Insomnia is the sensation of daytime fatigue and impaired performance caused by insufficient sleep. In general, people with insomnia experience an inability to sleep despite being tired, a light, fitful sleep that leaves them fatigued upon awakening, or waking up too early.
● What are the primary causes of insomnia?
While there is no one cut and dried reason why some people can’t sleep, most experts agree that insomnia is brought on by stress, anxiety, medications, and/or caffeine – among other things. Transient and short-term insomnia has many causes. These are described in detail below.
A reaction to change or stress is one of the most common causes of short-term and transient insomnia. This condition is sometimes referred to as adjustment sleep disorder.
The precipitating factor could be a major or traumatic event such as an acute illness, injury, loss of a loved one, or job loss.
Temporary insomnia could also develop after a relatively minor event like an exam at school, trouble at work or traveling.
In such cases, normal sleep almost always returns when the condition resolves, the individual recovers from the event, or the person becomes acclimated to the new situation.
Treatment is needed if sleepiness interferes with functioning or if it continues for more than a few weeks.
According to Neil B. Kavey, Sleep and Insomnia Expert, Sleep Foundation, "People who are under considerable stress can have insomnia. In the case of insomnia related to stress, alleviating the stress should alleviate the insomnia.
Stress causes insomnia by making it difficult to fall asleep and to stay asleep, and by affecting the quality of your sleep. Stress causes hyperarousal, which can upset the balance between sleep and wakefulness."
Blood pressure medication and antidepressants can cause sleeplessness in a person. The same is true for those that contain stimulants like caffeine.
On the other hand, antihistamines may make you drowsy at first but will worsen any urinary problem you have and make you urinate several times during the night.
“Certain heart, blood pressure, and asthma drugs, as well as over-the-counter medicines for colds, allergies, and headaches, can interrupt normal sleep patterns,” says James Wellman, MD, medical director of the Sleep Disorders Center of Georgia in Augusta.
□ Change in Sleep Cycle
You may be travelling through different time zones frequently or are constantly changing shifts at work.
These erratic schedules change your body's circadian rhythm and will definitely mess up with your sleep.
A person can make several helpful choices to encourage a restful night of sleep. The first and most basic being listen to ones own “internal clock”. A person’s sleep-wake cycle is regulated by ones own Circadian Rhythm, which is a portion of the body’s “internal clock”.
When a person begins a new sleep pattern, the body’s sleep clock is still on its original schedule and wants to sleep at its preprogrammed time. This is the most basic reason why a person still feels tired even though they are unable to sleep.
□ Learned Insomnia
Do you worry about not getting enough sleep that you fail to fall asleep in the first place? That's learned insomnia and that is one cause of not sleeping well at night.
She has studied the sleep habits of about 1,800 Swedes over a period of eighteen months. A little under half of the 5,000 randomly selected people responded to the survey; a further 500 dropped out along the way.
Among those who slept poorly at the beginning of the study, worrying about lack of sleep was linked to long-term problems with insomnia. In other words, the worrying is not just a symptom: it can be a contributing factor.
□ What You Take in Your Body
What you take in your body. If you eat too much during dinner, chances are you won't have a restful sleep. Why? If you're too full, lying down to sleep may be uncomfortable.
Those who suffer from heartburn will likewise be kept awake by the backflow of acid from their stomach.
Taking in alcohol or caffeine, and/or smoking a few hours before bedtime can also affect the quality of your sleep since these stimulants will most likely keep you awake.
Heavy meals close to bedtime can disrupt your sleep. The best practice is to eat lightly before bedtime. When you eat too much in the evening, it can cause discomfort and make it hard for your body to settle and relax.
Spicy foods can also cause heartburn and interfere with your sleep.
□ What Role Do Hormones Play in Insomnia?
Fluctuations in female hormones play a major role in insomnia in women over their lifetimes. Such insomnia is most often temporary.
The hormone progesterone promotes sleep. Levels of this hormone plunge during menstruation, causing insomnia. When they rise during ovulation, women may become sleepier than usual.
During pregnancy, the effects of changes in progesterone levels in the first and last trimester can disrupt normal sleep patterns.
One possible culprit? Our hormones. Hormonal changes can wreak havoc on sleep. In turn, sleep deprivation can affect hormone levels in a sleepless vicious cycle.
□ What Role Does Menopause Play in Insomnia?
Insomnia can be a major problem in the first phases of menopause, when hormones are fluctuating intensely. Insomnia during this period may be due to different factors that occur.
In some women, hot flashes, sweating, and a sense of anxiety can awaken women suddenly and frequently at night during the first months of menopause. In such women, hormone replacement therapy may be beneficial.
During the course of perimenopause through menopause, a woman's ovaries gradually decrease production of estrogen and progesterone, a sleep-promoting hormone.
The shifting of ratios of hormones can be an unsettling process, sometimes contributing to the inability to fall asleep.
Also, waning levels of estrogen may make you more susceptible to environmental and other factors/stressors which disrupt sleep.
□ What Role Does Food Play in Insomnia?
Your diet should be one of the places you should look into when determining the cause of your insomnia. Coffee, chocolate, spicy food, soda before bedtime can cause you waking up so often at night.
Food that you are allergic to should be avoided at all cost during dinner so you don't end up scratching yourself the whole night instead of sleeping.
Similarly, difficult to digest food or those that can give you gas like beans, cabbage, and cucumber should be minimized.
Insomnia is something that can be overcome with the right information. By first knowing the main causes of your sleep problem, you can begin looking for the appropriate treatment by addressing whatever is causing your sleeplessness at night.
Foods can help you sleep or keep you up late at night. Foods that make you stay awake at night can make you gain excessive weight by encouraging a habit of nighttime binging and daytime overeating as well.
In addition, studies have shown that sleep deprivation can harm the body in different ways. Therefore, if you suffer from insomnia, then you should consider making dietary changes to help your body learn to shut down at night.
Certain substances, stimulants and foods like caffeine, chocolate, simple sugar and sweeteners, fats and high protein foods, and alcohol, may contribute to insomnia.