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Insomnia can impair your functional abilities and negatively impact your work, relationships, and even your sexual health. Indicators of insomnia can include more than difficulty sleeping; it extends to irritability, constant worrying about sleep, and difficulty sustaining attention. Identifying the issue is half the battle, but minor changes to your daily habits can help.
Insomnia can present in various ways, sometimes eluding identification. Modern culture often praises busy individuals with sleep-deprived schedules, making symptoms easy to miss. However, it’s critical to know how insomnia looks, because the condition could be costing you sleep, and affecting your health.
Seeking treatment is crucial for those experiencing signs of insomnia, and awareness of symptoms can aid in classification.
Issues falling asleep at night are not uncommon, especially for those managing high levels of stress. However, struggling with frequent bouts of sleeping trouble for prolonged periods could indicate insomnia and lead to more significant health concerns like depression or concentration issues.
Lying in bed awake or frequently waking up in the middle of the night could mark an issue with insomnia. Keeping an eye on how often this occurs by maintaining a sleep log could help identify insomnia so you can make a recovery plan.
Regularly waking up well before your alarm clock rings when you know you need the rest can feel profoundly frustrating. Tracking the frequency at which this occurs through a bedside sleep log could be essential in recognizing a more significant condition like insomnia.
Frequently noticing yourself struggling to get through your day due to feeling overly tired, but not necessarily sleepy, is a sign of insomnia. Many individuals have experienced feeling tired at work on occasion, but repeated and continued issues with feeling tired could affect your life in profound ways and are worthy of treatment.
Those with high-pressure jobs or professions that manage frequent interactions with the public often endure greater stress levels, leading to irritability. Moods are incredibly fluid, but irritability lasting for significant periods could indicate severe sleep issues.
Tiredness and attention deficit often present alongside one another; this struggle could appear to be ADHD or poor sleep hygiene. However, frequent challenges with concentration might be telling of an underlying condition.
Continuous anxiety around going to bed or getting enough rest is often a sign of a larger issue like insomnia. The mere presence of anxiety could exacerbate the problem, making it even more challenging to get the sleep you need. However, learning to relax is one of the most critical components to combatting the issue.
Many individuals are constantly managing multiple stressors at once, many of which individuals wave away are mere aspects of daily life. However, when not mindfully looked after, these common stressors could trigger severe sleep issues.
Managing a high-pressure job, juggling college courses, health issues, family problems, or financial concerns could lead to trouble sleeping. Stressful events or traumatic experiences can significantly impact our bodies and minds. Incidents like a car accident, abuse, death, or divorce could all trigger insomnia.
Common medications for attention deficit disorder, depression, anxiety, and other conditions could harm one’s ability to fall asleep within a reasonable timeframe. Treatments that include stimulants or SSRIs like Adderall or Lexapro might disrupt sleep rhythms leading to insomnia.
Insomnia may arise due to acute stress or overextending oneself, potentially deterring an individual’s long-term goals, mental fitness, or physical health. If you’re dismissing sleep problems believing them to be insignificant, think again.
Prolonged sleep deprivation can affect one’s appearance, potentially leading to premature wrinkles, dark circles, and paler skin. According to Stockholm University, how fatigued a person appears could even alter the way others behave towards them because fatigue can make the corners of the mouth droop, making a person look sadder than they are.
The Mayo Clinic reports that a lack of sleep can affect how efficiently our bodies fight viruses and recover after falling ill. During sleep, the immune system produces cytokines, which are proteins that promote sleep. Cytokines are also needed to fight infection and stress, and sleep deprivation reduces the body’s production of these.
Transient insomnia typically arises due to jet lag or over-tiredness and may not require treatment. Individuals could experience this after traveling for an extended period or after a vacation with minimal rest, in which case, a simple solution like melatonin supplements could be helpful when getting your habits back on track.
Transient insomnia may recur from time to time, in which case it could be considered intermittent. However, if you struggle with slumber most nights for longer than a month, you could be dealing with a chronic issue requiring professional attention.
Acute or short-term insomnia could last anywhere from a few days to a couple of months at a time. Short-term insomnia typically occurs due to stressful events or experiences such as starting a new job, moving house, a change in environment, or the death of a loved one.
Correlations have been found between anxiety and sleep cycles. It’s not uncommon for individuals to experience rumination about the stressor before sleep, hindering rest. As the anxiety subsides and the stressor resolves, typically insomnia will as well.
Chronic insomnia can last over a month or for years at a time. In some cases, chronic insomnia is a primary issue, meaning that it arises without any other coexisting diseases.
