Suffering From Insomnia? Learn How to Nip it in the Bud
by The First Refresh
Sleep is such a crucial piece of our well-being. At the same time, it can be incredibly elusive for some of us owing to physical, mental or emotional factors (or all three).
Singaporeans, in particular, are the fourth most sleep-deprived population in the world, according to a 2021 sleep survey by Philips. On average, we clock in 6.8 hours per night—adults generally need seven to nine hours. Plus, about three in 10 Singaporeans reported sleeping less due to Covid-induced worries.
Insomnia can be a hair-pulling situation, particularly if it’s chronic, meaning you have trouble falling or staying asleep for three nights a week for more than three months. The effects of sleep deprivation spill into work and home life, causing you to lose focus, feel constantly fatigued and be more likely to lose your temper at minor triggers.
Which type of insomnia do you suffer from?
Insomnia falls into two categories, primary or secondary. The former refers to insomnia as a standalone condition not linked to any other medical cause. It may instead be a result of environmental causes such as inappropriate lighting, noise, stress from a major life change or other short-term events.
The latter refers to insomnia as a symptom of another health condition such as depression or arthritis. It can also be caused by consumption of certain medications, alcohol or caffeine.
Nip insomnia in the bud
Getting rid of insomnia can be a frustrating journey requiring trial and error. Not every form of therapy or sleep supplement works for everyone, particularly if your insomnia is caused by an underlying health condition.
But there is a systematic way to go about solving your sleep problems so you can find relief more quickly and easily. Here are some suggestions to get you started.
Rule out secondary insomnia due to illness
Medical conditions that can cause insomnia run the gamut from hypothyroidism (an underactive thyroid) and mental health issues like depression and anxiety to pain-related conditions (think osteoarthritis, frozen shoulder and physical injuries) and other disorders like sleep apnea whereby breathing gets disrupted during sleep.
As a first step, take stock of your general health condition and check if you have any underlying condition that’s the culprit behind poor sleep. Usually by treating the primary condition, your insomnia will also be tackled. If you are otherwise healthy, you can move on to other possible causes and treatments.
Certain medications for cold, allergies, high blood pressure or asthma may also affect sleep so ask your doctor about it if it is of concern.
Watch your caffeine intake
Coffee is a double-edged sword. On one hand, caffeine wakes the mind up and helps you function at work after a night of dreadful rest. However, caffeine can mess up your circadian melatonin rhythms (or what’s known as sleep-wake cycles) especially if you have a favourite cup of Joe too close to bedtime. While the effects of caffeine kicks in as quickly as 30 minutes after consumption, it can take up to six hours for its stimulating effect to wear off. If you are pregnant, it can take even longer to metabolise coffee according to scientists. Hence, if you are an insomnia sufferer, save your coffee and tea for the earlier part of the day.
Minimise alcohol intake
Wait a minute, but that glass of vino makes me sleepy! Well, this is true to a certain extent. Alcohol does have a sedative effect on the mind. The problem comes when you drink in excess—what is considered an excess amount differs greatly from person to person. Alcohol takes you quickly to deep sleep and across the night, creates an imbalance between the different stages of sleep. This can cause you to have poorer sleep quality, and you wake up feeling more exhausted than rested. If you have to indulge, try to limit yourself to one or two glasses and finish up your last drop at least four hours before bedtime.
Don’t hit the sack until you feel tired
The constant tossing and turning and frustration over difficulty in dozing off can be counterproductive. Doctors recommend giving yourself 15 to 20 minutes to fall asleep. If you’re still awake after that, get out of bed and do something else, such as reading a book or light stretching, to relax yourself until you feel ready to ease back into sleep.
Technology interferes with sleep
If you need to Netflix and chill, play with your phone or read an ebook, do it outside the bedroom and turn your gadgets off at least an hour before your intended bedtime. The light emitted from these devices can increase your alertness. Plus, we all know how easy it is to lose track of time while mindlessly scrolling through Instagram.
Start a wind-down ritual
Just like how parents would give babies a pre-bed warm bath and sing lullabies to soothe them to sleep, you can establish your personal routine to get you in the mood for sleep. For some, it can be listening to music; for others, scenting the room with essential oils does the trick. Once a month, you can even create a spa experience in the comfort of home by booking a massage or facial—The First Refresh Reset Facial is a great option.
Try yoga nidra
Don’t worry, yoga nidra does not involve contorting your body into weird shapes or in fact, any movement at all. It is essentially a guided meditation that you can listen to while in bed—the instructor’s soothing voice (and instructions for directing your thoughts and body to a restful state) will soon lull you to sleep. There are many free recorded meditations you can find on mobile applications like Insight Timer. Chances are, you will doze off (and you are encouraged to) before the session finishes!
Give melatonin a try
Melatonin is known as the “sleep hormone” that our bodies naturally produce. It is available as a sleep supplement in pharmacies and personal care stores and many people have used it to treat insomnia. However, the supplement doesn’t necessarily work on everyone. It is said to be most effective for those who need to shift their sleep-wake cycle, for instance those suffering from jet lag or shift workers. However, there have been reported side effects such as daytime drowsiness so check with your doctor before starting on it.