What is Insomnia?
Insomnia is a sleep disorder that directly affects your ability to get a sufficient amount of sleep to wake up feeling refreshed. If you are not getting enough sleep to feel properly rested, then you may have some form of insomnia. There are many types, causes and treatments for this sleep disorder and I will go over them in this post. Let's get into it...
Symptoms of Insomnia
There are many symptoms of insomnia, some of them may be obvious while others can seem a little obscure. Insomnia can also be a symptom of something else. There are other sleep disorders that have not sleeping as a main symptom like sleep apnea. But more on that later. Here are the most common symptoms of insomnia.
- Difficulty falling asleep at night
- Awakening during the night
- Awakening too early
- Not feeling well rested after a night's sleep
- Daytime tiredness or sleepiness
- Irritability, depression or anxiety
- Difficulty paying attention, focusing on tasks or remembering
- Increased errors or accidents
- Tension headaches
- Distress in the stomach and intestines (gastrointestinal tract)
- Ongoing worries about sleep
If you have any of these symptoms, then you may have insomnia. This sleep disorder affects 1 in 4 US workers at some point in their lives. They range from being classed as “short-term insomnia” and “chronic insomnia”.
Short-term insomnia usually only lasts for up to 3 months at the most. This occurs in 15-20 percent of people
While chronic insomnia is much worse where the symptoms of insomnia can last for much longer. Three times or more per week for more than 3 months. This occurs in about 10 percent of people.
Why Can’t I Sleep?
Now to properly take control of your insomnia, you will need to be a ‘rest detective’ of sorts. A range of emotional issues like:
Attribute to about half of all known insomnia cases. Also, your daytime habits, bedtime routine and physical health can be a factors as well. In some cases, insomnia can only last a few days and resolve itself without intervention. Especially when the cause is temporary stress like; an upcoming event or bad relationship breakup. Although, chronic insomnia sufferers usually have an underlying psychological or medical issue.
- Emotional distress or psychological problems. While Anxiety and Depression are two of the most common causes of chronic insomnia. There are other emotional and psychological causes like:
- Chronic or significant life stress
- Bipolar Disorder
- Illness or medical issues. Assorted diseases and medical conditions can be associated with insomnia. Some of these include:
- Acid Reflux
- Parkinson’s Disease
- Kidney Disease
- Chronic Pain
- A lot of prescription drugs can inhibit your sleep, like:
- Stimulants for ADHD
- Some Contraceptives
- Thyroid Hormone
- High Blood Pressure Medications
- Over-the-counter remedies that contain alcohol like cold and flu medicine.
- Pain Relievers that contain caffeine, diuretics and Diet pills.
- Sleep Disorders. Insomnia is a sleep disorder itself, but it can also be a symptom of something else. Other sleep disorders have insomnia as a symptom, these include sleep apnea, circadian rhythm disturbances tied to jet-lag or shift work and restless legs syndrome.
Here are some things that you may not think about when struggling to get to sleep.
Are any of these true?
- Sleep environment too noisy, too bright or not very comfortable?
- Do you use the computer, a smartphone, tablet or watch TV in bed?
- Do you consume caffeinated drinks within 8 hours of going to bed?
- Is your sleep schedule all over the place?
- Do you exercise late at night?
- Do you normally drink alcohol to get to sleep?
If you answered yes to any of those, then you should try to address these before going any further.
Adopting Some New Habits May Help You Sleep Better
- Make yourself a sleep schedule and stick to it.
- Don’t take naps.
- Limit your intake of nicotine, alcohol and caffeine.
- Avoid eating late at night.
- Exercise regularly.
Other considerations might be:
- Ensure that where you sleep is cool, dark and quiet.
- Try to avoid and sort of stressful situation or any stimulating activity before bed.
- Turn off your electronic devices like computer, TV, phone or tablet at least an hour before going to bed.
Other Sleep Disorders
Insomnia is the most easily recognizable of the sleep disorders. However, it's not the only sleep disorder that stops you from getting a good night sleep. Sleep apnea is another of the more common sleep disorders.
What is Sleep Apnea?
Well it is where the muscles in the tongue relax in a way that cause it to obstruct the airway. At this point no air can get down your throat and into your lungs. This is called an apnea, each apnea can last from a few seconds to a few minutes. In severe cases, some patients have been recorded having hundreds in a night!
The interruptions to air flow cause the oxygen level in the blood to decrease. Which reduces the supply of fresh oxygen to vital organs, like the heart and brain. The brain quickly realizes and briefly wakes up, to try and 'jolt' the cardiovascular system and clear the airway.
Your partner may notice you gasping for air or hear a choking sound. You may not realize yourself, but your brain could be waking up hundreds of times during the night. This takes a massive toll on the brain and body as a result. The biggest danger is it can raise your blood pressure and heart rate, also change your bodies processes. If not treated you could end up with diabetes or hypertension.
Some of the main symptoms of sleep apnea are:
- Slight breaks in breathing while asleep.
- Chronic loud snoring.
- Gasping for air or choking during sleep.
- Feeling tired during the day, regardless of how long you were in bed.
- Waking during the night feeling out of breath.
If you are experiencing any of those symptoms, you could have obstructive sleep apnea. You need to see a sleep doctor. Have them conduct a sleep study on you. That way they can diagnose your sleep apnea. They will tell you if you have mild sleep apnea or chronic sleep apnea. That way they can provide you with the appropriate sleep apnea treatment for you.
What causes sleep apnea? I hear you say...
Most of the causes of sleep apnea can be prevented or changed. Here are the main ones:
- Over the age of 50
- A smoker
- High blood pressure
- A thick neck
- Black, Hispanic or Pacific Islander
- Related to someone with sleep apnea
Obviously not all of those can be changed, but some can. However,The ones you can control could help you lessen your sleep deprivation greatly. So my advice is if you have difficulty sleeping, you should consult a sleep doctor. They will help you to finally get back to the point where you a getting more deep sleep.