I.N.S.O.M.N.I.A

As you all already know, am the creepy crawlies of the night. I don’t sleep unless it’s dawn. Ever tried counting the sheep jumping over the fence? Or even how many stars twinkling up in the milky way? Maybe if you refer this to the doctors, they might suggest that you’re facing insomnia. What is INSOMNIA?


INSOMNIA is a symptom, not a stand-alone diagnosis or a disease. By definition, insomnia is “difficulty initiating or maintaining sleep, or both” and it may due to inadequate quality or quantity of sleep. Insomnia is not defined by a specific number of hours of sleep that one gets {although 8 hours is what you really need}, since individuals vary widely in their sleep needs and practices. Most of us know what insomnia is and how we feel or perform after one or more sleepless nights, few seek medical advice!

Insomnia is generally classified based on the duration of the problem. Well, not everyone agrees on one definition, but overall:

  • Transient insomnia lasts from days to less than one week.
  • Acute/Short Term insomnia is the inability to consistently sleep well for a period of between 3 weeks to 6 months.
  • Chronic insomnia lasts for years at a time.

Patterns of insomnia:

  • Onset Insomnia– difficulty falling asleep at the beginning of the night, often associated with anxiety disorders.
  • Middle-of-the-Night Insomnia– characterized by difficulty returning to sleep after awakening in the middle of the night or waking too early in the morning. Also referred to as nocturnal awakenings. Encompasses middle and terminal insomnia.
  • Middle Insomnia– waking during the middle of the night, difficulty maintaining sleep. Often associated with pain disorders or medical illness.
  • Terminal Insomnia– early morning waking. Often a characteristic of clinical depression.

Insomnia Causes:

Insomnia may be caused by a host of different reasons. These causes may be divided into situational factors, medical or psychiatric conditions, or primary sleep problems. Many of the causes of transient and acute insomnia are similar, and they include:

  • Jet lag.
  • Changes in work shifts.
  • Poor hygiene. Excessive or unpleasant noise.
  • Uncomfortable room temperature (too hot or too cold).
  • Stressful situations in life
  • Presence of an acute medical or surgical illness or hospitalisation
  • Withdrawal from drug, alcohol, sedative or stimulant medications
  • Insomnia related to high altitude (mountains)

As for chronic or long term insomnia, they are usually linked to an underlying psychiatric or physiological condition.

Psychological Related Insomnia: – anxiety, stress, schizophrenia, mania (bipolar disorder) and depression.

In fact, insomnia may be an indicator of depression. Many people will have insomnia during the acute phases of a mental illness.

Physiological Related Insomnia: – chronic pain syndromes, chronic fatigue syndromes, congestive heart failure, night time angina (chest pain) from heart disease, acid reflux disease (GERD), chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD), nocturnal asthma (asthma with night time breathing symptoms), obstructive sleep apnea, degenerative diseases such as Parkinson’s disease and Alzheimer’s disease, brain tumors, strokes or trauma to the brain.

So now there you go. Now it helps to understand that this symptom persists longer than a week, do seek medical attention. Do you know what you eat affects how you sleep? Perhaps it helps to know foods that help or harm your sleep. If you could pick the right foods to help you get the best sleep possible, wouldn’t you? And if you knew which foods would hinder your restful slumber, wouldn’t you avoid them?

  1. Reach for Trytophan-Rich Foods We’ve all heard of warm milk’s magical ability to send us off to dreamland. Do you know why it is true? Dairy foods contain trytophan, which is a sleep-promoting substance. Other trytophan-containing foods include poultry, bananas, oats and honey.
  2. Indulge Your Craving for Carbs Carb-rich foods complement dairy foods by increasing the level of sleep-inducing trytophan in the blood. So a few perfect late night snacks to get you snoozing might include a bowl of cereal and milk, yoghurt and crackers, or bread and cheese. Avoid an all-carb snack that’s also high in sugar, since the sugar low that will follow may disturb your sleep.
  3. Have a Snack Before BedtimeA little food in tummy may help you sleep. BUT don’t use this as an open invitation to pig out! Keep the snack small as the heavy meal will tax your digestive system, making you uncomfortable and unable to get soothing ZZZs!
  4. Put Down the Burger and Fries! As if you needed another reason to avoid high-fat foods, research now shows that the more you consume during the day, the less likely you will be to have a restful night.
  5. Beware of Hidden Caffeine It is no surprise that an evening cup of coffee might disrupt your sleep. Even moderate caffeine can cause sleep disturbances. But don’t forget about less obvious caffeine sources, like chocolate, cola, tea and decaffeinated coffee. For better sleep, cut all caffeine from your diet AFTER noon each day.
  6. Medication May Contain Caffeine Some over-the-counter and prescription drugs contain caffeine, too, such as pain relievers, weight loss pills, diuretics and cold medicines. These and other medications may have as much or even more caffeine than a cup of coffee. Check the label of nonprescription drugs or the prescription drugs information sheets to see if your medicine interferes with sleep or can cause insomnia.
  7. Skip the Nightcap Here’s the catch-22 with alcohol: It may help you fall asleep faster, but you may experience frequent awakenings, less restful sleep, headaches, night sweats and nightmares. If you’re consuming alcohol in the evening, balance each drink with a glass of water to dilute the alcohol’s effects.
  8. Beware of Heavy, Spicy FoodsLying down with a full belly can make you uncomfortable, since the digestive system slows down when you sleep. PLUS, spicy foods/cuisines can lead to heartburn or acid reflux disease (GERD). Make sure to finish a heavy meal at least four hours before bedtime.
  9. Keep Protein to a Minimum at Bedtime Sorry Atkins! Protein, an essential part of our daytime fare, is a poor choice for a bedtime snack. Protein-rich foods are harder to digest. So skip the high-protein snack before bedtime and opt for a glass of warm milk or some sleep-friendly carbs, like crackers.
  10. Cut the Fluids by 8PM Yes! Staying hydrated throughout the day is great for your body, but curtail your fluid intake before bed. You’re sure to have interrupted sleep if you’re constantly getting up to go to the bathroom.
  11. Don’t Be Fooled by a Relaxing Smoke Nicotine is a stimulant! with effects similar to caffeine. Avoid smoking before bedtime or if you wake up in the middle of the night.

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