Sleep is one of the most important components to maintaining proper health, and without a good night’s sleep, our bodies feel the effects for days afterward. Insomnia affects a large number of people around the world, but most people don’t even realize they have a problem and may believe that not getting quality sleep is just part of life.
I suffered from insomnia for years, but never realized it until I started researching the symptoms I was having due to lack of sleep. I was under the impression that my low quality of sleep was just from the stresses of life, a poor mattress, or too much caffeine, and while those can definitely contribute to poor sleep, insomnia is an actual condition that can drastically affect your life.
What Is Insomnia?
Insomnia is described as a sleep disorder that causes difficulty falling and/or staying asleep throughout the night. If you have any of the following symptoms, you may be suffering from insomnia:
- Difficulty falling asleep, even though you feel tired
- Difficulty staying asleep and waking up multiple times throughout the night
- Waking up in the middle of the night and having trouble falling back to sleep quickly
- Waking up too early in the morning after only a few hours of sleep
There are two types of categories that insomnia falls into:
- Primary Insomnia – This is where a person is only suffering from a sleep disorder that isn’t directly related to any other medical condition.
- Secondary Insomnia – This is the most common form of insomnia for most people, and it’s directly caused by an existing health condition like asthma, sleep apnea, obesity, depression, arthritis, fibromyalgia, heartburn, or any medication a person may be taking.
It’s estimated that 30%-35% of people suffer from brief symptoms of insomnia, while 15%-20% have short-term insomnia that lasts less than three months, and 10% of people suffer from chronic insomnia lasting three months or more.
Acute Vs. Chronic Insomnia
Insomnia is also classified as either Acute, or Chronic, which is determined by how long the individual has been suffering from poor sleep quality. Acute insomnia is defined as brief periods of sleep disruption, where a person may experience sleep difficulties that can last for a few days to a few weeks at a time. Chronic insomnia is where poor quality sleep occurs more than 3 nights a week, every week, for a month or longer.
Causes of Insomnia
Acute insomnia causes can include:
- Stress due to significant life changes (job loss/change, moving, divorce, death of a loved one, etc)
- Emotional distress or physical discomfort (pain, inflammation, injury)
- Environmental factors (noise, construction area, too much light, extreme hot/cold temperatures)
- Certain medications (medications for colds, allergies, high blood pressure, asthma, or depression can all interfere with sleep)
- Poor quality mattress
- Jet lag or shift changes at a job
- Illness like a cold or flu
- Magnesium deficiency
Chronic insomnia causes can include:
- Depression and/or anxiety
- Severe chronic stress
- Constant pain or discomfort (arthritis, acid reflux, fibromyalgia, etc)
Symptoms of Insomnia
Insomnia can cause a myriad of symptoms, but the most common are:
- Fatigue and sleepiness during the day
- Low energy and motivation
- Memory loss and/or poor concentration
- Irritability and/or frustration
More serious symptoms caused by untreated insomnia include:
- Increased risk of depression and anxiety
- High blood pressure
- Weight gain/obesity
- Poor blood sugar regulation
- Increased risk of heart disease and stroke
- Increased risk of certain cancers
Insomnia can be tricky to diagnose, and most primary doctors will likely just treat the symptoms with prescription medications that can cause a whole host of other nasty side effects. Instead of running to the store and grabbing a bottle of sleep aid, there are other ways to treat insomnia that you may want to look into first.
To get proper treatment for insomnia, and to really find out how serious your sleep condition is, I highly recommend seeking out a sleep treatment center in your area for a more accurate diagnosis.
Sleep doctors specialize in researching your specific condition, and whether you are suffering from acute or chronic insomnia. I actually did this a few years ago where the sleep doctor gives you a special monitor to take home with you, and it records your sleep patterns, behavior, and how many times during the night you awake from sleep. This gives the doctor a general overview of your sleep condition, but may not be as accurate as an in-office sleep test.
The best tests are done at an actual sleep center, where they have a special room setup just for testing a person’s sleep patterns. It may be a bit awkward to sleep in a bed that isn’t in your own home, but this allows the doctors to get a very accurate picture of your sleep habits in order to better treat the issue. From there, they can help you figure out a proper schedule and treatment options to improve your quality of sleep.
Natural Sleep Remedies
If you choose to go to a sleep center and get an accurate diagnosis, the doctors will likely discuss some natural sleep methods you can try at home, but if you’re just suffering from poor sleep quality and want to find natural alternatives to medication, I wrote an article on 9 natural sleep remedies for insomnia.
Even if you don’t have insomnia, and you’re just looking to improve your overall sleep quality, these natural remedies should help you get a restful night’s sleep!
Do you suffer from any of the symptoms above? Have you ever been diagnosed with a sleep condition?