Insomnia is a sleep disorder that affects nearly 20% of adults. Often caused by stress and ruminations related to personal problems, it can lock the person into a vicious circle. List of treatments to get by.
Insomnia corresponds to a decrease in the quality and quantity of sleep with insufficiently restorative sleep. Everyone can be affected at one time or another by insomnia. It can be transient, occurring one or two nights episodically without causing any repercussions, or chronic when it occurs more than 3 times a week for more than 3 months.
We thus distinguish:
- Primary insomnia linked to stress or progressive conditioning (sleep anxiety, exacerbated mental activity in bed, etc.), or with sleep perception disorders or disorders established since childhood.
- Secondary insomnia which is linked to a psychiatric and/or medical pathology or to the consumption of substances or drugs that promote sleep fragmentation.
How many hours of sleep?
The number of hours of sleep needed vary by age and by individual. Most adults need around 7-8 hours of sleep per night.
However, some people only need 5 to 6 hours of sleep, these are the “light sleepers”. Others, conversely, need about 10 hours of sleep.
Older people tend to sleep less at night, while teenagers and children need a lot more sleep. The ideal length of a night is the one that allows you to feel rested and to have a good functioning during the day. The holiday period makes it easy to assess one’s needs.
The causes of insomnia are many. The questioning of the patient and his spouse makes it possible in the vast majority of cases to determine the origin of the insomnia.
• Psychological causes
A large majority of insomnia is linked to more or less severe psychological disorders, such as stress, anxiety and depression. When the episodes of insomnia are repeated day after day, those affected become anxious at the thought of having a bad night. This fear of insomnia can distress the insomniac and make their sleep even more difficult, which then leads them into a vicious circle.
• Sleeping illnesses
Many pathologies can cause sleep disorders and cause more or less frequent episodes of insomnia.
- Restless legs syndrome (impatients);
- Sleep apnea syndrome ;
- Alzheimer’s disease ;
- Parkinson disease ;
- Pain related to different diseases (osteoarthritis, cancer, polyarthritis, etc.);
- Asthma or respiratory diseases;
- Allergies (rhinitis, sneezing, etc.);
- Gastroesophageal reflux.
- A painful illness (rheumatism, cancer, etc.);
• Environment and way of life
Environmental or lifestyle conditions can also cause insomnia such as noise, heat, neighborhood noise, poor bedding, or excessive caffeine consumption. Working in staggered hours (night work for example…), time constraints and work overload (overwork) are also frequent causes.
The symptoms of insomnia are diverse: difficulty falling asleep, light and irregular sleep, nocturnal awakenings, difficulty going back to sleep, inability to sleep for more than 3 or 4 hours, nightmares and dark thoughts… In most cases , it is the anxiety related to personal problems or the stress of not sleeping that feeds and aggravates insomnia. When there is a repetition of insomnia episodes day after day, affected people usually worry about having a bad night. This fear of insomnia makes it even more difficult for the insomniac to sleep, which can then lead them into an infernal cycle.
Insomnia can be present in the evening at bedtime or in the morning with an early awakening and the impossibility of going back to sleep while still feeling tired. This type of morning insomnia is most often linked to psychological disorders such as anxiety and depression.
The consequences of insomnia are most often fatigue on waking, giving the impression of not being rested by one’s night’s sleep, accompanied by drowsiness during the day. Attention and memory disorders, as well as body aches, difficulty concentrating during the day or a desire to sleep (yawning) are generally observed.
The risks of accidents on the road and at work are increased by this fatigue. In some cases, lack of sleep can cause irritability, anxiety and a deterioration in the quality of life that can go as far as depression.
What to do to fight against insomnia?
