Insomnia causes problems in varying degrees for many of us. I think it's safe to say we've all dealt with sleepless nights at some point in our lives.
But many of us may not realize the health problems caused by Insomnia and just how serious a lack of good sleep can be. People who suffer from it not only have trouble falling asleep, but they may also have difficulty staying asleep.
What is Insomnia?
Insomnia is a sleep disorder which simply put, causes the inability for us to sleep through the night, either with trouble falling asleep or staying asleep. Insomnia causes millions of people each year to lose sleep, gain weight, and to generally just feel lousy until they do sleep.
-If you suffer from chronic insomnia, it makes sense to go see your doctor, as Insomnia can cause numerous mental and physical health problems if left untreated.
When you can't sleep it can certainly be frustrating. You may feel stressed and much more emotional than normal, without even knowing why.
-This lack of sleep can make us a lot more vulnerable to illness and weight gain as well. Depression has also been linked to insomnia. Additionally, focus, memory loss and coordination are all affected by poor sleep.
Insomnia is one of nearly a hundred sleep disorders, other forms are discussed in the following video:
Treating insomnia often means not only more time sleeping, but also getting a better quality sleep as well for overall improved health. You can sleep 8 hours every night and still be suffering with insomnia.
Understanding the causes of your insomnia can help you to make some changes to treat it, and hopefully to get more sleep.
#1 Underlying Health Conditions -Many health conditions are known to be insomnia causes. Any condition that affects breathing, such as allergies, asthma or even snoring can cause your (or their) insomnia.
Chronic pain, and often the medications that may be taken for pain, Parkinson's disease, Cancer, Hyperthyroidism, Kidney disease, Arthritis, Acid reflux and even heartburn can cause insomnia.
-High blood pressure can also be one of the causes of insomnia; conversely, insomnia may cause high blood pressure as well.
#2 Other Sleep Disorders (also see video above)
-Narcolepsy: Sudden uncontrollable episodes of deep sleep, even during the daylight hours.
-Sleep Apnea: Breathing difficulty or even a brief stopping of breathing
-Restless Leg Syndrome or RLS: Where unpleasant sensations or even pain in the legs can cause an urge or need to move the legs -Parasomnias: During sleep, nightmares or other disruptions of sleep.
All can interfere with restful sleep, causing insomnia.
#3 Stimulants -Caffeine, nicotine and herbal stimulants all interfere with a sound sleep. Caffeine in particular can stay in your body for more than eight hours, bothering many people's dreams. If you take an "extra strength" pain reliever at bedtime, quite often the extra -is caffeine!
If you have trouble sleeping and drink a lot of coffee, tea, soda or any drink with caffeine in it, try reducing your intake or eliminating it altogether after lunch. (Or better yet, try decaf or caffeine free)
#4 Medications -Many medications are insomnia causes. (Check the label) We know that drinking caffeinated beverages, smoking and other stimulants can cause trouble sleeping. However, some medications that may not contain stimulants have also been known causes of insomnia.
Prescription and over the counter decongestants and antihistamines, taken for colds and flu. Anti-depressants and many weight loss products can also cause sleep problems. Withdrawal symptoms from various prescription medications are also among the many insomnia causes.
#5 Depression or Psychological Problems
People with Post-traumatic stress and Manic depression (Bipolar) often have difficulty sleeping. More than half of all people receiving treatment for depression have reported symptoms of insomnia.
#6 Relationship Problems or Traumatic Events -A recent divorce, breakup or traumatic event can often cause short-term insomnia.
#7 Change in Sleeping Schedule or Environment
-Starting a new job with a radical change in work hours and the new bedtime that often comes with it can cause insomnia for a time.
Our 24-hour "body clock" (or circadian rhythm) is disturbed in large part by daylight and night darkness. When we try to go to sleep in daylight, the body takes some time to get used to this reversal. A good idea if this is a problem for you, is to take naps until you get used to the change.
-Some may never become used to this change and instead learn to live with a certain lack of sleep, often suffering from poor health as a result. (And never make the connection)
Moving your home to a new area that is particularly noisy (or even too quiet) or extremely bright can cause sleepless nights for many. Usually this can be corrected if the time is taken to do so, for instance earplugs can be used for noise, window and eye shades for light, etc.
#8 Stress and Anxiety -Two of the most common insomnia causes are anxiety and stress. Anxiety and often the stress that causes it, keep millions of people awake at night. They prevent us from falling asleep quickly. And when we wake in the middle of the night, anxiety can make it very difficult to get back to sleep. And, if it's chronic (long-lasting) stress and anxiety you suffer from, it's usually chronic insomnia as well.
