Friends, today I am going to write about Insomnia. I am sure many professionals like you experience Insomnia at some point in their lives. At one point of time, I also suffered from ‘Insomnia‘ or ‘Lack of sleep‘ and had to take medical help. Now, I make a note to take a proper sleep for at least 7-8 hours in night.
Today, I am going to make you aware of Insomnia, its symptoms, its types and the factors that cause Insomnia. Later in the article, I will cover its impacts on health and how we can avoid it by following some tips to get a better sleep.
I am sure everyone would have had occasional nights of poor sleep due to staying up too late or waking up too early. However, that does not mean you have insomnia. That means you did not get enough sleep.
Insomnia or sleeplessness is the most common sleep disorder in which people have trouble sleeping. 30-35% of adults complain of insomnia. Insomnia affects all age groups. Among adults, insomnia affects women more often than men. The incidence tends to increase with age. Insomnia is more common for those who have high I.Q. The reason may be that intelligent people have a harder time switching off their brain.
Insomnia symptoms may include: Difficulty falling or staying asleep, Waking up during the night, Waking up too early, Intestinal distress, Not feeling well-rested after a night’s sleep, Dizziness, Irritability, Anxiety, Difficulty in focusing on tasks etc.
People with insomnia feel dissatisfied with their sleep and usually experience fatigue, low energy, lack of concentration, mood disturbances, and decreased performance at work or college. People with insomnia report a worse overall quality of life. Insomnia impairs decision-making and can damage relationships. So, you must be careful to notice your sleep durations.
There are three types of insomnia based on the regularity and duration of the sleep disturbance symptoms:
- Transient insomnia: Lasts for less than a week, can be caused by another disorder-by changes in the sleep environment, by the timing of sleep, severe depression, or by stress. Results in sleepiness.
- Acute insomnia: The inability to consistently sleep well for a period of less than a month. There is difficulty in going to sleep or to continue sleeping. Even after you have proper opportunity to sleep, you are not able to sleep or when you sleep, the sleep you have is of poor quality and does not make you feel refreshed. Acute insomnia is also known as short term insomnia.
- Chronic insomnia: Occurs at least thrice per week and lasts for at least three months. It can be caused by another disorder, or it can be a primary disorder. People with high levels of stress hormones are more likely than others to have chronic insomnia. Chronic insomnia may result in muscular weariness, hallucinations, and mental fatigue.
Causes of Insomnia
- Stimulants – Coffee, tea, and other caffeinated drinks are stimulants. Drinking them late evening can keep you from falling asleep at night. Nicotine in cigarettes is another stimulant that interferes with sleep.
- Medical conditions – Chronic pain, cancer, diabetes, heart disease, asthma, gastroesophageal reflux, overactive thyroid, Parkinson’s disease and Alzheimer’s disease can cause insomnia.
- Sleep-related disorders – With Sleep Apnea, a person’s airway becomes partially/completely obstructed during sleep. Due to this, a person’s breathing suffers with pauses in between and there is also a drop in oxygen level. A person suffering from sleep apnea, wakes up briefly but multiple times in the night. Restless legs syndrome also causes insomnia.
- Stress – Concerns about work, health, finances or family, or stressful life events s.a. the death a loved one, divorce, or a job loss may keep your mind active at night, making it difficult to sleep.
- Poor sleep habits– An irregular bedtime schedule, daytime naps, an uncomfortable sleep environment, and using your bed for work, watching TV or smart-phones just before bedtime can interfere with your sleep cycle.
- Travel or work schedule – Disrupting your body’s circadian rhythms can lead to insomnia. Causes include jet lag from traveling across multiple time zones, working in late or early shift, or frequently changing shifts.
- Medications – Many prescription drugs s.a. antidepressants and medications for asthma or blood pressure can interfere with sleep. Many over-the-counter (OTC) drugs — such as some pain medications, allergy and cold medications, and weight-loss products — contain caffeine and other stimulants that can disrupt sleep.
Dangers of Insomnia
- Amplifies the brain’s anticipatory reactions and thus, raises the overall anxiety levels.
- Causes a decrease in neurotransmitters that regulate mood. This leads to depression.
- Disruption of natural body rhythm (Circadian rhythm) leads to poor White Blood Cell (WBC) health which weakens the body’s physical stress response.
- Impairs memory and the ability to think and process information.
- Negatively affects the cardiovascular health and increases the risk of restricting blood flow to the brain.
- Increases the risk of having high blood pressure. Lack of sleep in night does not cause the blood pressure to drop. Not experiencing this nightly drop in pressure is a risk factor for heart disease.
- Results in the release of stress hormones Cortisol and Norpenephrine which resist the release of insulin. This may lead to higher risk of diabetes.
- Sleep helps maintain a healthy balance of ghrelin (hormone that makes you feel hungry) and leptin (hormone that makes you feel full). Lack of sleep results in increased levels of ghrelin and decreased levels of leptin thus, resulting in their imbalance. This imbalance causes an increased appetite and unwanted cravings.
How to get a better sleep
- Recommended amount of sleep is 7-9 hours. Sleeping for this much duration improves health and daily alertness.
- Go to bed and wake up within the same 60-minutes window daily to establish natural circadian rhythm.
- 60 minutes before going to bed, turn off TV, computer, and smart-phone; turn off the lights and listen to some soothing music; or read a book for pleasure.
- Take a bath at least 90 minutes before going to bed. Heating up your body followed by a slow cooling causes relaxation and drowsiness.
- Do not take any stimulant s.a. tea, coffee or cola a least 3-4 hours before going to bed.
- Stay away from work activities, exercise, entertainment that overexcites your brain before bedtime.
- Keep afternoon naps under 20 minutes.
- Eat foods with Tryptophan – like beans, peanut butter and nuts about 2-3 hours before bedtime.
- Do not take heavy meals at night.
- Try a few simple yoga stretches just before bedtime.
I am sure that following the above suggestions will help you have a better sleep for 7-8 hours naturally.
If you still feel troubled with your sleep pattern, you should consult a neurologist.
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