Last time I talked abut dealing with problems with falling asleep, maintaining sleep or not feeling refreshed after sleep all of which is otherwise called insomnia. In the last edition I also explained that insomnia becomes a clinically problem when it occurs 3 or more times in a month and has lasted for at least a month. Studies have shown that insomnia can be improved just by practicing some simple but effective methods without necessarily using sleeping pills. I also mentioned that sleeping pills should be the last line of action taken to address the problem of poor quality sleep. Using sleeping pills could be helpful but when taken for too long (longer than 4 weeks tops) highly increases the risk of becoming addicted to it such that when it is stopped the individual finds it extremely difficult to sleep to an extent that may sometimes be worse than the initial problem for which it was initially taken to address.
I had earlier discussed about one non-drug treatment for insomnia called sleep hygiene, in this edition I would like to conclude by sharing two other methods you could simply practice at home without constantly visiting a pharmacist or a doctor for sleeping pills. My advice is that all this various methods should be practiced together rather than in isolation; it’s more effective that way.
This entails not lying too long on bed when you observe you are not falling asleep and only going to bed when you are sleepy. It also entails eliminating circumstances or activities that tend to keep you awake e.g. work, watching T.V. etc, the idea is that your body then unconsciously associates the bed with sleeping. Studies have shown this method to be the ideal for treating long standing problem with insomnia.
This obviously sounds like a paradox because the problem here is not having adequate sleep and I’m saying sleep should be restricted? Well it has also been proven to be a very effective non-drug treatment for insomnia. This entails several steps
· Keep a sleep diary for 7-14 days to allow the determination of the average time you spend on bed by the usual time you go to bed to the usual time you arise from bed, and the average hours you sleep during those periods.
· Then you eliminate the time you spend not sleeping while on bed by working back from your wake time. For example if you wake up by 4:30a.m and you sleep an average of 4 hours that means your actual ‘bed-time’ is 12:30. You then only go to bed at about 12:30 even if you feel like going before then you ‘restrict’ yourself. The idea is that since in this hypothetical case you sleep 4 hours most of your time between 12:30 to 4:30 would be spent sleeping unlike the usual lying on bed for perhaps 8 hours but staying awake for 4 hours.
· Do this new ‘prescribed’ bed time for about a week such that most of the time you are on bed (at least 85%) you are actually asleep. No day time naps is allowed despite however tired the individual may feel.
· After this has been achieved go to bed fifteen minutes earlier than your prescribed time and observe if you are still able to sleep 85% or more of the time you are on bed.
· Keep gradually adding fifteen minutes before your prescribed bed time as long as you are still achieving 85% or more of actual sleep until a satisfactory amount of night-time sleep is achieved.
Like I have earlier said all three techniques should be practiced together. To all those with poor quality sleep problem, practice these various therapies and have a lovely night rest…sweet dreams.