Everything You Need To Know About Insomnia
INSOMNIA STATISTIC IN CANADA
Did you know approximately 30% of Canadians suffer from some type of sleep disorder? For most people, sleep disturbances are a temporary issue brought on by stress, worry, or environmental factors. For others, this condition can be life-long and debilitating.
Poor quality and lack of sleep have been associated with an overall negative impact on one’s health. Chronic sleep conditions can lead to high blood pressure, diabetes, heart attack, and heart failure. Other problems also include obesity, depression, and impairment in immunity.
If you’ve noticed that falling and staying asleep can be a difficult task, you could potentially suffer from a sleep disorder – the most common being insomnia. Here is everything you need to know about living with and treating insomnia.
WHAT IS INSOMNIA?
Insomnia can be defined as having repeated difficulty with sleep initiation, maintenance, consolidation, or quality. This occurs regardless of whether a person has adequate time and opportunity to sleep. The sleep disorder often results in some form of daytime impairment – like lack of energy, decreased alertness and concentration as well as irritability and depression.
There are three types of insomnia: acute, transient, and chronic.
Acute insomnia usually lasts up to a month and is commonly referred to as adjustment insomnia. It occurs due to a stressor, such as a new job, an exam, or a deadline. This form of insomnia typically resolves on its own when the stressor is no longer present, or when the individual learns to adapt and adjust to the situational-based stress.
Transient insomnia is another short-term form of the disorder. This lasts for less than a week and is the result of another condition or changes in the sleep environment, stress, or depression. In most cases, it is due to jet lag, the end of a relationship, or a similar issue.
Chronic insomnia lasts for more than a month. For many people, this particular condition is not long-lasting, while for others it can impact them for a number of years. In the cases of chronic insomnia, it is associated with a chronic medical or psychiatric condition.
WHAT CAUSES INSOMNIA?
There are many reasons why an individual could be suffering from insomnia and disturbed sleep. As mentioned above, some forms of the condition are mild and resolve once triggers are no longer present. With chronic insomnia, a person could be feeling its effects for months and perhaps even years.
The causes related to the type of insomnia a person is struggling with are different for each individual. However, it is beneficial to know the various causes in order to better understand and identify the symptoms you are experiencing.
Here are some of the most common causes of insomnia:
Mental Health Disorders
Anxiety disorders, such as PTSD (post-traumatic stress disorder), OCD (obsessive-compulsive disorder), and chronic anxiety can be the cause of disrupted sleep patterns. When a person is suffering from depression or any type of mental health disorder, they are unable to sleep because of lingering thoughts and constant worry.
Prescription drugs are another cause of insomnia as many of them can interfere with sleep. Antidepressants and other medications for asthma and blood pressure have known side effects. Lesser known is that many over-the-counter medications like acetaminophen, allergy tablets, and weight-loss pills can contain caffeine and other stimulants. These ingredients stimulate the body and can result in awakened senses, even during bedtime.
A variety of medical conditions have been linked to insomnia and the loss of sleep. Examples of these ailments include chronic pain, cancer, diabetes, heart disease, asthma, GERD (gastroesophageal reflux disease), overactive thyroid, Parkinson’s, and Alzheimer’s disease. When a person is battling illness, it can often keep their body in a state of stress and pain – making it difficult to keep a regular sleep schedule.
There are disorders that prevent you from getting rest during the nighttime hours. Sleep apnea, for example, can cause insomnia because it stops you from breathing periodically during the night. This will surely interfere with your sleep. Restless legs syndrome is another disorder that creates unpleasant sensations in your legs and an unavoidable urge to move them. Struggling with any type of sleep-related disorder significantly increases your risk of insomnia.
