Sleep is very important for our overall health and well being. Disruption in sleep not only affects our daily routine but more importantly it has a severe effect on our physical and mental productivity. But, in the modern competitive world, due to excessive work pressure, unhealthy lifestyles and over- dependency on electronic gadgets, sleep deprivation has become a common problem.
Are you one of those who is suffering from sleep deprivation? Do you have difficulty having deep and sound sleep and you spend sleepless nights thinking why can’t I sleep? Then this article is meant for you. Many of you might well have a fair amount of knowledge about it. Still, it is recommended to go through the points again. You might find out the cause and the fix to it which has been skipped earlier.
What is insomnia ?
Generally, Insomnia means inability to sleep. Individuals are said to be suffering from Insomnia if it is difficult for them to fall asleep or to stay asleep or both.
The easier it is to give the medical and scientific meaning of insomnia, tougher it becomes to go through the process which can only be felt by those who go through that pain – EACH night.
Effects Of Insomnia
Besides short hours of sleep, other health problems gradually get associated with Insomnia. These are the signs and symptoms showing the effect of sleeplessness in our body.
- Constant tiredness
- Loss in appetite
- Increased Depression
- Poor concentration
- Mood swings
- Alcohol and drug dependence
- Interference with the ability to think properly during the day
- Daytime sleepiness
Types Of Insomnia
This type of Insomnia generally stays for short-term, say from one night to a week. Sleep deprivation in Insomnia can be caused due to temporary emotional or mental stress like a recent heartbreak, disruption in circadian rhythm disorder or noise. Generally, it resolves on its own as soon as the problem ends.
If it lasts for more than one month, it is chronic insomnia. In this case, sleep deprivation is caused due to various psychiatric and physical problems like stress, depression, anxiety, extreme pain and discomfort due to some underlying problem.
Studies reveal that Insomnia can be the root cause of a various psychiatric problem to the extent of 34 times more than any other reason.
What are the causes of insomnia?
- Body pain [ chronic pain, arthritis ]: Generally for sound sleep, a quiet environment is required. But the problem with chronic pain patients is that quiet environment creates more problems for them as their focus is now totally on their pain. They need to have some distractions at that time to subside the ‘loudness’ of their pain so that they can sleep faster.
- Neurological conditions [ Parkinson’s disease, restless leg syndrome]: There are certain neurological conditions which aggravate because of movement disorders, like RLS ( Restless Leg Syndrome). The problem starts as soon as a person relaxes to sleep. It causes disruption in or onset of sleep resulting in poor quality of sleep and its consequences.
- Medications: Some kind of medications have a serious effect on your sleep pattern and it can become chronic too. In my case, it is the steroids which I use after my Kidney transplant. Antidepressants or medications used to treat Hypertension, lupus, rheumatoid arthritis may cause Insomnia. Identified side effects of these medicines include nausea, leg pain, cramps, frequent urination, all of which causes disruption in sleep.
- Hormonal imbalances: We have a wake-up hormone which is low at bedtime so that we can sleep peacefully. If the secretion of this hormone gets disrupted, you can guess what will follow then. Hormonal imbalances are very often seen in women during and after pregnancy, premenopausal phase or during menopause. They feel exhausted but weird that they can’t fall asleep still. Steroids also cause hormonal imbalance.
The Fix :
- In some cases, some of the patients with chronic pain and certain neurological conditions have benefitted from Chiropractic Neurology. The best thing about this therapy is that the Chiropractic neurologists do not use medications or surgery for treatment. Instead, they use the functional methods like exercises, strengthening of brain, spinal cord and nerves through different techniques.
- Installing bed trapeze for patients of Parkinson’s disease can be of much help as it allows easy movement on the bed.
- People on medications should ask their doctors if they have been prescribed any medicine which has an effect on sleep. Your doctor may change the doses or may change the timing of some night pills to morning.
- Hormonal imbalances are generally due to Adrenal imbalance or low estrogen level. Daily lifestyle and dietary changes are recommended and often adrenal test, Adrenal health support and hormone replacement therapy is prescribed by doctors. Always consult an expert and gather information about the pros and cons, after-effects.
Psychological factors :
- Stress: Stress is the major culprit of insomnia resulting into sleep deprivation. It may be concerning about your health or someone close to you, or about financial, relationship matters. In this situation, a person is just unable to shut off his thoughts.
- Anxiety: Anxiety and Insomnia go hand in hand. You may have a performance anxiety or a test anxiety if you are tensed about any upcoming event like an academic exam, job interview, presentation or executing any responsible task.
- Depression: Even a mild depression, like having a feeling of helplessness or worthlessness or a loss of interest can be the cause of Insomnia. Sometimes in desperation, they start taking sleeping pills.
The Fix :
- Try to find out the reason behind your stress, anxiety or depression. Write down all the problems. Sometimes writing everything down in a notebook reduces the heavy–feeling of the heart, relaxes our mind. Once you are relaxed, work on a step by step solution to it.
- It is not important to be totally anxiety-free to cure Insomnia. But you can handle it cleverly. Just decide first that you can and you will get through it.
- Most importantly, you will have to change your mental habits, that is, your thought patterns which have gradually embedded due to chronic sleeplessness. Your normal nature and behavior to think negative and to become stressed and anxious at every silly reason should be worked upon.
- Take every situation as a challenge. A change in perspective will build your confidence and increase your willingness to tackle the problem head-on.
