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Understanding Chronic Insomnia

Chronic insomnia affects approximately 1 in 10 people and is characterized by taking more than 30 minutes to fall asleep or fall back asleep up to three times a week for over three months. This sleep disorder can significantly impact one’s daily life, causing concentration difficulties and mood swings, among other symptoms. According to Dr. Shalini Paruthi, codirector of the Sleep Medicine and Research Center at St. Luke’s Hospital in Chesterfield, Missouri, it is crucial to identify the root cause of chronic insomnia to determine the appropriate treatment options.

The Role of Hyperarousal and Restlessness

A significant yet underestimated cause of insomnia is hyperarousal, which manifests as restlessness and an urge to move various body parts, such as arms, legs or torso. Many individuals remain undiagnosed because they might struggle to describe these sensations or might not be aware that this state can affect more than just their legs. To counteract this restlessness, experts recommend getting out of bed, walking around the house, and performing some stretches before attempting to sleep again.

Maintaining Good Sleep Hygiene

Dr. Rachel Salas, professor of neurology at the Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine, emphasizes the importance of maintaining good sleep hygiene when dealing with insomnia. Some useful tips include:

  • Avoiding the use of electronic devices before bedtime
  • Establishing a consistent sleep schedule
  • Creating a relaxing bedtime routine
  • Reserving the bed for sleep and intimacy only

If you are unable to fall asleep within 15 to 20 minutes of getting into bed, Salas advises using a flashlight (not your phone) to go to another room and engage in relaxing activities until you begin feeling drowsy before trying to sleep again.

Choosing Sleep-Friendly Activities

If you find yourself awake during the night due to insomnia, it is essential to participate in activities that promote sleep. These may include reading a mildly interesting book or magazine under a dim light, engaging in relaxation techniques such as deep breathing exercises and visualization, or meditating. Avoid doing household chores, checking work emails, or participating in any stimulating activities during this time, as they can further disrupt your sleep pattern.

Seeking Professional Help and Exploring Medication Options

If you have attempted all recommended practices but continue experiencing chronic insomnia, it may be necessary to consult with a doctor for alternative solutions. Prescription and over-the-counter medications can help individuals cope with particularly difficult nights, but should remain a last resort after trying non-pharmacological strategies. Additionally, if you are achieving seven to nine hours of sleep consistently but still feel fatigued during the day, an underlying sleep disorder might need further evaluation and treatment.

Conclusion: Prioritizing Proper Sleep

Establishing good sleep hygiene, addressing hyperarousal states, and seeking appropriate medical guidance when needed are essential steps in overcoming chronic insomnia. Ensuring proper sleep is vital for maintaining overall well-being, including physical health, cognitive function, and emotional stability. If you notice persistent difficulties with sleep despite adopting recommended strategies, talking to a healthcare professional can provide valuable insights and potential solutions to reclaim a restorative and rejuvenating slumber.


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