Caffeine, Alcohol, and Nicotine
Similar to the effects of stimulants in medication, caffeine, alcohol, and nicotine are stimulants even when partaken on their own. When you drink coffee late at night (or even in the afternoon and evening), you run the risk of being unable to fall asleep. And although alcohol can help you fall asleep, it actually prevents deeper stages of slumber and causes disturbances throughout the night. Nicotine in tobacco products also interferes with your night-time resting period. If you are struggling with insomnia, these three triggers could potentially be the cause.
Unfortunately but true, insomnia becomes more common as you get older. This is due to a variety of factors. As we age, people tend to become less active both physically and socially. Lack of exercise and lack of social interaction can cause people to take more naps during the daytime and, therefore, interfere with their sleep at night. With aging also comes chronic pain conditions like arthritis or osteoporosis, as well as prostate and bladder problems that cause frequent urination. All of these contribute to causes of insomnia.
Stress is something everyone has felt at one time or another. Whether it’s related to a school assignment, a toxic work environment, or relationships with a significant other – stressing is normal in our society. It is also one of the biggest causes of acute or transient insomnia. When someone is stressing, that is a stressor in and of itself. It can cause the person to stay awake at night, thinking about their worries and situation rather than getting rest. Although this cause of insomnia is usually temporary and clears once the stressor is removed, it can become a more prevalent problem if one is not able to adapt, remove or deal with stress.
Adjusting to a different timezone is never fun, even if that means someone is on their dream vacation. Jet lag is one of the most common causes of insomnia and it can happen to almost anyone. Because a person’s body is not used to going to sleep in the new timezone, they could find themselves suffering from insomnia. This cause will usually only last a few days, but if someone is a frequent traveler or has to visit different places for work, it may become a bigger issue as time goes on.
WHAT ARE THE COMPLICATIONS ASSOCIATED WITH INSOMNIA?
Suffering from insomnia means more than just constantly feeling tired. That fatigue can interfere and create negative implications in many different aspects of a person’s life.
Sleep is crucial in order to maintain a healthy diet and regular physical activity. When a person loses sleep, especially over a long period of time, it can begin to affect them both mentally and physically. It is even clinically proven that those with insomnia experience a lower quality of life in comparison to those who sleep well and get their needed rest.
If you find yourself suffering from insomnia, it is important to be proactive and seek out treatments in order to combat your symptoms. There are risks associated with not getting consecutive nights of adequate sleep.
Some of the consequences of insomnia may include:
- Low job performance and eventual job loss
- Poor grades and difficulty staying up to date on assignments in school
- Mental health disorders like depression, anxiety, and substance abuse
- Lowered immune system and increased risk of diseases and conditions such as high blood pressure and heart disease
While mental health disorders, diseases, and alcohol are known to cause insomnia, the opposite is also true. Struggling with the ability to sleep can cause severe anxiety and well as substance abuse for those who are worried about their problem. To avoid the risk of depression or self-medication, it is best to utilize natural remedies or seek the advice of a medical professional to help manage insomnia.
HOW COMMON IS INSOMNIA?
Insomnia is one of the most common sleep disorders. Through various studies worldwide, it has been reported that insomnia is prevalent in 10% to 30% of the global population. Those who deal with it fall into the demographic categories of older adults, females, and people with medical and mental health concerns.
The majority of sufferers experience acute and transient insomnia. On average, an adult is 30% to 35% likely to have brief symptoms of insomnia in their lifetime. 15% to 20% of adults have a short-term disorder, lasting less than three months. Approximately 10% of the population will experience chronic insomnia, which occurs at least three times per week over a three-month period.
HOW DO I KNOW IF I HAVE INSOMNIA?
Have you ever laid awake at night, tossing and turning and just not able to sleep? Or have you ever been so worried about a test or a pressing situation that your mind wouldn’t turn off and allow you to fall into slumber? If that’s the case, chances are you are experiencing some form of insomnia.
Insomnia can present itself differently, but people who have it are almost always in a state of fatigue. They still feel tired after waking up, and they find it difficult to nap during the day or get a good night’s rest even though they are extremely exhausted.
