Apr 16 2024.

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Insomnia is a sleep disorder in which you have trouble falling asleep and /or staying asleep. This is despite the fact that you have ample time and a bedroom environment conducive to restful sleep.  Dr. Shehan Silva, a Consultant Physician with a special interest in Geriatrics and Senior Lecturer in Medicine, discusses insomnia which is a common issue among many. 

Q WHAT IS THE DEFINITION OF INSOMNIA AND WHAT ARE ITS CAUSES? Insomnia is a sleep disorder characterized by difficulty falling asleep, staying asleep, or both, despite having the opportunity to do so.


  • Difficulty falling asleep at bedtime.
  • Waking up frequently during the night.
  • Trouble getting back to sleep after waking up.
  • Waking up too early in the morning.
  • Non-restorative sleep, where the person wakes up feeling unrefreshed

Q WHAT ARE THE PROBLEMS ASSOCIATED WITH IT? It can lead to several problems that affect both physical and mental health, as well as overall well-being. Some of the common problems associated with insomnia include

Daytime fatigue: One of the most noticeable consequences of insomnia is daytime fatigue. Difficulty falling or staying asleep can result in insufficient rest, leading to feelings of tiredness and exhaustion during the day.

Impaired thought processing (cognition): Sleep is crucial for cognitive function, including memory, concentration, and problem-solving abilities. Insomnia can impair these cognitive functions, leading to difficulties in work, school, and daily tasks.

Mood disturbances: Insomnia is often linked with mood disturbances such as irritability, anxiety, and depression. Chronic sleep deprivation can exacerbate these conditions and may even contribute to their development.

Weak Immunity: Adequate sleep is essential for a healthy immune system. Insufficient sleep can weaken the immune response, making individuals more susceptible to infections and illnesses.

Increased risk of accidents: Sleep deprivation from insomnia can impair judgment, coordination, and reaction times, increasing the risk of accidents, both at home and in the workplace. This includes accidents while driving, operating machinery, or performing other tasks that require alertness.

Interference with relationships: Chronic insomnia can strain relationships with family, friends, and colleagues. Irritability, mood swings, and difficulty engaging in social activities may lead to conflicts and misunderstandings.

Effects on health: Long-term insomnia has been associated with an increased risk of various health problems, including obesity, diabetes, cardiovascular disease, and hypertension.

Impaired Quality of Life: Overall, insomnia can significantly diminish an individual’s quality of life by affecting their physical health, mental well- being and productivity.


Maintain a Consistent Sleep Schedule: Go to bed and wake up at the same time every day, even on weekends. Consistency helps regulate your body’s internal clock, making it easier to fall asleep and wake up naturally. Create a

Relaxing Bedtime Routine: Establish a calming routine before bed to signal to your body that it’s time to wind down. This might include activities such as reading, taking a warm bath, or practising relaxation techniques like deep breathing or meditation.

Create a Comfortable Sleep Environment: Make sure your bedroom is conducive to sleep by keeping it dark, quiet, and cool. Invest in a comfortable mattress and pillows, and remove electronic devices that emit blue light, which can interfere with melatonin production.

Limit Stimulants and Alcohol: Avoid consuming caffeine and nicotine in the hours leading up to bedtime, as they can disrupt sleep. While alcohol may initially make you feel drowsy, it can interfere with sleep quality later in the night.

Exercise Regularly: Engage in regular physical activity, but avoid vigorous exercise close to bedtime, as it can stimulate your body and make it harder to fall asleep. Aim for at least 30 minutes of moderate exercise most days of the week.

Manage Stress and Anxiety: Practice stress-reduction techniques such as mindfulness, yoga, or progressive muscle relaxation to help calm your mind before bed. If worries or anxious thoughts keep you up at night, consider keeping a journal to write them down and address them during the day.

Limit Naps: While short naps can be beneficial, especially for individuals who are sleep-deprived, long or irregular naps during the day can interfere with nighttime sleep. Limit naps to 2030 minutes and avoid napping late in the day.

Watch Your Diet: Avoid heavy meals, spicy foods, and excessive fluids close to bedtime, as they can cause discomfort and disrupt sleep. Opt for light, easily digestible snacks if you are hungry before bed.

Seek Treatment for Underlying Conditions: Address any underlying medical or psychological conditions that may be contributing to your insomnia, such as sleep apnea, depression, anxiety, or chronic pain. Consult with a healthcare professional for appropriate diagnosis and treatment.



Caffeine: Found in coffee, tea, chocolate, and some soft drinks, caffeine is a stimulant that can interfere with sleep. It is best to avoid caffeine-containing products in the afternoon and evening, as their effects can last for several hours.

Alcohol: While alcohol may initially make you feel drowsy, it can disrupt sleep patterns and lead to poor-quality sleep later in the night. Limit alcohol consumption, especially in the hours leading up to bedtime.

Spicy or heavily seasoned foods can cause discomfort or heartburn, making it difficult to fall asleep or stay asleep. Avoid consuming spicy meals close to bedtime, particularly if you are prone to acid reflux or indigestion. Foods that are high in fat can take longer to digest, potentially causing discomfort or indigestion that interferes with sleep. Opt for lighter, easily digestible meals in the evening to promote better sleep.

Consuming sugary foods or beverages before bed can cause fluctuations in blood sugar levels, which may disrupt sleep patterns. Choose healthier snacks that are lower in sugar and won’t cause spikes in energy levels.

Acidic foods and beverages, such as citrus fruits and juices, tomatoes, and vinegar-based dressings, can potentially trigger acid reflux or heartburn, making it uncomfortable to lie down and sleep.

Drinking large amounts of fluids, especially close to bedtime, can increase the likelihood of waking up during the night to use the bathroom. Limit your fluid intake in the evening to reduce the need for going to the bathroom at night.



Limit screen time. Reduce exposure to electronic devices such as smartphones, tablets, computers, and televisions at least an hour before bedtime. The blue light emitted by screens can interfere with melatonin production and disrupt your sleep-wake cycle.

Engage in relaxation exercises such as deep breathing, progressive muscle relaxation, or mindfulness meditation to help calm your mind and body before bed. These techniques can help reduce stress and anxiety, making it easier to fall asleep.

Adding calming scents such as lavender to your bathwater can enhance the soothing effects.

 Spend a few minutes writing in a journal  to jot down any thoughts, worries, or to-do lists before bed. This can help clear your mind and reduce anxiety, making it easier to relax and fall asleep.

Q ANY DRINKS ETC. THAT SHOULD BE TAKEN TO HELP WITH A GOOD NIGHT’S SLEEP? Certain herbal teas have calming properties that can help relax the body and mind, making it easier to fall asleep. Popular choices include chamomile and peppermint tea. Warm milk contains tryptophan, an amino acid that helps the body produce serotonin, a neurotransmitter that promotes relaxation and sleepiness. Drinking a warm glass of milk before bedtime may help improve sleep quality. When choosing beverages to help with sleep, it's essential to avoid caffeine-containing drinks such as coffee, black tea, and some energy drinks, especially in the hours leading up to bedtime, as they can interfere with sleep. Additionally, it's best to consume any liquids in moderation to avoid disrupting sleep with frequent trips to the bathroom during the night.

By Kshalini Nonis


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