You've experienced this at least once in your life -- it's 3 o clock in the morning, you're still wide awake, and no matter how hard you try to fall back asleep, you can't. The next day, you are irritable, sleepy, and plainly just not your usual self.
This is an immediate effect of the onset of a single episode of insomnia. Now, think of what other things this condition can bring you if you continue to have sleepless nights.
• What are the short-term health effects of insomnia?
Just one missed night of sleep messes up your system. According to Matthew Walker, Director of the Sleep and Neuroimaging Laboratory at the University of California Berkeley, the fight or flight response of a person's body goes haywire when you miss one night of sleep.
Memory recall and speech control also suffers and you become irritable. Concentration is likewise affected. In fact, about 200,000 vehicle accidents that happen yearly are caused by sleepy drivers -- a number that is surprisingly more than accidents caused by drunk driving.
Missing a night's sleep also mimics someone who has had a certain level of alcohol in his/her system and/or a profile of a person with acute psychiatric disorders.
Cortisol, a hormone attributed to stress, depression, and cardiovascular disease, also builds up in the body instead of being regulated through a good night's sleep. When a person experiences chronic insomnia, a slew of health consequences is experienced and can be fatal.
• What are the long-term health effects of insomnia?
Stress attributed to sleep deprivation and insomnia has serious health effects. The body's defense mechanisms are strained and can lead to physical collapse.
People with chronic insomnia are also prone to weight gain that can lead to obesity.
Within a week of successive sleepless nights, hypertension can set in, body temperature becomes unregulated, and brain function is affected such that the person may experience paranoia, hyperemotionality, and hallucinations.
Over time, a person has a higher risk of developing diabetes, depression, heart attack, or stroke.
• How Much Sleep Should We Get?
• Insomnia or Sleep Apnea - The Chicken or the Egg?
An important question is, "Which Came First, Insomnia or Sleep Apnea?".
There’s increasing evidence that insomnia and obstructive sleep apnea may overlap, more than was previously thought.
It’s been shown that anywhere from 39 percent to 58 percent of patients with OSA also have insomnia. And up to 43 percent of older people with chronic insomnia were found to have undiagnosed sleep apnea.
• Do you have insomnia because of sleep apnea or sleep apnea because of insomnia?
In a pilot study published in the journal Sleep, Dr. Barry Krakow, leader of the study, and his colleagues tested 20 patients who didn’t appear to have sleep apnea and found 18 of the 20 suffered from sleep-disordered breathing that caused them to wake up after falling asleep. Eleven patients were found to indeed suffer with OSA.
Likewise, in another study, Dr. Emerson Wickwire, director of Behavioral Sleep Medicine and co-director of the Center for Sleep Disorders at Pulmonary Disease and Critical Care Associates in Columbia, Maryland, has done extensive research on underlying insomnia in sleep apnea patients.
“There is clear evidence that patients with sleep apnea are at increased risk for co-morbid chronic insomnia, and patients with insomnia suffer elevated rates of occult sleep disordered breathing,” Wickwire said.
Many people with insomnia have narrow upper air passageways, especially behind the tongue. Some have undiagnosed sleep apnea, but many also may have a condition called upper airway resistance syndrome (UARS), Wickwire noted.
In this precursor, to sleep apnea, the length of time of each breathing pause is not long enough to actually be called an apnea. But because of the multiple pauses in breathing, a stress response is created, which causes the insomniac’s mind to race or think about stressful issues before going to bed, causing the insomnia.
Takeaway for Patients:
The takeaway for patients is that if you are an insomniac who wakes during the night, you should ask your doctor to rule out obstructive sleep apnea as a possible cause of your sleep problems.
And if you are an apnea patient who still suffers from insomnia, talk to your doctor about treating the underlying insomnia with possible sleep hygiene measures and other methods.
• Are There Any Alternative Treatment Methods for Insomnia
There are various scientifically proven natural alternative treatment methods that can cure or significantly reduce insomnia and sleep apnea. Those alternative treatment methods include:
- Herbs: Click here to learn more about herbs for sleep apnea.
- Diet: Click here to learn more about specific foods and diet can help in treating sleep apnea and related insomnia.
- Acupuncture: Click here to learn more about acupuncture therapy
- Yoga Breathing: Click here to learn more about Yoga breathing