Before we explore how to treat insomnia without medication, let's get into some of the more frequently asked questions about insomnia and their answers. We want this to be a complete resource for you and your loved ones, and so we try to be as comprehensive as possible in this write-up. So first things, first…
What is Insomnia?
Insomnia is a very common sleep disorder. It affects many people differently. Some may have difficulty falling asleep, while others may find it hard to stay asleep at night. Others may be plagued by both types of sleep disturbance. Whatever the type of sleep disturbance experienced, persons with insomnia usually have daytime impairment due to their lack of sleep.
What are the Three Types of Insomnia?
Acute can last a few days to weeks.
Transient may last about one week and does not recur.
Chronic is manifested as difficulty sleeping for at least three days per week for a minimum of one month.
Will Insomnia Go Away on its Own?
If you are suffering from acute insomnia, it can go away on its own. Even in these cases, there can be dangerous effects brought on by insomnia. If you have chronic insomnia, there are some things you can do to reduce your symptoms and of course, transient insomnia goes away on its own.
Is There a Cure for Insomnia?
There are many cases in which insomnia can be cured. And often those changes can be done by you without the need for a sleep specialist, prescription medication, or even over-the-counter medications.
Is Insomnia a Mental Illness?
Insomnia is rarely an isolated illness or medical condition. It is most often a symptom of other illnesses and in a lot of cases is a result of an individual's work schedule or lifestyle.
What Happens if Insomnia is Left Untreated?
Untreated insomnia can lead to difficulty coping, poor memory, decreased ability to enjoy social relationships with friends and family, reduced quality of life, anxiety, and depression.
General Information on Insomnia
If you find yourself counting sheep at night with no resolve, you are not alone. According to the Sleep Apnea Association, more than 50 million Americans suffer from sleeping disorders. The American Academy of Sleep recommends seven hours of sleep and most people are not getting that much.
Many people who suffer from insomnia know the exact cause of their sleep disturbances. It is often a stressful day or even work-life, a fight with a partner, etc. When insomnia is caused by identifiable situations such as these you don’t need any medication, all you need is to fix the problem.
However, when there is no clear cause for your insomnia it can be very frustrating to deal with. You may even be looking for a miracle cure. When you lose sleep, the consequences can be very serious. If you find yourself sleeping less than 7 hours per night you are at increased risk of stroke, diabetes, heart disease, high blood pressure, and death. Not getting adequate sleep also increases your risks of having accidents, whether at home, in the workplace, or while driving.
Insomnia affects people of all ages and stages of life, not just adults. Adolescents and even children are affected too. So it is paramount to develop good sleep habits for yourself and your entire family.
What is Insomnia?
Many people believe that insomnia is just a lack of complete sleep, but it is not. There are a number of ways you can experience insomnia. Insomnia is defined as difficulty with falling asleep, maintaining sleep, or having a good quality of sleep regardless of time and opportunity to sleep. Insomnia can show up in the following ways:
Trouble falling asleep
Waking up in the early morning
Waking up in the middle of the night
Difficulty returning to sleep after waking up at night
Sleep that is not restful
Insomnia is not an Isolated Mental Illness
Insomnia is often a symptom of other illnesses and its cause should be investigated by you or your medical doctor. Often it can onset due to your work schedule or stressful situations.
Negative Effects of Insomnia
You may hear some people bragging about needing less than six hours of sleep. But we really all need between seven and nine hours. Getting less than what we need can be bad for our health. If you are not getting enough sleep you might find yourself suffering from the following:
Excessive daytime sleepiness
Difficulty losing weight
A weakened immune system so you get sick more often
Elevated blood pressure
Increased risk of heart disease and diabetes
Increased anxiety or depression
Reduction in concentration and focus that can lead to a decrease in work performance
A decrease in motor function
Can Insomnia Go Away on its Own?
Acute or transient insomnia can go away on its own, but it will still have dangerous side effects while it is present. With chronic insomnia, there is no going away on its own. In either case, you want to take steps to get rid of or lessen your insomnia so you can continue your healthy lifestyle.
Techniques to Relieve Insomnia without Medication
While there are some herbal and natural sleep aids you can use to get some rest, prescription pills are not always the best choice. There are some sleep medications that can even make your insomnia worse. Most sleep aids disrupt your sleep cycle and so may cause less restorative sleep. You may also develop a tolerance to your medication over time and so may require more medication.
Instead of using pills, you want to try to improve your sleep hygiene or engage in Cognitive Behavioral Treatment Intervention for Insomnia.
Let’s Talk Sleep Hygiene
Sleep hygiene is all about the habits that you practice helping you fall asleep easier and sleep deeper. Developing good sleep hygiene is something you can do on your own. Here is a list of do’s and don’t to help you on your journey to better sleep.
Choose a sleep time and stick to it daily
Choose a time to wake up and stick to it daily
Exercise for 30 minutes most days of the week
No rigorous exercise in the evening
More relaxing practices close to your bedtime
Clean your linens weekly
Expose yourself to plenty of natural light during the daytime
Take a warm shower or bath before bed
Create a relaxing bedtime routine to include progressive muscle relaxation and mindful breathing. These help to control heart rate and lessens tension so you can relax and get into a better sleep mood.
Ensure your physical sleep environment is relaxing and pleasant. Your room should be at the right temperature and your bed and bedding should be comfortable. The lighting should be just right and you can use eye masks or earplugs to help shut out light and noise that you have no control over.
Designate your bed for sex and sleep only and refrain from engaging in other activities there.
Whenever you get sleepy, pop into bed. If you are tossing and turning then get out of bed.
Turn your clock away so you cannot see the time.
Turn off all alerts from your phone, place it on Airplane Mode, silent mode or simply turn it off at night.
Electronics should be turned off 1 to 2 hours before your designated bedtime.
Keep a bedside journal or pad where you can write down the things that are on your mind when you can't sleep.
Don’t ingest caffeinated drinks after noon as their effects can last for hours preventing you from falling asleep.
Skip alcohol as it can disrupt sleep, especially causing arousal the second half of the night.
Don’t Take stimulants such as medications, chocolate, or nicotine close to your chosen bedtime.
Eat a heavy meal close to your bedtime and drink less liquid to reduce your need to get up to urinate at night.
Limit screen time before bed as long periods on devices makes it harder for the brain to fall asleep.
Limit daytime naps to less than 30 minutes and don't take any after 3 pm.
What To Do When Sleep Hygiene Doesn’t Work
While there are a lot of small things you can do to make your sleep hygiene better, it can be hard for many, especially on the weekends. We understand this and you should understand that you probably won't get it all right in the first week.
You can try to implement these changes one at a time. So for example, choose a time to go to bed and stick to that time for a week. Then you can add your wake-up time. The next week you can add something like a morning walk to your routine and this could simply be around your backyard or to your window to get some morning sun.
When you can implement more than one thing at a time, do that and over time you will get into this new routine that you have created so much so, it will start feeling natural. When you have established good sleep hygiene it is important to note that this is not the end. You now have to maintain the good sleep habits you established and stick to your new routine.
If after all that you are still not sleeping well regularly, then you could benefit from Cognitive Behavioral Therapy for Insomnia. Reach out to us here at ESTADT Psychological Services, we have the professionals to help you overcome this problem.
What If I Don’t Treat My Insomnia?
Left untreated, your insomnia can cause a host of problems. These include:
Lack of concentration
Reduced ability to enjoy social activities
Reduction in quality of life
Don’t wait for your insomnia to start affecting your life negatively. If you are looking for how to treat insomnia without medication, we have the therapy that can help you overcome this problem and get back to sleeping so you can get back to enjoying a fulfilling life.