It’s important to monitor your symptoms when you experience any sleep-related concerns. This will allow you to determine whether your condition is situational, or if you require medical attention.
CAN INSOMNIA LAST FOREVER?
Insomnia can most definitely be a temporary condition, but alternately the chronic form can last and affect one’s quality of life for years on end. There is no clear-cut answer on how long someone can live with insomnia. It differs in each individual case because it largely depends on the underlying cause.
One way to better understand your experience with insomnia is to identify potential triggers. If you find yourself stressing over your job, or you notice it only occurs after taking a trip to a different time zone – you are likely suffering from an acute or transient form of insomnia.
If you can’t pinpoint the reason for your long-lasting lack of sleep, that is when you should seek medical advice from your physician. It could perhaps be a symptom of an undiagnosed medical condition.
NATURAL WAYS TO PREVENT INSOMNIA
When you can’t fall or stay asleep at night, it can lead to feelings of frustration, anger, and hopelessness. However, there are several at-home remedies you can use to help manage your insomnia before even speaking to your doctor. If you find yourself struggling with insomnia, try using the following natural methods in order to better manage your systems:
Drink Less Alcohol And Caffeine
Sometimes that steaming cup of java is the only thing we look forward to on an early morning. And often, we need another few cups just to make it to the end of our workday. We’re exhausted, we’re tired and we’re stressed. And how do we reward ourselves? A couple of glasses of wine with dinner. This is a situation that many of us find ourselves in. We’re tired all day and we rely on caffeine to keep us awake and alert. And then we go home and drink alcohol. What we might not realize is that both of these beverages are stimulants and contribute to our insomnia. The reason why we’re so tired is that we haven’t slept. And we haven’t slept because we’re overstimulated. It’s a cycle.
Luckily with the right knowledge and products, we can put an end to this cycle that seems never-ending. If you want to prevent insomnia, which is affecting multiple aspects of your life, you should start by cutting out or limiting your consumption of alcohol and caffeine.
Instead of a coffee in the late afternoon, consider a green tea or matcha latte. This recipe is absolutely easy to make and delicious to enjoy. And instead of wine or alcoholic beverages, you can try CBD sparkling beverages. Not only are these a great alternative in taste, but CBD has many relaxing properties that may allow you to fall and stay asleep faster.
Refrain From Eating Before Bed
We’ve all done it – realized we haven’t eaten dinner and proceeded to order and consume an entire pizza at 10 pm. Or woken up late at night with a sudden craving for cookies. A late dinner or a midnight snack may seem harmless but if you suffer from insomnia, the negative effects can be significant.
There is evidence to suggest that the time of food consumption plays an important role in the ability to fall asleep. When a person intakes food, the body begins to release insulin. This process is linked to the cardiac rhythm, which then signals wakefulness to the brain. Essentially when you eat, your body is using the food as fuel and that can interfere with your ability to fall asleep.
In order to avoid sleep deprivation and those overnight disturbances, remember to eat your meals at least three hours before you plan to head to bed. This remedy is easy enough to comply with, and can greatly reduce the number of nights you experience insomnia.
Incorporate Relaxing Baths
Who doesn’t enjoy a relaxing, warm bath after a stressful or busy day? When we’re feeling anxious, sad or any type of negative emotion, a bath has been known to soothe and ease our mood. Now, research has even shown that a hot bath can actually aid in preventing and treating insomnia.
A recent study suggests that taking a hot bath approximately 90 minutes before bed could help people fall asleep faster. The hot water helps change the body’s core temperature, meaning that you will go to bed with a lower-body temperature. When your body temperature drops, it sends a signal to your brain that it is time for bed.
Incorporating lavender oil and salts can further assist in a good night’s rest.
Daily Physical Activity
Exercise can seem tiring but it is actually proven to enhance your mood and give you more energy. People who exercise for 150 minutes per week have significantly fewer symptoms of insomnia than those who do not.