In most cases of occasional or transient insomnia, correcting all bad habits is enough to adopt appropriate behavior and promote sleep. For this, it is recommended to:
- Set up a constant and regular bedtime ritual to gradually return to normal sleep. All gentle approaches (relaxation, herbal medicine, sophrology, etc.) are also to be preferred;
- Avoid excessively hearty dinners, the consumption of caffeine, alcohol (alcohol fragments sleep and promotes nocturnal awakenings) or tobacco in the hours before bedtime (nicotine is a stimulant);
- Avoid the practice of a sports activity in the 4 hours preceding sleep;
- Take a cool shower to lower body temperature;
- Avoid evenings spent in front of a screen (video game, internet, smartphone, etc.) because of blue light, which disrupts the normal secretion of melatonin and upsets the biological clock, itself involved in regulating sleep. Furthermore, cerebral stimulation linked to social or recreational activities (in particular war games) promotes hyperarousal and therefore goes against the process of falling asleep;
- Respect regular bedtimes and especially wake up times;
- Avoid spending time in bed or in the bedroom for activities other than sleep (reading, television, etc.);
- Sleep in a quiet, dark room;
- Only take naps if they don’t make the insomnia worse.
If medical treatment is necessary
• If medical treatment is necessary, cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) should be preferred. More effective than pharmacological treatments in the treatment of insomnia over time, they make it possible to replace maladaptive behaviors and erroneous beliefs about sleep (“I have to sleep 8 hours a night”…) with other more appropriate. By explaining the factors and mechanisms on which the sleep/wake rhythm depends, the therapist helps the insomniac to understand his insomnia differently and to apply relaxation techniques.
• Medication should only be used during a medical consultation. Some medications may be contraindicated with other medications, and cause side effects such as drowsiness, memory problems and addiction. They are therefore useful for transient insomnia, but cannot constitute the basic treatment for insomnia, without a behavioral approach in addition.
When sleep disorders depend on a dysregulation of the circadian rhythm, melatonin can be used (after medical advice). Finally, in some cases, sedative antidepressants are effective and do not produce addiction.
• Homeopathy, plants, natural remedies
Certain plants and homeopathic treatments can be offered for people with insomnia:
- Valerian is a sedative plant recommended in sleep disorders such as nocturnal awakenings or insomnia. It is rather recommended to take it in the form of capsules given its very bitter taste.
Escholtzia is recognized for its calming and analgesic properties. It is used when sleep is no longer “restorative” and when one is subject to nocturnal awakenings in the form of Standardized Plant Extract (EPS) preferably.
- Rhodiola is reputed to act on cerebral and physical fatigue. The plant is also used to fight anxiety and mild depression, and fatigue generated by stress that prevents sleep.
- Arsenicum Album 15 CH (5 pellets in the evening) in case of anxiety, fear of the night, and fear of being alone.
- Valeriana 1 DH (20 drinkable drops diluted in a little water 3 times a day) in case of insomnia, in particular in agitated subjects, with variable mood and hypersensitive to pain.
- Nux Vomica 9 CH (2 granules 3 times a day) in case of insomnia mixed with the anxiety of the day.
Aconitum Napellus 15 to 30 CH (3 granules as soon as anxiety rises) in case of panic, feeling of immediate death, and discomfort.
- Gelsenium 15 CH (5 granules in the evening during the period of stress) in case of stage fright, apprehension or fear before an exam or an important event.
- Several natural remedies can help you fall asleep more easily: put hops in your pillow, breathe lavender essential oil or practice breathing by cardiac coherence, for example.
- Take the advice of your doctor because herbal treatments may also have side effects or contraindications.
Certain relaxation techniques such as yoga, sophrology or hypnosis can be of great help during episodes of insomnia.
When to consult the doctor?
Generally, the attending physician can manage insomnia, whether transient or chronic. Referral to a specialized sleep center may be indicated if insomnia worsens, does not respond to treatment or has severe repercussions during the day. All types of insomnia that include marked drowsiness during the day should benefit from a specialist consultation.
To avoid insomnia, don’t hesitate to follow your body’s wake-up signals: if you can’t sleep or if you’ve been awake for more than 20 minutes, get up and do something else. If you are awake in the morning, do not try to prolong your sleep at all costs, but on the contrary, get up and start your day.
Information: Cleverly Smart is not a substitute for a doctor. Always consult a doctor to treat your health condition.