Insomnia is a disorder that affects the amount and quality of sleep. Those who suffer from insomnia have difficulty falling asleep, maintaining a constant and restful sleep throughout the night and tend to wake up early in the morning, no longer managing to fall asleep.

It is a very common disorder, which varies from person to person and it particularly affects the elderly and women.

We talk about this topic with Dr. Vincenzo Tullo, neurologist and Head of the Headache and Sleep Clinic at Humanitas.


When insomnia becomes chronic

“Occasional insomnia affects one third of the world’s population. However, when the condition becomes chronic and tends to last for more than a month, you should consult your doctor. It is therefore important to listen to your body, so as to recognize any signals, and if necessary resort to more thorough investigations.

Women in menopause are more likely to suffer from insomnia because of the interrupted production of progestin hormones, which instead have hypnotic power in their fertile age,” explains the specialist.


Causes of sleep disorders

The causes of the disorder can be many: neurological, internal, psychiatric, environmental, jet lag, bad eating habits. However, it should be stressed that genetic predisposition also plays an important role.

“Recognizing the underlying causes of insomnia is fundamental, as is not neglecting this disorder. In fact, if not properly treated, in addition to compromising the quality of life and impacting on the efficiency of their daily performance, insomnia can promote the onset of major diseases such as hypertension, diabetes and obesity, can cause psychological disorders, such as anxiety and depression, reduce memory and concentration and lower the threshold of tolerance to pain,” emphasizes Dr. Tullo.


Good sleep hygiene

A few things that can help you sleep better:


Do not go to sleep too late, because melatonin, which helps sleep, is produced at dusk and then reaches its peak around two o’clock.

Allow at least a couple of hours to pass between dinner and the time you go to sleep, because digestion can interfere with rest.

Do not train before going to sleep because the accumulation of adrenaline does not help rest.

Turn off the light, tablets and mobile phones: the blue light emanating from the screens of mobile phones and tablets can in fact inhibit the production of melatonin.

Avoid sleeping during the day, if you feel the need, do not exceed the time of sleep.


Can melatonin supplements help?

Melatonin is a light-sensitive hormone, it is produced by the pineal gland of the brain and controls the sleep cycle.

Some studies suggest that taking melatonin supplements for short periods of time may help reduce the time it takes to fall asleep and increase the number of hours you can sleep, thereby strengthening daytime alertness.

“It is good, however, to avoid do-it-yourself therapies and consult your doctor, he will be able to suggest – where he considers it appropriate – taking supplements of melatonin, at the right time and in the right way,” recommends Dr. Tullo.