– Insomnia –
Are you experiencing sleep difficulties?
- Falling asleep
- Staying asleep
- Waking too early and not being able to return to sleep
If so, you may be suffering from insomnia, a common sleep disorder that affects roughly 60 million people annually in the United States.
- Deplete your energy level
- Affect your mood
- Affect your work performance
- Affect your health
- Diminish your quality of life
At some point, most adults experience some form of short-term (acute) insomnia, which lasts for just a few days up to a few weeks. This can be due to your body reacting to seasonal changes, your lifestyle or the result of stress or a traumatic event. However, some people suffer from long-term (chronic) insomnia, which can last for a month or more. Often, the onset of insomnia may be associated with other medical conditions (mental or physical) or medications.
Garry Waterman is a licensed social worker who can help address the root cause of your insomnia and devise an effective treatment plan to help improve your sleep patterns and have you resting well again.
Why Do I Have Insomnia?
Your brain has a sleep cycle and a wake cycle. These cycles work in concert with each other – when one is turned on, the other is turned off. Insomnia is the result of a problem with either part of that cycle and your brain has too much wake drive or too little sleep drive.
It is important to understand what could be causing your sleep difficulties in order to address your insomnia, which may be caused by a number of factors including:
- Psychiatric conditions
- Medical conditions
- Poor sleep habits
- Specific substances
- Biological factors
Some medical conditions that can lead to insomnia include:
- Chronic pain
- Endocrine problems such as hyperthyroidism
- Gastrointestinal problems
- Neurological conditions such as Parkinson’s disease
Medications taken for the following conditions can also cause insomnia:
- Cold and flu
- Nasal allergies
- High blood pressure
- Heart disease
- Birth control
Insomnia may also be a symptom of underlying sleep disorders including:
- Restless legs syndrome – a neurological condition that causes a person to move or twitch their legs, generally later at night and in the transition from wake to sleep
- Sleep apnea – an obstructed airway during sleep that leads to pauses in breathing, causing a person to wake briefly and repeatedly throughout the night
It’s often difficult to rest your mind when you feel worried or anxious. When you can’t rest your mind, it’s hard to fall asleep. Symptoms of anxiety that can lead to insomnia include:
- Being over stimulated
- Excessive worrying about future events
- Feeling overwhelmed by responsibilities
- Lamenting on thoughts about past events
Psychological struggles can make it difficult to fall asleep and stay asleep. Worse yet, insomnia can facilitate mood changes and shifts in hormones and physiology that can lead to further psychiatric issues, possibly worsening your depression and insomnia. The risk of severe insomnia is considerably higher in people with major depressive disorders.
Symptoms of depression that may be causing your insomnia include:
- Low energy / lethargy
- Lack of interest in things you normally enjoy
- Feelings of sadness, hopelessness, or impending doom
Without any underlying psychiatric or medical issues, an unhealthy lifestyle can create insomnia on its own. This can include your diet, exercise and sleep habits. Lifestyle issues that can cause insomnia include:
- Viewing screens (TV, PC monitor, phone, etc.) before bedtime or while in bed – The light from the screens makes your brain more alert.
- Taking afternoon naps – These may be good for some, but may make it difficult to fall asleep in the evening for others.
- Working irregular hours/shifts – An inconsistent work schedule often causes an inconsistent sleep schedule.
- Imbibing alcohol – Though it is a sedative, alcohol can disrupt sleep patterns throughout the night.
- Caffeine close to bedtime – Caffeine is a stimulant that could stay in your system up to eight hours.
- Smoking – Nicotine is a stimulant, so smoking near bedtime may make it difficult to fall asleep.
- Heavy or spicy meals close to bedtime – This may cause bodily discomfort that makes it difficult to fall asleep.
It’s important to address insomnia rather than letting it become the norm. Cognitive behavioral therapy and proven mind-body techniques can help people with insomnia settle into sleep. Overall healthy sleep practices related to lifestyle can improve sleep for many people.