Having problems falling asleep - or staying asleep - is a common problem. Cures for insomnia and for sleeping problems are legion. Unfortunately the easiest - but not the best - way is sleeping pills, prescribed by your doctor.
Some people think it is a growing problem, caused by our modern lifestyle. Things like 24/7 entertainment, the Internet, mobile phones etc means we are always in contact. A hundred years ago peoples lives were ruled by the seasons. When it got dark you simply couldn't do anything that required light.
When you can watch television all night it's far too easy to stay up. And when you wake up you feel like another hour or two in bed!
How much sleep do we really need? What can modern sleep research tell us about this mysterious state - sleep? Why do we need to sleep? Can rest and slouching in the sofa do instead of sleeping? You probably at times find it difficult to fall asleep, or to sleep well through the whole night. Practically everyone at times have sleep problems, but for most of us it is fortunately a short and quickly forgotten thing.
For some unfortunate individuals however it can morph into a severe insomnia problem. If you're one of them there is help at hand! Insomnia cures are of different types. In order to fully understand and use the available methods it is important to know what sleep is.
It is also important to understand that insomnia is not an illness in itself (with some very few exceptions). Sleeping problems are caused by something external to you, either something physical - like drinking too much coffee - or something in your mind not letting you relax.
Finding out what this mind blockage is in your mind is the first step in getting rid of your sleeping problems. Modern sleep research has identified several stages we all go through when we sleep, called Sleep Cycles:
A Sleep Cycle consists of:
Stage 1. Electrical activity in the brain slows down and muscles start to relax. This stage lasts a few minutes and you can wake up easily. This is called "Light Sleep".
Stage 2. Rapid bursts of activity in the brain.
Stage 3. Deep Sleep showing slow wave activity in the brain.
Stage 4. Deep Sleep showing a further slowing down of brain activity.
Stage 5 - REM Sleep. Rapid Eye Movement Sleep. Movement of the eyes under the closed eyelids, increased brain activity and deep muscle relaxation during the 'dreaming' stage.
After Stage 5 we gradually drift into Light sleep again and the cycle repeats itself.
One such Sleep Cycle lasts about 90 minutes. During the "Deep Sleep" stages it can be quite difficult to wake somebody up, and if they do wake up they're very confused the first few minutes.
Deep Sleep seems to be the single most important part of the sleep cycle. People in sleep labs can lose Light Sleep and REM Sleep but not Deep Sleep.
There are several ideas of why we need sleep, and also somewhat conflicting ideas on how much sleep we really need. Consensus among researchers seem to be that we need between 6 and 8 hours of sleep, but there is considerable difference between individuals. Also the need for sleep can vary over time and over a persons lifetime. Basically, if you wake up feeling refreshed you have got enough sleep!
Cures and treatments for insomnia can be "modern" techniques using headphones and rhythmic sounds to "synchronise" our brainwaves. Another way of achieving this is via ancient mind relaxation techniques, for example meditation and yoga.
When we relax and fall asleep the brain activity shows some very characteristic electrical waves, which can be "induced" by listening to specific "wave" sounds, or by meditating your mind into relaxation.
Some old techniques that have been known for a long time work even though the knowledge of sleep when the techniques were formulated was not as good as today. On the other hand, people functioned exactly in the same way as now, worrying about health, money, love.
Sleeping problems have been around as long has people have existed!