Do you spend hours struggling to get to sleep, even if you’re exhausted? Or do you wake up during the night only to toss and turn with mounting frustration and anger as the hours tick by on the clock? You’re not alone. Insomnia is a universal problem.
Insomnia can have a major effect on your mood, energy level, and ability to accomplish your daily tasks and activities. Severe insomnia can even impact your health, causing such problems as diabetes, obesity, high blood pressure and heart disease.
Insomnia is characterized by the inability to achieve the proper amount of sleep necessary to wake up in the morning feeling refreshed and revitalized. Since everybody is different and requires varying amounts of sleep, insomnia is determined by the quality of your slumber and how you feel when you awaken—not the actual amount of sleeping hours or how fast you fall sleep. Even if you are in bed eight hours a night, if you feel sleepy and worn-out during the day, you probably have insomnia.
Insomnia, more often than not, however, it is not one individual sleep disorder. Usually, insomnia is symptomatic of some other problem. The issue that is at the root of the insomnia varies between individuals. It might be something as simple as too much daily caffeine consumption or a more complicated problem like a particular medical condition or feeling overwhelmed by life’s demands and pressures.
Many people may suffer from insomnia as a result of the following psychological causes:
- Anxiety is a condition consisting of elevated levels of tension, uneasiness, agitation and worry. These emotions stem from the impact of interpersonal relationships (inside and outside of work), financial concerns, and other causes.
- Stress happens as a result of a person’s physical and emotional reactions to the demanding pressures of life. A certain amount of stress in one’s life is useful to achieve goals, but too much can cause acute health problems.
- Depression is mental disorder characterized by symptoms of sadness, hopelessness, and despair.
- Bipolar disorder (or manic–depressive disorder) is a serious psychiatric condition in which people experience drastic mood swings between sky-high euphoria and deep depression.
- Post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) is a severe affliction where a person exhibits symptoms of extreme fear and powerlessness after being exposed to a horrific event where death or grievous bodily harm was present or threatened.
- Other mental disorders like schizophrenia, obsessive-compulsive disorder, or dementia.
Unfortunately, some of these psychological conditions can actually develop as a result of sleep deprivation, creating a vicious cycle. Various medical healthcare professionals such as doctors, psychotherapists and other specialists should be consulted to help with these issues.
Here are some common physical problems linked to insomnia:
- Changing level of hormones in women. Women will experience fluctuating levels of hormones during PMS, menstruation, pregnancy, premenopause, perimenopause, menopause and postmenopause.
- Medical problems. These include allergies, asthma, arthritis, back problems, cancer, chronic pain, gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD), heart disease, heart failure, high blood pressure, lung disease, lower abdominal pain, hyperthyroidism, Parkinson disease, stroke, and Alzheimer’s disease.
- Age related health problems. Men over the age of 50 may develop an enlarged prostate gland (benign prostatic hyperplasia), which often interrupts their sleep as a result of frequent urination. Older women may experience equally disruptive conditions in the form of hot flashes and night sweats due to the onset of menopause.
- Pain. Pain and tenderness due to an injury or medical ailment often make sleeping a challenge.
- Increased medication usage. Many medications prescribed to aid the above mentioned ailments can in themselves cause insomnia. Plus, as people become older, they generally use more prescription drugs, which increases their odds of having insomnia.
- Genetics. Certain families can share insomnia issues, even though researchers cannot yet explain why genetics is a factor.
- Physical exercise. Although exercise generally aids in fighting insomnia, if done too close too bedtime, the body will be too stimulated to fall asleep. Also, due to their rigorous exercise routines and schedules, athletes can acquire a condition known as sleep onset latency.
- Other disorders related to sleep. These ailments are disruptive in a more physical manner. Sleep Apnea, Restless Legs Syndrome, Periodic Limb Movement Disorder (PLMD) and Parasomnias, such as Sleepwalking, Nightmares, Night Terrors and REM Behavior Disorder fall into this category.
Short-term insomnia may be connected to situations and events that will eventually pass, such as:
- Adjustment sleep disorder. This particular sleep problem is brought about by stress or some horrible experience such as the loss of a loved one, or a seemingly insignificant event like a change of seasons or having a quarrel with someone.
