Insomnia is a disorder that affects both the quantity and the quality of our sleep. Those who suffer from it find it difficult to fall asleep and to sleep constantly and calmly through the night, and they generally wake up early in the morning (and can’t fall asleep again).
It is a very common disorder, different from person to person, and it mainly affects elderly people and women.
We asked Doctor Vincenzo Tullo, neurologist and Supervisor of the Headache and Sleep Day Care at Humanitas.
When Insomnia gets Chronic
Occasional insomnia affects a third of the world’s population.
“However, when the disorder becomes chronic and lasts for more than a month, you should go to your doctor. Listen to your body and pay attention to uncommon signals. If they worry you, ask for detailed exams.
Menopausal women are more prone to insomnia due to the interruption in the production of progestogens, that have instead hypnotic powers during their reproductive age”, the specialist explains.
The Causes of Sleep Disorders
Sleep disorders may have many causes:
- jet lag-related
- or food-related ones
However, genetic predisposition also plays an important role.
It is fundamental to pinpoint the causes of insomnia and to reckon this disorder. In fact, if it does not get treated, insomnia:
- Compromises the patients’ quality of life and impacts on their daily activities
- Favours the onset of severe diseases, such as high blood pressure, diabetes and obesity
- May cause psychological disorders, such as anxiety and depression
- May reduce memory and concentration
- May lower the pain threshold of patients
A good Management of your Sleeping Habits
Some tips to help you sleep better:
- Don’t go to bed too late, because melatonin (the responsible for sleepiness) is created at sunset and peaks around 2 A.M.
- Go to bed at least two hours after having dinner, because digestion may interfere with sleep.
- Don’t exercise before going to bed, because the increase in adrenaline levels may hinder your sleep.
- Shut off tablets, smartphones and other light sources. In fact, the blue light of screens may hinder the production of melatonin.
- Don’t sleep during the day. If you feel it necessary, don’t sleep for more than one hour.
Are Melatonin Supplements Useful?
Melatonin is a light-sensitive hormone that is produced by the pineal gland in the brain and controls our sleep cycle.
Some studies suggest that the intake of melatonin supplements for short time intervals may reduce the time needed to fall asleep and increase the hours one can sleep, thus enhancing the day-time wakefulness.
“Avoid self-help and ask your doctor for help. They will suggest, if necessary, the intake of melatonin supplements, as well as the right time and modality”, Doctor Tullo recommends.