However, many instances are secondary to primary health issues. Secondary health effects happen due to more significant underlying medical conditions or as a consequence of certain medications.
Antidepressants, focus aides, and anti-anxiety drugs are examples of medications that commonly have adverse side effects surrounding rest. If you’re having trouble sleeping through the night, your treatment may need a second look.
Primary Insomnia is not associated with any lifestyle issues, psychiatric conditions, or medical causes; it appears alone and usually persists for many years, sometimes beginning in childhood. Those who struggle with primary insomnia could experience sleep issues for one night at a time frequently or many nights in a row.
People who have a history of this condition are also known to experience sleep state misperception (SSM), commonly referred to as paradoxical insomnia. With paradoxical insomnia, individuals will feel as though they’re struggling with insomnia even though they are getting adequate rest nor experience daytime sleepiness; yet, they may still battle with other symptoms.
Comorbid insomnia arises as a response to other psychiatric or physiological issues. However, after comorbid insomnia is triggered, it doesn’t necessarily resolve with the coexisting disorder. The majority of insomnia cases fall under this category.
This type of insomnia can also exacerbate the existing illness and even hinder treatment. For example, an individual who struggles with depression might take a selective serotonin reuptake inhibitor (SSRI), like Lexapro or Zoloft. While these can be excellent in treating mood disorders, typical side effects include weight gain, sexual dysfunction, and insomnia; thus, the presence of insomnia could complicate treatment.
Pregnancy and giving birth can cause significant shifts in a person’s hormones. Some of these hormones work with chemicals to regulate your slumber patterns and this shift can disrupt your sleep. Over half of new parents report experiencing some version of “the baby blues,” and many will struggle with postpartum depression or insomnia.
The issue can be triggered by a variety of conditions such as daily anxiety regarding activities or feelings of overwhelm about the future with their new child. Keep in mind this is normal to experience when you’ve suddenly gained a significant responsibility. Fortunately, there are many resources to help you cope.
Get More Info: How to Deal With Postpartum Insomnia
Sleep disruption is common during the various menopausal phases, and numbers regarding how many women experience the issue ranges greatly as self-reporting is often vastly underestimated because many instances go untreated. Studies consistently show a correlation between menopause and insomnia, potentially due to hot flashes and night sweats.
The decline of estrogen during menopause has been shown to contribute to disrupted sleep patterns as a result of menopause. Disrupted slumber patterns often arise due to menopausal symptoms like hot flashes, sweating, anxiety, and depressive moods. Anxiety and depression often trigger lack of sleep or early morning waking, and the correlation could work conversely as well.
Dopamine is the chemical in our brains that soothes muscle movement and is typically used to treat restless leg syndrome (RLS), but it’s not always successful. However, hope may be on the horizon; according to a study by John Hopkins University School of Medicine, a correlation was made between glutamate— a neurotransmitter that plays a critical role in arousal and wakefulness— and those with RLS, potentially paving the way to a new treatment.
Sleep apnea commonly triggers insomnia, and insomniacs often have undiagnosed sleep apnea, making the root cause difficult to identify. Sleep apnea can lead to insomnia because the brain’s survival instinct actively looks to avoid falling asleep to ensure you keep breathing.
Insomnia and fatigue are typical markers of fibromyalgia, and non-restorative sleep could decrease your pain threshold, further exacerbating fibromyalgia symptoms.
Those who suffer from chronic migraines often report struggling with insomnia. However, the cause behind the frequent correlation between them is debated. Managing both conditions may put you at a higher risk of depression and anxiety as well.
Some experts believe that individuals with cancer are more likely to suffer from insomnia, which could explain the extreme lack of sleep caused by severe health issues. Conversely, managing the stress that a cancer diagnosis brings could also spark insomnia.
According to the Addiction Center, which connects individuals with rehabilitation, those who have insomnia are five to ten times more likely to suffer from substance abuse than those who don’t. This statistic could be explained by the highly addictive qualities of sleeping prescription pills or the false belief that sleep deprivation can be resolved via drugs.
Further, insomniacs often turn to alcohol to help with sleep, as it allows some individuals to relax. However, alcohol exacerbates insomnia symptoms, creating a vicious cycle. If you know someone struggling with addiction, it’s important that they seek help as soon as possible.
While the cause of the correlation is still debated, according to Duke University, mental health and insomnia have strong ties. Insomnia seems to be a predecessor to anxiety and depression, and conversely, depression and anxiety may predispose individuals to insomnia.
Those who struggle with bipolar disorder may experience insomnia as well. Those dealing with this condition may appear manic for prolonged periods, feeling overly happy and energized, coupled with extreme lows and bouts of depression.
