Insomnia

The majority of us have likely experienced moments when we find it difficult to sleep or stay asleep. It’s pretty much part of human nature, especially since as humans, we tend to overthink or become emotional during moments when we should be getting sleep.

But on the other hand, if sleeplessness happens for you constantly, then you might have chronic insomnia. It’s when you find it difficult to get some sleep, staying asleep, or you wake up too early regardless of how tired you are the night before. Ask yourself this—does it take thirty minutes or more for you to fall asleep at night? Or do you experience being stirred awake all of a sudden and you find it difficult to get back to sleep? If you said yes to both questions and you experience them at least three times a week, then you really have insomnia.

What are the types of insomnia?

There are two main types of insomnia:

Primary Insomnia

It means that your sleeping problems are not connected to any underlying health issues or lifestyle choices

Secondary Insomnia

This is the kind of insomnia that happens because you may have a health condition that hinders you from getting a good night’s rest such as depression, arthritis, chronic pain, etc. or you regularly take substances that affect your sleep.

What causes insomnia?

Insomnia can be caused by a myriad of reasons such us underlying psychiatric or medical issues, unhealthy sleeping patterns, use of certain substances, and it may even run in families. There have been recent studies wherein researchers concluded that insomnia is caused by your brain not being able to “shut off.” However, it’s still best to consult a doctor to know the main reason and what you can do to alleviate it.

Media reasons why you might have insomnia

There’s a whole bunch of medical issues that are associated with insomnia. Sometimes, it’s the issue itself that causes the sleeplessness, while other times, it’s the symptoms.

If you have any of the following, then you’re more likely to have insomnia:

  • Gastroesophageal reflux disease
  • Chronic pain
  • Back problems
  • Hyperthyroidism
  • Asthma
  • Sinusitis
  • Parkinson’s disease

Some medications used for the treatment or relief of colds, hypertension, cardiovascular disease, birth control, and depression can cause insomnia.

Additionally, insomnia can be considered as a symptom of other sleep disorders. One instance is with restless legs syndrome wherein a patient has the crippling need to constantly move or shake their legs regardless of the situation. This urge can actually develop into insomnia, as restless leg syndrome tend to get worse during the latter part of the day and during periods of inactivity.

Another condition linked to insomnia is sleep apnea aka chronic snoring. However, sleep apnea can be potentially life threatening as it usually happens when your airway becomes partially or fully blocked during sleep, affecting your breathing and waking you up on and off during the night. Most people with sleep apnea complain that they also experience insomnia.

If you find it difficult to sleep on an almost daily basis, you may need to evaluate the status of your health and consider seeing a doctor to officially diagnose you. While sometimes, you may not be able to sleep because of stimuli such as lights and sounds in your bedroom; it’s still much better to talk to a doctor to determine if you truly have insomnia and what you can do to get some sleep.

Depression and how it can cause insomnia

Depression can cause a person to either sleep a lot, or not at all—leading to insomnia. Since psychological troubles such as depression already wreaks havoc on a person’s system, insomnia can make things even more difficult to deal with. It’s either the sleeplessness can get worse, or the sadness can become unbearable. The good thing about this is the fact that both conditions can be treated, even at the same time. That’s why it’s always best to approach a doctor when you’re experiencing difficulty in sleeping—it makes your brain tired and prone to even more issues.

There are also some cases wherein the brain’s neurotransmitters fail to provide signals of when to sleep and wake up to your body. And since the brain is a complicated organ, there are certain chemical processes that it does that could determine why you and some blood relatives of yours are more likely to experience sleeplessness. That’s right—sometimes insomnia just happens without any probably cause despite having good sleep hygiene.

Are you too anxious to sleep?

Most, if not all, adults tend to be too anxious or worried about things in their lives that it hinders them from sleeping well. Some symptoms of anxiety that can affect sleep may include:

  • Overthinking about the past
  • Worrying about the future
  • Overwhelming responsibilities
  • Overstimulation

It’s obvious as to why these symptoms can keep people awake at night and why anxiety is always associated with insomnia. Another reason is the fact that once night falls and everything becomes quiet, people get more opportunities to worry and stress instead of resting.