- Jet lag. People often experience spells of insomnia after traveling across time zones.
- Night shifts and overtime. People working late and early shifts or working long hours can experience difficulty modifying their sleep habits due to a disruption in their circadian rhythms (sleep-wake cycle).
- Caffeine, nicotine and alcohol. Coffee, tea, soft drinks, energy drinks, chocolate and various medications all contain the stimulant, caffeine. Too much caffeine too close to bedtime can prevent you from getting to sleep at night. Nicotine is another stimulant that can also keep you awake. Although alcohol may help you relax and fall asleep faster, it can lead to disjointed sleep that causes you to wake up during the night. Alcohol also prevents you from entering into the deeper phases of sleep that provide the most health benefits.
- Medications. Insomnia can be caused by various prescription and over-the-counter medications. Overuse of over-the-counter or prescription sleep medications (sedative or depressant drugs) can result in rebound insomnia.
- Fluoroquinolone antibiotics. Use of these drugs may cause severe sleep difficulties.
- Environmental noise and severe temperatures. Constant or intermittent noise and extreme heat or cold present challenges to healthy sleep.
- Poor sleep hygiene. Poor sleep hygiene is a result of bad habits like an inconsistent sleep schedule, amped-up activities too close bedtime, or using your bed for activities that aren’t either sleep or sex.
- ‘Learned’ insomnia. This condition appears as a result of constant anxiety and apprehension about not being able to get to sleep. These individuals sleep better when their sleep environment is changed or when they don’t focus on trying to get sleep. Light reading or some other relaxing activity helps remedy this predicament.
- Late night snacking. A small nosh before bedtime is fine, but eating large amounts of food can make you feel bloated and uncomfortable when you lie down to go to sleep. This activity may also cause you heartburn, or acid reflux which will more than likely keep you awake.
- Changing sleep patterns. As a person ages, it’s common to become more sensitive to noises and environmental changes, which results in frequent awakenings and sleep that isn’t as restful. As you grow older, your body’s internal clock often readjusts to an earlier schedule, causing you to become sleepy earlier after dark and to wake up earlier when morning comes. This doesn’t mean however, that older people require less sleep than younger people do. 7-8 hours of sleep is still the optimum amount for most people, young or old.
- Diminishing melatonin levels. Melatonin is the hormone that regulates sleep. As a person becomes older, melatonin levels begin to decrease. By the time one reaches 60, there is very little melatonin being produced by the body.
- Changes in activity. Older people’s lifestyles often become less physically and socially active. Less activities means less energy being expended which means more difficulty getting to sleep. A daily nap routine can also cause problems when trying to fall asleep at night.
- Health changes. Pain from infirmities like arthritis and back pain as well as anxiety, depression and stress can create sleeping difficulties. Aging men commonly develop enlarged prostate glands, causing frequent urination, which in turn interrupts sleep. With women, menopause generated hot flashes and night sweats can be equally bothersome. Other conditions which cause sleep complications, like restless legs syndrome and sleep apnea affect more people as they age.
- Increased medication usage. As people become older, they generally use more prescription drugs, which increases their odds of getting insomnia.
So, there are the depressing facts. But don’t worry, in many cases, minor adjustments to your lifestyle and daily routine can help your sleeping problems, and maybe get rid of insomnia for good!
Read: How to go to Sleep – 48 Tips to Help Cure your Insomnia for simple solutions to your sleep problems.
Other insomnia related articles:
Types of Insomnia
Diet and Insomnia – Foods That Cause Insomnia
Diet and Insomnia – Foods to Help You Sleep
Allergies and Insomnia
Should you use Antihistamines for Insomnia?
Aromatherapy for Insomnia – It makes Scents
Acupressure for Insomnia – Getting to the point
The Benefits of Using Acupuncture for Insomnia
Menopause and Insomnia
Meditation to Help Cure Insomnia
Hypnosis for Insomnia
Children and Insomnia
Alcohol and Insomnia
Twelve Tips to Prevent the Effects of Jet Lag
American Sleep Association
614 South 8th St., Suite 282
Philadelphia, PA 19147
American Sleep Association
National Sleep Foundation
1522 K Street, NW, Suite 500,
Washington, DC 20005
National Sleep Foundation
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