Age, menopause, and lifestyle changes could contribute to insomnia. Those who go through menopause often experience a reduction in progesterone, a hormone that many people don’t realize aids in sleep.
Progesterone is known to help regulate your body, your cycle, and it can even ease anxiety. The chemical has a sedative effect and is often prescribed in specific doses to be taken before bed.
Additionally, menopause symptoms commonly include hot flashes and night sweats as well, which can wake you up during sleep due to discomfort.
Insomnia could negatively affect how you respond to stress, decrease the effectiveness of your immune system, and disrupt your overall health.
The condition could lead to various complications including:
When your sleep issues start to impact your mood, well-being, and life negatively, we recommend seeking a professional diagnosis and treatment. Suffering through sleep loss won’t benefit anyone— certainly not yourself nor those close to you.
Your primary care physician or a board-certified sleep specialist may diagnose you with insomnia. You may be asked to keep a sleep log for a few weeks so they can assess your slumber habits before prescribing treatment.
Diagnosing insomnia isn’t as straightforward as other conditions as there is no test to identify the disorder. Sometimes a blood test is done to check for thyroid conditions or other problems related to poor sleep.
Otherwise, your doctor will likely ask sleep-related questions or ask you to keep a sleep log for a few weeks. Alternatively, you could be referred to a sleep study where various tests might be conducted to monitor your brain waves, breathing, eye movements, or heartbeat.
Practicing good sleep hygiene is critical for healthy rest. Your body thrives on regularity, so creating a consistent bedtime and nighttime routine can often give your body the anchor it needs to create a stable rhythm.
Eating a large meal right before bedtime isn’t ideal, as your system will still be working to break down nutrients for a couple of hours following. We also advise against screen time, as blue light essentially winds your brain up, making it more difficult to relax your mind come bedtime.
Poor diet and lack of exercise can have adverse effects on our sleep and, subsequently, our health. Making small changes in our daily habits like adding more vegetables, cutting back on alcohol, or going for regular walks could profoundly improve your rest.
Separating work and the bedroom may not always be possible, but doing so could help sleep. Allowing your brain to only associate your bedroom with sleep or sex can help your brain relax come nightfall. Mentally pairing your bedroom with sleep and sex only is ideal.
Medication can be beneficial for insomnia. However, most sleep medication falls under the umbrella of controlled substances and must be administered and taken with caution to avoid dependency or addiction. Fortunately, with the recent rise of holistic health treatments, there are many alternatives if needed.
According to a study cited by the Harvard Health Blog, two groups of similarly aged adults were put in either a sleep education course or a mindfulness meditation course for six weeks. Both groups met for two hours, once a week.
By the end of the six weeks, those participating in the mindfulness meditation course reported less insomnia— as well as less depression and fatigue— than those in the sleep education course, indicating a strong correlation between mindfulness meditation and insomnia relief.
Essential oils have become more prevalent in recent years, and for a good reason. According to a Hungkuang University study, aromatherapy reduced anxiety and improved sleep quality in post-surgery patients. Further, the study showed that the therapy enhanced sleep quality in nurses who work rotating night shifts, pointing to a connection between essential oils, aromatherapy, and sleep health.
View Our Guide: Best Essential Oils for Sleep
CBT is a common approach in psychology, and many sleep specialists use a technique called CBTI (Cognitive Behavioral Therapy for Insomnia) to treat patients who struggle with sleep. The treatment consists of various strategies, including shifting the mind’s focus from “trying to sleep” to “allowing sleep to happen,” and sometimes incorporates strategically timed exposure to bright light.
Biofeedback Therapy is an advanced technique used to treat insomnia by using a computer, specialized software, and body sensors to record stress levels. The therapy helps by teaching the patient greater awareness of their body. As a result, the awareness allows the patient to control their heart rate, blood pressure, and muscle tension better to reduce stress, letting them sleep.
A study in 2018 observed a correlation between tart cherries and insomnia relief, showing a definitive connection between cherry juice and sleep time and sleep efficiency. Still, we don’t always get the nutrients we need.
Sugar, caffeine, and other substances commonly found in many foods could interfere with rest. Holistic remedies for various ailments have gained traction in recent years, including sleep; you could be enjoying better rest with a few diet adjustments.
The CDC attributes sleep deprivation as a contributor to numerous chronic diseases like obesity, cardiovascular disease, and diabetes and recommends massage to treat stress. According to a study cited by the American Massage Therapy Association, there are correlations between massage therapy and a person’s insomnia severity index (ISI), with massage helping reduce one’s ISI.