unable to get to sleep at your preferred time.
In delayed sleep phase syndrome, your unable to sleep until the early hours of the morning, which causes you to sleep late into the day and oversleep. Teenagers regularly suffer from this. By using a light box in the morning, you can shift your sleep schedule back in time, helping you get to sleep earlier and wake up earlier.
In Advanced Sleep phase syndrome, you fall asleep too early in the evening and wake up in the early hours of the morning unable to fall back to sleep. Common in older folk. By using a light box for 30 minutes in the afternoon or evening, you shift your sleep schedule forward, so you get to sleep later and wake up later the next morning.
I have had great success with this form of Sleep aid and I definitely recommend you try one. This one works for me and has great Amazon reviews.
I think I have mentioned this a few times, but Yes, I do still take the occasional pill. I know it’s against the grain and not the medical advice people generally give out. But every so often, I get a really bad night and if I need to be at work or somewhere important the next day, I feel no other way will suffice. I’m not proud of that, but we all gotta survive right?
What I will say is please be very careful with these as they are incredibly addictive. I have heard of many horror stories of people starting with one tablet and ending up on 6 or 7 just to get one nights decent sleep. If one tablets hasn’t worked, forget it and go back to the basics. I never, ever take more than one tablet, end of! Once you are addicted to them, you will find it very difficult to get off them. Many people have horrendous withdrawal symptoms when trying to come off them so please just keep a few in reserve for “blip nights” I call them!
Thanks for reading my blog post- I hope it has been of some help to you. Please feel free to contact me using the comments section of the post or the contact us section here