Insomnia and how you live your life

Your lifestyle can also greatly affect your sleeping patterns.  Some habits that may trigger your insomnia may include:

  • Taking your work home from the office. Once you’ve clocked out, you should prepare your body to unwind instead of focusing on even more work. The LED lights from gadgets can also make your brain “wake up”
  • Taking naps in the afternoon, regardless of how short, can boost your energy and make it hard for you to get some shuteye at night.
  • Putting your body clock out of whack by making up for lost sleep. This is especially common for people who work irregular hours. It confuses your body and makes it extra difficult to rest because your bedtime consists of having the sun shining outside while birds are chirping.

There are cases wherein insomnia begins with a specific event that caused you to lose sleep and it eventually evolved into a much bigger issue with sleeping. Example, you weren’t able to sleep for a couple of nights because of something that bothered you. You then begin to notice that your body has started to refuse to rest properly even after the event because it got used to running on zero sleep, therefore becoming a worse problem. Your insomnia gets kick started because your brain starts to associate bedtime with restlessness.

Diet and insomnia

Certain substances that are consumed by people regularly can give you insomnia. While not everyone gets affected by these substances, each body is different. Check and see if you’re regularly putting these things in your body: 

Caffeine

There’s a reason why it’s best consumed in the morning. Caffeine is a stimulant that can wake you up and keep your alert. If taken moderately, caffeine can be quite helpful, but excessive consumption can lead to bigger problems.

Studies have shown that people who ingest four or more servings of caffeine per day are more likely to experience insomnia a few nights per week. This is because caffeine doesn’t get expelled from your system until at least after eight hours, so it’s best to lay off the coffee and/or soda before bed.

Alcohol

While there are people who ingest alcoholic drinks to put them to sleep, it can actually disrupt your rest throughout the night. Plus, you may or may not get a wicked hangover upon waking up.

Nicotine

Just like with caffeine, cigarettes are stimulants that can help keep you awake. Try to avoid lighting up before bedtime so you can sleep like a baby through the night.

Eating heavy meals before bed

Having a midnight snack is fine, but eating a full meal prior to bedtime can only keep you awake. Insomnia begins because you’re going to feel uncomfortable when you lie down after eating. Plus, you may experience heartburn by doing so.

Diagnosis of insomnia

If you feel as if you may have insomnia, schedule a visit to your doctor as soon as you can. You may need to undergo physical exams, and maybe even a sleep study to determine if you have insomnia or a different sleeping disorder. You may also get asked to provide a sleep diary for a couple of weeks so you can have a record of your sleeping habits that can be evaluated by an expert during your next visit.

Treatment of insomnia

Mild insomnia can easily be relieved by sleep hygiene. Your doctor may also prescribe some mild sleeping pills for a period of time to help your sleep. Alternatively, melatonin supplements can help you get some rest so you can avoid feeling groggy or drowsy during the daytime. Also, as much as possible, avoid self-medicating and buying over the counter “cures” for insomnia as they can have nasty side effects or make you dependent.

For chronic insomnia, your doctor would first give you a course of action to treat your medical condition so you can get rid of insomnia. If the problem persists, behavioral therapy may be required so your body can have a restful sleep.

Sleep hygiene to prevent insomnia

Good sleeping habits, also known as sleep hygiene, are techniques that you can apply to yourself to help you get adequate rest at night and get over insomnia. Here are some things that you can try out:

  • Buy thick, heavy curtains for your bedroom that block out any and all light from the outside from entering your room.
  • If you live in an area where noise is a constant issue, invest in a good pair of high-quality earplugs or a white noise machine to drown out sounds.
  • Avoid using your gadgets to help fall asleep as the lights from these devices can wake your brain up.
  • Go to sleep at the same time every night and set your alarm for the same hour in the morning. Avoid taking naps during the daytime so your body will feel more ready for bed at night.
  • Avoid consuming coffee and lighting up a cigarette before bed, as both of these things have substances that act as stimulants.
  • Don’t drink alcohol to help yourself sleep. While it does make your feel groggy and sleepy, it also gives you a low-quality rest that can easily get disrupted.
  • Don’t exercise before you go to bed. Strenuous activities won’t tire you out all the time and can only keep your blood pumping instead of putting your body at rest.
  • Don’t use your bed for anything other than sleeping or making love with your partner.
  • If you find it difficult to sleep, get up and find an activity that’s not over stimulating and do it until you feel sleepy enough to return to bed.