Now while it may seem counterproductive to partake in activities that give you more energy while struggling with insomnia, it can truly help you manage your sleep condition. Exercising is a known remedy to help reduce symptoms of depression and anxiety. When you are feeling less anxious or stressed, you will naturally be able to sleep better.
Allocate an hour of your schedule every day to physical activity of some sort. Exercise is the key to boosting your mood and energy during the day and sleeping well at night.
Yoga and Meditation
Yoga and meditation go hand-in-hand when it comes to promoting ultimate relaxation and gratitude. Yoga is an ancient practice that has alleviated stress, improved physical health, and boosted mental focus in many people around the world. It involves breathwork and posture performance, both of which help you to relax and unwind.
Meditation also focuses on breathing in a quiet setting. It encourages you to observe your feelings, thoughts, and sensations, while also allowing you to let go of any negatives you are currently experiencing. The practice of meditation can be undertaken multiple times a day, and especially during a stressful period.
Try to incorporate yoga, meditation, or both into your bedtime routine because these rituals are a great and natural way to improve your sleep schedule. You can even download the Calm app, which has thousands of guided meditations and motivations to help you prevent and treat your insomnia.
Avoid Blue Light Before Bed
You might think watching TV before bed is a good way to fall asleep. However, your television, tablets, and cellphones contain blue wavelengths, commonly known as blue light. These lights, while beneficial for energy efficiency and boosting awareness and reaction time, can actually cause major sleep disruptions and insomnia.
A Harvard study found that exposure to light can suppress the secretion of melatonin in the body. Melatonin is a hormone that is associated with the control of a human’s sleep-wake cycle. Suppression in melatonin production can lead to insomnia.
While you could consider investing in blue-light lenses, which help your eyes manage the exposure, it is best to turn off all electronic devices an hour before bedtime. This will allow your body an opportunity to rest and relax before it is time to sleep.
MELATONIN AND MAGNESIUM
As mentioned above, the body needs a healthy dose of melatonin in order to have a properly functioning sleep-wake cycle. Melatonin will not only help you fall asleep faster but will also enhance your overall quality of sleep.
Your body does produce melatonin naturally, but if you find yourself struggling with insomnia, you can also consider taking supplements. Always consult with your doctor prior to starting any vitamins, but melatonin in lower dosages is usually safe.
Magnesium is also helpful in combating insomnia. It is a naturally occurring mineral that helps to relieve stress and relax muscles. When your body is in less pain, it generally promotes better sleep. Magnesium supplements are available at any local health food store, but always be sure to read the label and never consume more than what is recommended for each individual product.
Use Comfortable Bedding
When it comes to your bedding, you want to be as comfortable as possible. There are so many factors that can contribute to insomnia, but bedding shouldn’t have to be one of them. Many companies are now sourcing the best quality materials in order to make bedsheets. They know how important the role of sleep is in everyone’s life, and they want to make it easier for people to create an environment that encourages a comfortable and relaxing slumber.
Snoozy Monk specializes in Bamboo Rayon sheets and duvets. Bamboo sheets are conducive to restful sleep due to:
- Smoothness, which helps to soothe both body and mind
- Sweat absorption, ensuring you remain comfortable and dry all night long
- Cooling and breathability, so you don’t have to worry about overheating
- Hypoallergenic and antimicrobial elements, that make sure you don’t wake up feeling congested and stuffy
If you find yourself struggling to stay comfortable at night, it’s definitely worthwhile to consider a new set of bedsheets.
The Snoozy Monk Bamboo Sheet Set is available in Double, Queen, and King in two color options: white and beige. The bamboo fibers are 100% resistant to dust. High quality and low maintenance, the sheets are easily machine washable and are sure to give you a good night’s sleep for years to come.
Also available in white and beige, the Snoozy Monk Bamboo Duvet Cover is eco-friendly and comes in both Queen and King sizes. With no harmful chemicals and the same comfort as the sheets, this duvet cover is a great option for consideration when it comes to preventing and treating insomnia. Sleep in comfort for a comfortable sleep.
