What are the reasons that we stay awake at night?
Difficulty sleeping at night can be caused by a wide array of reasons. In this section, we will shed light on some of the factors that affect sleep patterns at night.
Pain: People suffer from pain from time to time and it can be considered a normal part of human life. However, some people experience chronic pain that causes them to stay awake. Some common types of pain keeping people awake are: Headache, back pain, jaw muscle pain and joint pains.
Anxiety and stress: Perhaps one of the most common things keeping people awake are concerns in their lives that are causing stress. Money issues and marital concerns are the two most common causes of stress.
Snoring: If you snore, you're most likely not the person who will get affected and sleep less. It is your partner or roommate that is usually most affected. However, for those who suffer a more serious medical condition related to snoring, i.e. sleep apnea, then you will most likely stay awake for some time during the night.
Jet lag: When you frequently travel, your body adjusts to time zone. By crossing over time zones your internal clock is thrown off. Your brain tells you to sleep when it's dark and wake up when there's light. And when you switch to a different time zone, this image in your brain becomes distorted and your body adjusts accordingly; thus, it can cause temporary sleep pattern disturbances.
Shift work: When you work odd hours, your body's natural sleep pattern can be disrupted.
Hormonal changes: Certain symptoms related to menopause, menstruation and pregnancy can all affect regular sleep patterns. For example; hot flushes, tender breasts and frequent urination.
Medical illnesses: Some disorders and illnesses can cause sleeping difficulty. These may include lung disease or asthma as well as heart conditions.
Medication: Some medicines can also disrupt sleep, especially if you take these close to bedtime.
What are some common sleep disorders?
Nightmares: These are dreams with very graphic and disturbing content. Children commonly experience nightmares during REM sleep, but adults can also suffer from nightmares.
Sleep Talking: This disorder involves talking during sleep without being aware of it. It can either be complex dialogues or monologues. It can also be complete rubbish or mumbling. However, this is only short lived and is most common among males and children.
Sleepwalking: This originates during deep sleep and the person who suffer from it walks or performs other complex behaviours while sleeping. This is more common among children than in adults and most likely to happen when the child is sleep deprived.
Delayed Sleep Disorder: People who suffer from this disorder have difficulty falling asleep at a particular conventional time and waking up at a socially acceptable morning time.
Excessive Sleepiness: This a condition when the person sleeps excessively during daytime resulting in a nighttime sleep disorder.
Extreme Sleepiness: This is a condition wherein the person who suffers from it sleeps more than nine hours at night and takes long naps during the day and still feels sleepy.
What is insomnia?
Insomnia is characterised by difficulty falling and/or staying asleep. It is also defined as the inability to get the much needed amount of sleep that will allow you to wake up feeling rested and refreshed. And because different people have varying needs for sleep time, sleeping 8 hours a night will not guarantee a person will feel refreshed and completely rested the following day. Therefore, insomnia is more associated with the quality of sleep than the number of hours spent sleeping.
What are the types of insomnia?
There are 4 basic types of insomnia. Primary vs. Secondary and Acute vs. Chronic. Whether it is primary or secondary greatly depends on the cause. Whereas its duration as well as the frequency of episode defines whether it is acute or chronic.
Primary insomnia happens when a person has sleep problems that are independent of any other health condition or existing problem.
Secondary insomnia happens when a person has sleep problems that relate to some other condition. It can be because of a health condition, medication or taking substances like drugs or alcohol.
Acute insomnia - is diagnosed when it last from one night to a few weeks.
Chronic insomnia - is diagnosed when it lasts at least 3 nights a week and can extend to a month or longer.
What are the common symptoms of insomnia?
- Sleepiness during day time and unable to perform daily tasks efficiently
- Feeling tired, exhausted and irritable
- Having difficulty concentrating or memory gaps
- Can't sleep even when you feel tired
- Frequent waking up during the night
- Difficulty getting back to sleep when awakened
- Wakes up very early in the morning
What causes insomnia?
Depending on what type of insomnia you have, the cause will vary.
For acute insomnia, the causes may include: Significant life changes that can be stressful (i.e. change in jobs or losing a job, death of a loved one, divorce or moving houses); illness, pain or discomfort, environmental factors such as noise, too much light, extreme temperatures that can all interfere with sleep; some medicines, jetlag and shift work.
For chronic insomnia, causes may include: Depression and/or anxiety; chronic stress; and chronic pain or discomfort at night.
Identifying the cause of your insomnia
It might help to investigate patterns, habits as well as sleep routines in order to identify properly the probable cause or causes of insomnia. If you are able to figure out the root cause, it is easier to target the treatment strategy.
Here is a list of recommended guide questions that can help identify the cause of your insomnia:
Are you under a lot of stress?
Are you depressed or feel emotionally flat or hopeless?
Do you struggle with chronic feelings of anxiety or worry?
Have you recently gone through a traumatic experience?
Are you taking any medications that might be affecting your sleep?
Do you have any health problems that may be interfering with sleep?
Is your sleep environment quiet and comfortable?
Are you spending enough time in sunlight during the day and in darkness at night?
Do you try to go to bed and get up around the same time every day?
Lifestyle tips to help relieve insomnia
Once you are able to identify what the habits that are leading to your sleep disorder, it is easier for you to change them. It will help a lot to keep track of your daily habits and having a sleep diary may be a helpful tool too. In this diary, you will consciously log all your daytime activities, your sleep routine as well as any insomnia symptoms. By relating the items in your list, it will be easier for you to change your habits and solve your insomnia problem.
Once you have identified those habits that affect your sleep pattern, you can now be empowered to make changes and adopt new ones.
Here are some ideas to help insomnia sufferers sleep better:
Make your room a conducive place to sleep. Put some sound proofing if noise is a problem in your area. Make it dark and cool to help you go to sleep faster.
Follow a regular sleep schedule. Be kind to your biological clock by going to bed and getting up at the same time every day. And this should include weekends.
Avoid taking naps. If you must take a break to extend your energy level, make it a habit to nap only 30 minutes and do this before 3 P.M.
Refrain from doing stimulating activities and getting involved in stressful situations before bedtime. Focus on quiet and soothing activities. You can opt to read, knit or listen to soft music using low lights.
Avoid using backlit devices or using the computer just before bed as this stimulates the brain.
Limit your caffeine, alcohol and nicotine intake, especially during nighttime.
Prepare your brain for sleeping. You can do this in the following simple ways: Increase light exposure during the day. It is best to take breaks outdoors to get exposed to sunlight. If your eyes can tolerate it, remove your sunglasses and whenever possible open your blinds and curtains during the day. And during night time, limit your exposure to artificial light. This is why it is recommended to avoid exposure to bright lights at night and turn off television, gadgets and computer screens at least an hour before bedtime. If this is not possible, use an eye mask.
What are the natural remedies for insomnia?
Sometimes popping a pill to get rid of insomnia can be avoided if you know the natural products that are available to help you sleep.
Magnesium and calcium can both help boost regular sleep patterns. By taking them together, the effect may be greater. Take 200 milligrams of magnesium to begin with and 600 milligrams of calcium.
Wild lettuce - can also be effective in calming restlessness and reducing anxiety.
Aromatherapy - lavender is a widely used herb to help relax and induce sleep. It is not only cheap but it is also safe and effective. If you can find a spray or a pillow with it, it will help a lot to put you into a lull.
Melatonin - is a natural hormone that controls sleep. It is why in cases of mild insomnia, experts recommend taking a low dose of melatonin.
Yoga and meditation - choose simple stretches and not the vigorous type of yoga before bedtime coupled with 5-10 minutes of meditation. Page updated 06/04/18 12:47:36 p.m.