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Sleeplessness: Frequently Asked Questions

QHow much sleep is adequate for me?

The amount of sleep required varies from person to person. Normally people (adults) require about 7-9 hours of sound sleep to function well but some people can do very well even with 4-5 hours of sleep. What is important is that you should feel refreshed on waking and should be able to function properly during the daytime.

QWhat are the indicators that I am not sleeping well?

Daytime tiredness, irritability, sleepiness, inability to concentrate on work, fatigue, etc are few of the common indicators that you are not sleeping well at night.

QIs excessive sleepiness during the daytime an indicator of something abnormal?

Yes, excessive sleepiness during daytime is an important sign of insomnia. It can also be caused due to Narcolepsy (A disorder of sleep associated with excessive daytime sleepiness, involuntary daytime sleep episodes, disturbed nocturnal sleep).

QIs it true that alcohol and smoking affects the quality of your sleep adversely?

Yes, alcohol and smoking can adversely affect your sleep quality; these lead to frequent waking in the night and an interrupted, unrefreshing sleep.

QCan I do something to avoid sleeplessness?

Some common mistakes people make (which can lead to sleeplessness) are eating a heavy meal, drinking coffee, exercising, smoking, drinking alcohol, etc. just before bedtime. Avoiding these can help to avoid sleeplessness. In addition, the sleeping environment should be conducive to getting a good sleep i.e. there must be adequate darkness, no noise; the bed must not be too hard or too soft, etc.

QDoes sleeplessness ever go away on its own?

Yes, in cases of transient or acute insomnia due to any kind of stress, the person may start sleeping normally after the stressful phase is over. However, in some cases the sleeplessness may persist longer and this requires to be treated medically.

QWhat is circadian rhythm?

The regular recurrence of biological processes or activities in the body in cycles of about 24 hours is called Circadian Rhythm. The processes which follow the circadian rhythm include hormone secretion, sleeping, feeding, sensitivity to drugs and stimuli, etc. This rhythm seems to be set by a 'biological clock' in the body which seems to be set by recurring daylight and darkness.

QDoes stress cause sleeplessness?

Stress is one of the common and major causes of sleeplessness. High levels of anxiety or worry, depression, disappointment, dejection, unfulfilled ambitions, etc. can all be regarded as a part of stress in life. Stress can be very disruptive to sleep since a person can spend hours lying in bed thinking about the stressful event or situation; this in turn tenses up the body and stops the person from getting to sleep. It is very essential that person find out what exactly is the cause of the stress and then deal with it effectively in order to eliminate the stress.

QWhat about taking sleeping pills if I'm not getting sleep?

Sleeping pills do help in getting good sleep but only if taken once in while or for a short duration of time. They tend to be habit forming in the long run and gradually the person becomes more and more dependent on them. Later if these pills are stopped, the patient is unable to get any sleep and if at all he gets sleep, it's more disturbed than before. Hence it's advisable that the person concentrates more on the cause of insomnia and works on it for getting good sleep rather than taking sleeping pills. Another noteworthy thing is that sleeping pills are not without any side-effects and hence should be taken only if prescribed by a physician.

QWhat is jet lag?

Jet lag is a temporary imbalance of the normal circadian rhythm of the body that results from high-speed air travel through a varied number of time zones. Due to high-speed air travel through different time zones, the biological clock of the body gets disrupted and its ‘Pre-set orientation towards day and night' changes. Hence the person may experience fatigue, sleepiness at odd hours, irritability and various other functional disturbances.