- There are certain medications also available to de-stress you by relaxing your muscles and nerves. But they are not permanent solutions to the problem. Moreover, these medications will sooner or later have an adverse effect on your health. Sometimes these medicines also lead to Insomnia. For example, Depression causes Insomnia and consumption of antidepressants lead to Insomnia too. Natural remedies should be on focus more.
- CBT or Cognitive Behavioral Therapy for Insomnia is considered best for removing the stress and anxiety level and also helping with sleep pattern. This method challenges unhealthy beliefs and negative thoughts and corrects it by promoting positive and realistic thoughts. Here is an infographic on changing the thought process through CBT.
Unhealthy Lifestyle :
- Less physical and mental activity: A sedentary lifestyle or a job which involves a lot of desk work, proves to be a major cause of insomnia. But, too much of physical activity and no productive mental exercise also creates heaviness in mind as mental activity enriches the brain with oxygen and better blood circulation. So, a balanced mind-body relationship is very important for sound sleep.
- Taking naps in the afternoon.
- Not keeping fixed time for sleeping and waking up.
- If you are a ‘night-owl’, you will face trouble sleeping at an early hour and gradually it becomes your lifestyle
- Usage of mobile, computer, playing video games or watching television too close to bedtime: The bright light emitted from these screens reduces the secretion of Melatonin, our sleep hormone.
- Exercising and working out late in the evening or before sleeping: Though exercise is an essential physical activity to get great sleep, it also increases Adrenaline level and temperature of your body which will disrupt sleep because sleep requires the body to be calm and relaxed.
The Fix :
- Do not make up for the sleep loss in the daytime. Taking naps in the daytime will disrupt sleep at night again.
- For People doing excessive physical or mental work, taking naps becomes essential. Then they should take a nap of not more than half an hour in the daytime. But they should not sleep in the late afternoon.
- Have your dinner at least 2 to 3 hours prior to sleep.
- If morning exercise is not possible, you can do evening exercise but give your body at least a few hours to come back to its normal temperature and normal heart rate.
- Switch off your mobile, t.v. or any visual electronic equipment at least 1 hour before going to sleep.
- Ensuring a fixed timing to get to the bed so that you can get 6 to 8 hours of sleep.
- Get up at the same time in the morning even if you have not proper sleep at night. After keeping up with a few disturbed days your body will adapt to the routine and your sleep-cycle will normalize.
Dietary Habits :
- Caffeine/nicotine: Caffeine is a stimulant which, instead of relaxing the body make it more alert which affects sleep. Consumption of excess amount of caffeine can also lead to Restless Leg Syndrome.
- Heavy meals in the evening: Large meals will fire up your metabolism which will affect sleep. Moreover, Imagine a large quantity of food inside your stomach when you lie down. Obviously, it is going to make you feel uncomfortable.
- Drinking Alcohol close to bedtime: Alcohol is a sedative. What you think as sleep is actually a stage of passing out. It may help you to sleep initially but daily habit will affect deep sleep. Alcohol reduces secretion of Melatonin (sleep-inducing hormone) level.
The Fix :
- No coffee, tea or alcohol late in the evening. Try not to take any type of caffeine after 4 p.m.
- Eat lighter meals in the evening.
Other linked causes :
- Circadian Rhythm Sleep Disorder: Everyone has a biological clock called circadian rhythm. Any disruption in this 24- hour cycle can cause sleep disorders.
- Jet lag due to change in time zone
- Night shift jobs
- Change of season
- Shift work sleep disorder
- Family history
- Old age: As body ages, Melatonin secretion decreases leading to poor sleep. In most of the adults, frequent urination at night hours also disrupts their sleep.
- Sleep apnea: It is a condition where breathing repeatedly stops and starts due to obstruction in the airway or unstable respiratory control by brain.
The Fix :
- Cpap therapy (Continuous positive airway pressure therapy) is the frontline treatment for Sleep Apnea. A device is used to give air supply through a cpap mask which opens the airway passage, which prevents snoring and apnea.
- Go out in sun. Exposure to the sun will increase the melatonin level.
General fixes to sleep deprivation and insomnia:
Yes, YOU CAN CURE INSOMNIA. But for that, you need a lot of patience and more than that a disciplined lifestyle. Apart from the above-mentioned fixes, there are some general recommendations for maintaining sleep hygiene.
- Maintain a sleep-log. For few weeks write down your sleep habits and other dietary habits that is,
- At what time did you get to bed
- At what time did you sleep
- How many times did you get up
- How many cups of coffee/tea per day
- Listen to peaceful, calming, soothing music. There are lots of instrumental meditation audio available. You can try these.
- Medications: In high anxiety levels it is important to calm down the body. So certain sleeping pills could be taken strictly as per your doctor’s advice. But remember, sleeping pills do not cure insomnia. They just make you sleep. If taken regularly, they will not have any effect on your sleep. In fact, some side effects like headache, difficulty in keeping balance, heartburn (to name few) could be seen.
- Sleep in a comfortable bed and pillow.
- Hygenic and clean surroundings.
- Dim light or totally dark room as per one’s choice. Eyeshades may help.
- Do not drink water close to bedtime to prevent getting up to pee at night.
- If you wake up at night and can’t get back to sleep, read a book in the soothing light.
- Using essential oils like sandalwood and Lavender are also said to help get good sleep.
- Do some breathing exercise on the bed.
I hope , by following the above-mentioned fixes you will be able to overcome the problem of sleep deprivation and not only will fall asleep fast , but also have a sound sleep.
Do you have any suggestions? Or have you tried any other method which has worked magically? Do write in comments to benefit others.
Wish you a good night sleep,
Pictures : Pixabay