We’ve all been there. A long sleepless night with endless position changes and yet no sign of sleep. A survey from the Sleep Health Foundation in 2016 pointed out that 26% of the Aussie population suffers from some level of insomnia. Experts are now pointing out the “24/7 society” lifestyle as one of the primary causes of not being able to sleep properly, especially using the internet and mobile devices right before sleep. Read on to find out what insomnia really is, what causes it, and how you can prevent it to get a comfortable sleep and greet the sun fresh next morning.
What is insomnia?
Insomnia is a sleep disorder that makes it difficult for the patient to fall asleep, stay asleep, or simply, get adequate sleep. In other words, it is not always about the quantity of sleep; quality of sleep can also determine whether you have insomnia or not.
As a recognised medical disorder, insomnia regularly cripples sleeping habits of millions of people across the globe. Surveys show that many Australians don’t get enough sleep and the results, such as tiredness, irritability, anxiety, and lack of concentration, are taking a toll on their performance at school and at work.
On average, an adult needs between seven and eight hours of proper sleep, depending on their hormonal condition and physical needs. To be sure, every adult experiences insomnia at some point, which is why we need to classify this disorder into two broad categories: acute insomnia and chronic insomnia.
The former may be caused by a traumatic incident or general stress and lasts only a few weeks. What is the subject of major concern is chronic insomnia. Caused by bad sleep habits or medications and extensive nicotine or substance intake, chronic insomnia can last from weeks to months and even years, often serving as a stepping stone for other chronic diseases.
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What are the causes of insomnia?
Insomnia might well be a problem unto itself, but in most cases, it has been found to be associated with other conditions. Short-term insomnia types such as transient and acute insomnia are caused by a trauma or a recent accident, and therefore, can be treated by a couple of counselling sessions and maybe even doses of sleep medicine if suggested by a practitioner.
However, when it comes to chronic insomnia, let’s dig deeper and discover its physical, psychological and medical causes. This will help us verify its symptoms as well as possible methods of treatment:
The following are some of the major causes of chronic insomnia:
Psychological factors: Depression and anxiety, if not addressed, can lead to long-term sleep deprivation. People with a history of bipolar disorder, PTSD, or psychotic disorders are highly susceptible to chronic insomnia.
Irregular circadian rhythms: Simple known as the 24-hour sleep/wake cycle. Extreme temperatures, high altitudes, ever-changing shift timings, noise pollution, and work routine that involves travelling in different time-zones all contribute to disturbing the circadian rhythm.
Medical condition: A person’s medical condition can result in long-term sleep disorder. People with cancer, cardiac diseases, stomach problems, overactive thyroid, and diabetes remain at a greater risk of developing chronic insomnia because of the auxiliary stress and pain associated with these issues.
Substance intake: If you need a substance such as nicotine to relax or sleep at night, you are compromising on the quality of sleep you will get. It prevents deeper stages of sleep and often causes judders in the middle of the night.
Nicotine is a stimulant which is notorious for interfering with your sleep. Caffeinated drinks such as tea, coffee, and cola too are stimulants that keep you from falling asleep, especially when you prefer to have them in the later hours of the day. Other causes can include the following.
Poor “sleep hygiene”: An inability to strike the right balance between sleeping and non-sleeping hours disrupts your sleep hygiene. Yes, just like nutrition, sleep also needs to be hygienic. It should be a pure experience which requires you to have a sleeping haven. Taking irregular naps in the daytime, eating in bed, watching TV and smartphones screens for hours, and an untidy bedroom are all bad sleep habits and are detrimental for your mental and physical health.
Stress: An overthinking mind cannot help you get a good night’s sleep. If even in your bed, you are unable to let some uncomfortable thoughts go of your mind, you are probably going to become an insomniac.
Eating late: Sometimes, working extra hours takes a toll on your eating habits. When you finally find time to eat, it will be already too late, often just before going to bed, resulting in a backflow of acid and food from your stomach into the esophagus, which may keep you awake.
Symptoms of insomnia
Never let a random episode of sleep deprivation convert into chronic insomnia. You should be aware of the obvious and the underlying symptoms to be able to get a timely appointment with a sleep therapist. Insomnia symptoms and signs may include:
- Difficulty falling asleep at night
- Waking up during the night
- Waking up too early
- Feeling restive after a night’s sleep
- Daytime tiredness or sleepiness
- Inability to focus on tasks, difficulty remembering things, and struggling to pay attention
- Higher incidence of uncalled for accidents and committing unforced errors
- Mysterious headaches that feel like a tight band around the head
Can insomnia be dangerous?
Unfortunately, insomnia is one of those disorders that are left undiagnosed and untreated in a disproportionate manner. This is what makes it a dangerous prospect. While there are numerous repercussions of insomnia, ranging from mild to some extremely deleterious ones, some of the common ones include mental health issues. Long-term sleep deprivation can result in memory loss, insecurities about one’s appearance, drug usage, and even chronic depression.
ad sleeping patterns also affect eating habits. Insomniacs have nocturnal cravings prompting them to devour meals during midnight, leaving no time to burn calories and leading to obesity in some cases.
The key to insomnia treatment lies in determining the root cause. Once that is done, the underlying condition can be properly treated and, as a by-product of this treatment, the ghost of insomnia is eliminated.
The following are some of the most effective methods to treat insomnia:
Cognitive Behavioural Therapy: Generally referred to as CBT, this method encourages patients with insomnia to change certain behavioural patterns pertaining to sleep. For instance, the patient is asked to bring order into their sleeping schedule by setting up regular bedtime and wake up time, eliminating afternoon naps and avoiding spending too much time in bed after waking up. The thinking component is what makes CBT the most sought after cure for sleeplessness. By virtue of this approach, CBT takes on fears and superstitions and seeks to replace these feelings with rational and positive thinking. CBT’s insomnia cure rate is phenomenal to say the least.
Relaxation Training: Also known as progressive muscle relaxation, this approach teaches the patient to systematically relax and tense different bodily muscles. This exercise brings a tranquilising effect to the body which helps induce sleep. Meditation, breathing exercises and yoga can also be classified as relaxation techniques and all have the potential to cure restlessness. Listening to audio lectures on different relaxation methods is a sleep inducing formula in itself, keeping the person motivated at the same time.
Stimulus Control: This approach hits right on the money with its emphasis on building a natural association between the bed and the sleep by restricting the scope of activities in the individual’s bedroom. This means the person can go to bed only when they are feeling sleepy, and are not allowed to spend more than 20 minutes in bed once their eyes have been opened.
Sleep Control: This is centered on devising a strict schedule of bedtime along with wake time, and limits the amount of time spent on bed so as to accommodate only the sleeping phase.
Insomnia can be painful to deal with at times, but there is always hope in treatment to conquer it. To find the nearest sleep disorder specialist near you, click here and find appointment times.