What is insomnia?
Insomnia simply means difficulty sleeping. Symptoms vary between individuals and include difficulty getting to sleep, difficulty staying asleep or having poor quality sleep. There are lots of different causes for insomnia. Some common causes are listed below.
- Caffeine, alcohol or nicotine
- Shift work or Jet lag
- An uncomfortable sleep environment
- Recreational drugs
- Stress, depression or anxiety
What can I do if I have insomnia?
- Do try to go to bed at the same time at night and wake up at the same time in the morning
- Do exercise regularly during the day.
- Do leave the bed and relax in another room if you are struggling to get to bed.
- If you cannot sleep, get out of bed and do something that is distracting yet relaxing, such as knitting or listening to music. (It will be important to plan appropriate
activities in advance.)
- Return to bed only when you feel sleepy again
What should I avoid in order to get a better nights sleep?
- Avoid caffeine – Caffeine is found in coffee, tea, chocolate and in energy drinks and fizzy drinks.
- Avoid nicotine – Nicotine is found in cigarettes and nicotine replacement products such as vapes and patches. It stimulates the nervous system producing a home called adrenaline which increases the feeling of being alert.
- Avoid recreational drugs or excess alcohol – Regular alcohol use results in a poorer quality of sleep and is likely to lead to a feeling of being unrefreshed in the morning.
- Avoid sleeping pills – Use of sleeping pills can help with sleep in the short term but these benefits wear off. Many sleeping tablets are highly addictive and patient often experience unpleasant withdrawal side effects when they stop taking them.
- Avoid stimulation before bed – Activities like exercise, using your phone or watching TV just before bed make it difficult to fall asleep.
Sleepio is a tried and tested app that helps improve your sleep by using principals from a form of therapy called cognitive behavioural therapy (CBT). It is free for anyone living in Scotland and is now the first line treatment for insomnia recommended by the NHS.
Headspace is an app that uses mediation and mindfulness as a way to deal with stress, anxiety and insomnia. You can access the website for free and can pay a subscription fee to access more online materials.
Pzizz is a free app that uses relaxing sounds, music and narrations to get you into a state of relaxation and sleep.
Whilst sleeping tablets should generally be avoided there are some remedies that are available over the counter for short term use if needed.
- Nytol Original or One-A-Night – contains an antihistamine called diphenhydramine
- Sominex contains and anthistamine called promethazine
- There are also herbal remedies available such as Kalms or Nytol Herbal containing a herbal
remedy called valerian.
You should speak to your GP if you are experiencing worrying symptoms such as low mood, anxiety, excessive snoring or difficulty breathing at night.