OTHER WAYS TO PREVENT INSOMNIA
If a more natural approach to insomnia does not help ease your condition, it is crucial that you seek medical advice from your family physician. It is possible your sleep disruptions are a symptom of a more serious condition that could require medication or more medically-focused methods of treatment.
Your doctor will work with you to learn more about your sleep habits and will likely ask you to complete a diary each night. By keeping track of your sleep patterns, the physician can more easily determine which form of insomnia you suffer from and will make recommendations accordingly. They may suggest healthy lifestyle habits, such as keeping a more regular schedule. They may also recommend cognitive behavior therapy or medications.
If you’ve been struggling for a long time, your journey to preventing and treating insomnia may seem hopeless. However, there are so many options and treatment plans that can be undertaken to ensure you once again can enjoy a good night’s rest.
INSOMNIA IN CHILDREN
If your child is experiencing trouble sleeping three nights out of the week for several months, the issue could point to insomnia. It is extremely common for youth to experience insomnia at some point in their childhood. This could be related to nightmares, fears of bed-wetting, or just the fear of being alone in their room. Many of these insomniac issues stem from daytime habits.
When your child is cranky, moody, tired, or spaced out, it can be difficult for you to go about your regular routine. First address when the sleep condition appeared, and then analyze whether any significant changes were made to your child’s life in that time period. This could include the introduction of new medications, caffeine from sodas or energy drinks, school stress, or any incidents related to bullying, as well as any other medical issues such as allergies or skin conditions.
Some ways to help treat and prevent insomnia are to ensure your child:
- Only uses their bed for sleep (refrain from allowing them to watch TV or use any digital devices while in bed)
- Keeps the same sleep schedule every night (while it may be tempting to allow your child to stay up late on the weekends, this could lead to further disruption)
- Leads a healthy, active lifestyle (make sure your child never goes to bed too full or too hungry, and encourage them to exercise for at least one hour a day)
- Has a comfortable bedroom (keep the temperature cool, utilize a white noise fan or sound machine, and make sure the bed is not overloaded with toys)
INSOMNIA DURING PREGNANCY
Difficulty sleeping during the second and third trimesters of pregnancy is extremely common. Not only is there a burgeoning belly that disrupts comfortable positioning, but hormonal factors also become more heightened. Frequent trips to the bathroom, leg cramps, pre-birth anxiety, aches and pains, and heartburn, constipation, and morning sickness can all lead to interrupted sleep and in a lot of cases – insomnia.
Many women also experience insomnia in the first months of pregnancy. This is related to thoughts about becoming a mom, the birth and delivery process, and just any stress that is associated with bringing home a new baby. It is completely normal to feel this way in the beginning stages, and it is important to recognize any disruptions in your sleep pattern and adjust accordingly. End your night with meaningful medications, try to take a relaxing bath, and be sure to wear something comfortable to bed. Exercising and keeping busy during the day have also been shown to help improve the quality of sleep at night.
Insomnia affects millions of people every single day, or rather every night. If you find yourself experiencing nights of restless, disrupted, or incomplete sleep, it is important to address your concerns at the onset. Identify any potential stressors or triggers for your condition, and make the changes required in order to prevent further complications. This can include natural at-home remedies like changing your bed sheets or taking the medication provided by your physician.
Regardless of your treatment method, insomnia needs to be addressed in order to prevent further risks and complications. Good quality sleep is essential for your health and neglecting that can result in negative implications at work, school, or in your personal relationships.
Don’t put your health on the backburner. Manage your insomnia by treating symptoms, eliminating stress, and dealing with any chronic donations you may have. You deserve rest, so take the necessary steps in order to ensure it.
This article by Wayne Cappleman was originally published at Snoozy Monk
Featured Image Credits: Pexels
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