The secret to eliminating this cause is to manage our stress. Change your lifestyle so you're exposed to less stress and anxiety. Learn to manage stress better. Find ways to help your body vent the daily stress.
-Go for a run or bike ride after work, exercise is great for stress relief.
#9 Diet -Our daily diet has a profound impact on our sleep. Eating a diet that's rich in fat and sugar sets you up for a poor night's sleep.
Take a look at your daily diet and make a few changes. Concentrate on what you eat for your last meal of the day and make some changes. Eat smaller meals, and don't eat anything at all 4 hours before bedtime.
-Eating a diet that is abundant in nutrients, protein and fiber can make a huge difference in your quality of sleep. (Keeps you slim and trim too!)
Quiz - Do You Have Insomnia? (Insomnia Symptoms)
It may seem obvious, but it's not always that simple.
-Here's a list of questions to help you to determine if you have insomnia:
1. Do you have trouble falling asleep, even when tired?
2. Does your mind wander, active with thoughts, while you're trying to get to sleep?
3. Is it often difficult for you to stay asleep?
4. Do you wake too early in the morning, or in the middle of the night?
5. Are you often tired when you wake as if you didn't get enough sleep?
6. Do you feel irritable, exhausted and stressed during the daytime?
7. Is it common practice to drink alcohol before bed to help sleep?
8. Are you experiencing memory problems or do you have trouble with concentration during the day?
-Chances are if you answered yes to even 1 of these questions, you are suffering at least to some degree with insomnia. Even if you feel you are sleeping enough hours each night, it may not be quality sleep.
Just as many of the daily habits (smoking, coffee, diet etc.) and health conditions may be our insomnia causes; insomnia in turn can be the cause of a number of mental and physical health problems as well.
-Because sleep is so important to our overall health, chronic insomnia is a very serious condition. Chronic insomnia can cause depression, anxiety and an inability to manage the stress most of us deal with every day.
Although chronic insomnia causes your metabolism to speed up, it can actually cause weight gain, and in some cases even obesity. Because with the lack of sleep, the body may not be able to metabolize carbs as well, leading to increased fat storage and higher levels of blood sugar.
-Studies have also shown that insomnia causes a disruption in certain hormones in the body, which in turn results in an increased appetite.
It can also weaken the immune system, be a major contributor to diabetes, high blood pressure and heart disease as well.
-The irritability and lack of attention can disrupt relationships, cause automobile and various other forms of accidents where focus is required.
Not all insomnia is the same. In fact, there are three different types of insomnia. Knowing which type you have is important. It can help you to make smart decisions about treatment. Knowing the types of insomnia can help you decide if a visit to the doctor is necessary.
-The Types of Insomnia: (based on duration)
Transient Insomnia -Transient insomnia causes sleeplessness that lasts for a very short interval and is the type most have experienced at one time or other. (Comes and goes) -Usually lasts less than a week.
Acute Insomnia -Or short-term insomnia causes sleeplessness that occurs from one night to a few weeks. (Less than a month)
-Transient and acute insomnia may occur during travel when sleep is disrupted, or everyday life disturbances, (anxious, illness, stress etc.) and will disappear when a return to a regular sleep pattern is resumed.
Chronic Insomnia -Chronic Insomnia is by far the more serious of the types of insomnia, causing sleeplessness that lasts longer than 3-4 weeks, and occurs at least three nights a week, often more.
-Physicians also further categorize insomnia into primary insomnia or secondary insomnia. (based on the insomnia causes)
Primary insomnia -Means that the insomnia "stands alone" and is the primary disorder, it is not caused by any other health condition.
For example, medications or a health condition such as sleep apnea can be insomnia causes. If there are not any contributing issues it is said to be primary insomnia, this includes about 20% of insomnia cases.
Obviously, there has to be a cause as well for primary insomnia. It is believed it may be caused by a prolonged period of stress; the resulting anxiety from this stress then causes the initial sleeplessness. Future episodes stem from the frustration and subsequent arousing effect of the resulting failure to go to, or get back to sleep.
However, if your insomnia is caused by another condition or something else (caffeine, alcohol etc.), it is said to be secondary insomnia. Much more common than primary insomnia, secondary insomnia is a symptom of another underlying health condition or sleep disturbance.
-Any health condition that causes enough discomfort as to interrupt sleep patterns can lead to secondary insomnia.
Regardless of the cause of your insomnia, it is strongly recommended that you see your physician if your insomnia lasts longer than three weeks. When it becomes "Chronic Insomnia" - it's time for a doctor's help.
-Additionally, it's likely the lack of sleep is interfering with your daily life and activities at this point, so you need to seek professional help.
"The best bridge between despair and hope is a good night's sleep."
~E. Joseph Cossman
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