What is insomnia?
Insomnia is when you struggle to go to sleep, or have problems staying asleep. Insomnia becomes more common as we get older, and affects women more than men.
Many people find they experience spells of insomnia when they are feeling particularly stressed, worried or anxious, or if they are going through a period of change or upheaval in their lives.
But for a lot of people insomnia doesn't have an obvious cause.
Suffering with insomnia can be frustrating, especially if you're not sure what's causing it. You may find yourself lying awake thinking about things, or feel as though your brain won't 'shut down' when you want to rest, or seems to be racing with ideas. If you finally do get to sleep, you may wake up not feeling refreshed or rested, and it can feel difficult to start your day.
Tips for dealing with insomnia
If you're having trouble sleeping on a regular basis, there are a few things you could try:
- Avoid drinking caffeinated drinks, especially in the evening
- Try to maintain a regular sleep routine - go to bed at around the same time every night
- Avoid stimulating activities before bed (including watching TV, using your smartphone, reading and going on the computer) to give your brain time to relax
- Make sure your bedroom is dark when you go to bed - blackout curtains or other thick curtains may help, or you could use a sleep mask to cover your eyes
- Keep your bedroom at a comfortable temperature and well-ventilated - if it isn't too cold, open a window to let fresh air in
- Wear ear plugs to avoid being woken up by noise
- Over-the-counter sleeping pills can help with occasional insomnia, but they shouldn't be used for a long period as they can have side effects
- If you're worried about your insomnia or it's causing you problems with tiredness during the day, see your GP. They may be able to prescribe medication that will help, or they may refer you to a specialist sleep clinic for further tests.
The NHS website contains lots of information on insomnia and how to deal with it.