If you are having trouble getting to sleep and/or staying asleep, welcome to the insomnia club. There are many known causes of insomnia and it is usually a symptom of other ailments such as stress or anxiety. It can also be a by product of a sleep disorder like restless leg syndrome or sleep apnea. These are the facts on insomnia……
- The older you get, the more likely you will be affected by insomnia although circumstance can cause it in any age.
- Women suffer at a greater rate than men and it is twice as likely that they will have insomnia.
- Events in your life such as divorce, becoming separated or widowed will increase the chances of experiencing insomnia.
- According to the Center for Disease Control and Prevention more than one-quarter of all Americans report occasionally not getting enough sleep. It is estimated that about 6% of the population have insomnia.
- According to the National Sleep Foundation 25% of Americans have reported taking some form of medication to help them sleep.
What Is Insomnia?
It is defined as “habitual sleeplessness or the inability to sleep.” There are two basic types of insomnia. Acute which is short term and generally caused by an event or situation such as stress from work, family or personal problems or perhaps a single traumatic event. The insomnia generally only lasts for days or weeks. Chronic or ongoing insomnia which lasts for longer than a month is usually a side effect or symptom of a greater ailment or medical disorder.
Anybody that suffers from sleeplessness will attest to the fact that it creates a multitude of other problems. Lack of sleep leads to fatigue, trouble concentrating, irritability, anxiety and even depression in some cases. It can be like going through the day in a fog and everything becomes a chore. Work, school and family problems develop because you are not yourself anymore and you just can’t focus properly or get anything done.
It can become a vicious cycle with stress and anxiety causing insomnia, which in turn leads to greater stress, greater anxiety and a host of other problems. The longer it lasts, the worse your situation becomes. In some cases, people turn to alcohol to help them sleep. This is the start of another set of problems which compound the original problem. More and more alcohol is required and it doesn’t end up helping. The sleep that you do get is not restful and you still end up with the same symptoms like fatigue and a lack of focus and energy during the day.
The Causes Of Insomnia:
Chronic: Some of the causes of chronic insomnia include, ongoing stress, anxiety, depression and pain or discomfort at night.
- Illness or trauma causing physical or emotional discomfort.
- Changes in schedule such as jet lag or shift work.
- Some medications for asthma, allergies or high blood pressure may cause a lack of sleep.
Sleep disorders affect millions of people and appear in many different forms and levels of seriousness.
Sleep apnea is a disorder where breathing is disrupted or paused for at least 10 seconds. It can be caused by things such as, the brain’s failure to properly control breathing, or obstructive apnea which occurs when the muscles in the back of the throat fail to keep the airway open. Sleep apnea causes fragmented sleep and contributes to oxygen starvation in the body which can lead to greater problems such as mood and memory problems and even heart disease in some cases. Chronic snoring could be an indicator of sleep apnea as well as other symptoms associated with a lack of sleep. Consult a physician if you suffer from sleep apnea symptoms. If it is left untreated it more serious symptoms and medical problems can develop.
Restless Leg Syndrome (RLS) is a neurological condition that can cause insomnia and is characterized by a tingling, itching and painful feeling in your legs when you are lying down. It is so uncomfortable that you keep moving around trying to find a comfortable position. Sleep becomes impossible and relief is only found when you stand and move around. RLS is thought to be caused by an imbalance of dopamine in the system. Dopamine is a chemical found in the brain that transmits signals between the nerve cells. It is a condition that can be passed genetically and usually runs in the family. RLS at night can be reduced by implementing a few lifestyle changes.
- Avoid alcohol and cigarettes.
- Try boosting your body with natural supplements such as, iron, vitamin B, magnesium and folic acid.
- Yoga and meditation and warm baths before bed are relaxation techniques that can reduce stress compounds the sleep and RLS symptoms.
- If you are overweight losing a few pounds could help lessen the effects.
- Try to stay on a regular sleep schedule by going to bed at the same time each night.
- Do stretching exercises regularly during the day and get up and move around more.
- Try sleeping with a pillow between your legs which may prevent the nerves in your legs from compressing.
The best way to treat insomnia is to ask yourself some questions that can help you to determine the root cause of your inability to sleep.
- Are you stressed from a recent event in your life?
- Are you feeling depressed and anxious?
- Is your lifestyle and diet healthy? Are you getting fresh air, exercise, whole foods instead of packaged, and a good variety of fruits and vegetable?
- Is your routine out of whack from jet lag or change in work hours?
- Are you on any medications that could be affecting your sleep?
In many cases insomnia is just the bodies reaction to temporary life events and feelings that are not typical and it will go away on its own. Chronic insomnia that is not caused by a medical condition can be treated and improved with some lifestyle changes.
- Keep activities like eating and watching TV outside the bedroom.
- Regulate your sleep patterns by going to bed and getting up at the same time each day.
- Try not to drink anything before you go to bed. Getting up to use the washroom will disrupt your sleep patterns.
- Stay away from caffeinated drinks and limit alcohol. The use of alcohol might put you to sleep initially, but the sleep is not good because it prevents a deeper restful sleep.
- Exercise moderately a few times a week. Simple things like going for a brisk walk in the fresh air will help you to sleep better.
- Stay away from processed and fatty foods which may cause heartburn and indigestion. Avoid late night meals entirely.
- Try relaxation techniques like meditation, yoga and stretching throughout the day. They are proven methods to reduce stress, help you to sleep and promote a better mood.
- Take natural supplements such as iron, folic acid, vitamin B and melatonin.
If lifestyle changes do not help, you may want to consult your doctor about taking sleep medications. They have shown to be effective in shortening the amount of time that it takes to get to sleep, and also increasing the duration of sleep.
Good luck and please leave comments and ideas below. Thanks.