Sleep is a periodic resting condition of the body, especially the nervous system and there is a natural rotation of sleeping and waking every twenty-four hours. But medical science has not been able to explain-must less to understand –the mechanics of this phenomenon. But it is a natural thing for a person to sleep and nobody can do without it for long. Some people, however, are able to do with much less sleep than others because their sleep is deeper and more refreshing, making do without four to five hours as compared to the normal period of seven to eight hours.
Sleep gives relief from tension, rest to the brain and the body and a person wakes up fresh and rejuvenated after sleep. But in some people the feeling of freshness is missing: they feel tired when they wake up. Some cannot sleep and others start snoring the moment their head touches the pillow.
Insomnia, or sleeplessness, is a condition that often causes annoyance, and by depriving the person of natural rest produces interference with the full activity during the daytime. When it becomes a habit, it may form a serious menace to health.
Insomnia may be due to a variety of causes, and they may act so effectively as to keep the person awake altogether, or they may serve, when present in a less degree, to produce one of the forms of dreaming and unfreashing slumber. Insomnia generally strikes persons of nervous temperament, those who are given to intellectual overwork. Manual overwork may also produce the condition by throwing the nervous system out of gear. Bodily fatigue, however, generally acts as a sleep-inducing agent. In temporary cases of sleepless of the causes is usually to be sought in some external source of irritation. To much cold, or heat humidity; or the presence of mosquitoes, may interfere with sleep in some cases. A slight, nagging pain, or dyspepsia- in which pain may be present in any appreciable degree may also interfere with sleep. Such temporary insomnia is easy to deal with; the moment the external cause that interferes with sleep is removed it is cured but it is the chronic insomnia, which is not easy to cure.
In cases of habitual sleeplessness, a voluntary limitation of the hours of sleep, combined with over study worry or grief, is often instrumental in forming a habit, which is exceedingly difficult to break. The brain remains active despite the efforts of the person of matters is often the effect of poisonous materials circulating in the blood, as in fevers gout, intemperance and over-indulgence in tobacco. Another cause of insomnia is neurasthenia. Persons suffering from it usually fall asleep the moment they get into bed but after an hour or two they wake up and cannot sleep for the rest of night.
In short, worry, thoughts of sex, over-indulgence in smoking or drinking, late dinners, preoccupation with business or work even after working hours, airless bedrooms, playing of games like chess or cards before retiring to bed are some of the main causes of insomnia. Excessive noise in the surroundings is also bad for sleep.
A person not having a clear conscience may also turn into an insomniac.
Drugs to induce sleep should be avoided since they are habit-forming. There are a number of cases, particularly in the west, who are addicted to sleeping pills and whose needs for a greater and greater number of the pills goes on increasing. Drug-induced sleep is never as restful as the one that comes naturally. Drugs are likely to create more complications than they can remove.
Chronic cases of insomnia can be dealt with only by resort to a natural diet of fresh fruit and vegetables, a daily regimen of exercise and freedom from worry of tensions that beset modern life. Light exercise of the neck and back muscles shortly before going to sleep can help. A four-inch broad water soaked bandage tied to the neck also help induces sleep.
Taking a bath before sleep and rubbing your body dry with your palms can also help induce sleep. A cup of hot water or hot milk can also immediately before retiring to bed.
Those who cannot sleep because of mental excitement should soak their feet in warm water. The temperature of the water should not be more than 3 to 4 degrees higher than body temperature. Damp towel soaked in cold water may be wrapped round the head. For more serious cases of sleeplessness, soaking the whole body in a tubful of warm water of body temperature is the remedy. If you can sleep lying in the bathtub for the half an hour, it would give you the freshness that two hours sleep in the bed cannot give.
In most cases, however, insomnia is due to lack of physical exercise. Physical exercise is the specific remedy for such cases. Some people might benefit if they took a small cardboard to bed with a pencil. Let them put dots on it when the light is out. This would help them to fall asleep.