Everyone experiences restless nights from time to time, nights when sleep is elusive. This is normal. But, when a person can't sleep night after night and the lack of sleep prevents the person from functioning properly during the day, it is a problem and is called insomnia. The severity of the insomnia is assessed with regard to the symptoms experienced during the day, and not with regard to what happens-or-not during the night. Thus insomnia cannot be measured in terms of hours of sleep. If the person has no symptoms during the day, then the lack of sleep is just fine.
All of us have our own needs when it comes to sleep. While some of us require at least 8 hours of sleep, others get along just fine on 4. Usually as people age they need less and less sleep. Typically, the perception of not having slept all night is due to frequent awakenings rather than a real lack of sleep.
Insomnia has many possible causes including acute stress, a change in the environment, illness, cramps, strong emotion, jetlag, and a frequent need to urinate. In most cases, the cause of insomnia can be established and dealt with.
Everyone needs 8 hours of sleep.
FALSE.Many adults need only 4 to 6 hours of sleep a night, while others need 10. When calculating how much sleep you are getting, do not forget to include naps.
SOMETIMES.Some people have difficulty falling asleep, some have frequent sleep interruptions during the night, and others just wake up too early in the morning. Only when the person has difficulty functioning properly during the day can this be called insomnia.
FALSE. There is no way to catch up on lost sleep. The purpose of sleep is to regenerate and repair. There is nothing to gain by sleeping more than 10 to 12 hours at a time. In fact, sleep that lasts more than 12 hours is usually less effective. It is better to get up and take a nap during the day, if necessary, than to sleep more than 12 hours.
Here are a few suggestions to help you sleep better:
All of these measures can help you fall asleep. Some of them may appeal more to you than others. As a last resort, you can always count sheep: this monotonous task occupies the brain and can help get rid of unpleasant thoughts.
While there are several drugs (hypnotics) that can help you find sleep, these agents cannot fix the root of the problem.
Some hypnotics and relaxation products (tablets or herbal tea) are available without a prescription. They promote relaxation but do not necessarily induce sleep. They are usually not recommended because they tend to disrupt sleep patterns. The most effective and safe products are available with a prescription. They are used over short periods of time and the smallest possible dose is prescribed. They are safe and effective for occasional use only.
Sleep aids should not be used every night and for prolonged periods (more than 3 weeks). They are useful only when the problem is temporary. For chronic insomnia, the first step is to investigate for the cause. Meanwhile, you may need to learn some relaxation techniques, start an exercise program, but avoid using sleep aids excessively.
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The patient information leaflets are provided by Vigilance Santé Inc. This content is for information purposes only and does not in any manner whatsoever replace the opinion or advice of your health care professional. Always consult a health care professional before making a decision about your medication or treatment.