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Health and Wellbeing

05 Aug 2020

How to combat insomnia

By Rajna Bogdanovic - clinical psychologist

What is insomnia?

Insomnia is a condition where an individual has trouble falling asleep, trouble staying asleep, and/or they wake up too early in the morning.

This can be a short-term (acute) or long-term (chronic) condition. Short-term insomnia usually lasts from one night to a few weeks while chronic insomnia is classified as at least three nights a week for three months or more.

There are two types of insomnia: primary and secondary. Primary insomnia is when the sleeping problems are not linked to any other health condition or issue. Causes of primary insomnia can be things such as big life events including job change or loss, noise, light, temperature or jet lag. Secondary insomnia is when the sleeping problems are due to a health condition. This includes things such as asthma, heartburn, pain, mental health issues or substance use.

Sleep habits

Maintaining good sleep habits can help combat insomnia, the most important sleep habit to get back control of your sleep is to set a sleeping schedule: this means going to sleep at the same time each night, getting up at the same time each morning, and trying not to take naps during the day.

Other sleep habits include:

  • Create a bedtime routine, a time before bed where you relax, read a book or have a bath to prepare yourself for sleep.
  • Not going to bed too early. Set a time where you feel sleepy and easily drift off each night. Only go to bed when you are sleepy, if you are unable to sleep, get up and read or listen to some music until you feel sleepy.
  • Aim to get 20-30 minutes of exercise per day; maintaining a regular exercise routine can help increase the quality of sleep you get, however, do not work out too close to when you want to sleep, it boosts energy levels and may make it harder to fall asleep.
  • Avoiding alcohol, caffeine, and nicotine before bed will give you a better chance of having a higher quality sleep, and will make it easier to fall asleep, as well as stay asleep.
  • Relaxation therapy may also be very useful to reduce body tension and anxiety, this can include breathing exercises, meditation or progressive muscle relaxation.

Sleep environment

Creating an ideal and consistent sleep environment will have a huge effect on your ability to fall asleep, stay asleep, and have good quality sleep. Always try to create a relaxing sleep environment by:

Keeping it dark. If light is an issue while trying to get to sleep, try using a sleeping mask, and limit time on electronic devices before bed.

Making it quiet. Limit any possible noise or distractions such as a TV, computer or pets; to cover sounds try using earplugs or trial white noise.

Keeping the room temperature cooler, but something that is comfortable for you.

Making sure you have comfortable bedding and do not use your bed during the day to work or eat.

Not discussing stressful situations or thoughts before you want to sleep, this can increase tension and reduce the quality of sleep.

If you are concerned that you may have acute or chronic insomnia, speak to your GP or other health professional •

 

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