Sleeping problems and insomnia

Understanding and coping with sleep problems

Sleeping problems are very frequent. Insomnia is difficulty falling or staying asleep, or waking up early. The person may not be aware of not having slept, but wakes up feeling tired.

In general, insomnia is a symptom or manifestation of other difficulties, and not a disease in itself. About 15% of the adult population has persistent insomnia, and 2% feel sleepy during the day.

Difficulty sleeping can be a sign of anxiety, obsession, depression (especially early awakening), obesity, etc.

Other times, the problems may be related to breathing, such as nasal obstruction or nocturnal apneas due to other causes. There may also be digestive problems, such as gastroesophageal reflux or constipation, illnesses that cause anxiety, etc.

Many times the cause of a sleep difficulty is something transitory: a period of stress, overwork, etc., in which, when night comes, the worries of work, study, family and others come to mind.

The same worry about not falling asleep hinders sleep.

What to ask yourself if you have sleeping problems

When faced with insomnia, we must try to discover the cause and we can ask these questions:

  • Is there an unresolved social, family or spiritual concern?
  • Is there an organic disease?
  • Is any medication being taken that might interfere?
  • Am I not sleeping too much, perhaps at other times of the day and, therefore, the internal clock is not working?
  • Have I been on a trip with a major time change and could it be the so-called Jet-lag?

If the cause is not known or the problem is not resolved within a short period of time, it is advisable to see a doctor.

  • How to cope with sleep problems

Many medicines are useful to help a person sleep, but it is necessary to get to the cause of insomnia.

It is necessary to find a remedy for lack of sleep or uncomfortable sleep, because it can alter the mood, the ability to concentrate, increase weight and disturb interpersonal relationships. Even spiritual life can be weakened by lack of sleep.

Some practical tips to improve the quality of sleep:

  • Have a regular bedtime and wake-up schedule: it reinforces the sleep reflex.
  • Quiet bedroom, allowing darkness, good ventilation and a temperature between 19 and 25 degrees. Comfortable bed, with a good mattress and pillow.
  • Not use computers or cell phones late in the day, as the light from the screen affects sleep.
  • Dinner: better light and low-fat, at least one hour before going to bed; do not drink exciting drinks (coffee, tea, coke, alcohol) at night. Be attentive to vicious circles (not sleeping well, drinking more coffee to stay awake, increasing excitement and sleeping worse).
  • Avoid intense work, psychically or physically exhausting, in the last hours of the day, and movies or books that require too much concentration or increase nervous tension. It is good to change to a more relaxing activity in the last hours of the day.
  • Regular, leisurely sports once or twice a week, and walking 40-60 minutes a day. Do not exercise too intensely in the late afternoon.
  • Do not dwell on the worries of the day when we go to bed. Simple prayers are useful (without obsession to finish them), and to abandon oneself in God’s hands. The excessive preoccupation to sleep leads to not sleeping. To lie down to rest, without looking at the time every moment to see if we sleep or not.

They help to sleep better the measures that serve to reduce the anxiety, to relax during the day and before going to bed. Exercises of concentration or relaxation, such as diaphragmatic breathing or deep muscle relaxation, are useful.

Recommended reading: Wenceslao Vial, Madurez psicológica y espiritual, Palabra, 2019 (4th edition).

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