With smartphones invading our lives, it is not so surprising that a lot of us keep scrolling through the night. How can you be a modern woman if you don’t keep up to date on tech and gizmos? However, insomnia is much more than staying awake to answer work calls or keeping your eyes glued to Instagram through the night.
Insomnia is a common foe to many of us!
Sleep is one of the basic building blocks of our lives. It is, then, no surprise that a lack of sleep can translate into mental and physical fatigue. Sleep disorders, including insomnia, can give birth to mental illnesses.
What Is Insomnia
Insomnia is a sleep disorder that does not allow you to sleep properly, or stay asleep. It hinders your chances of getting a good night’s rest. This can affect you physically, mentally, and emotionally.
Insomnia does not always mean a lack of sleep. It can also mean troubled sleep, nights of sleeplessness followed by a ‘crash,’ and sleeping intermittently and inconsistently throughout the night. If you fall asleep at night, but keep waking up over and over again through the night, it might be a sign of insomnia.
Types Of Insomnia
Insomnia cannot be very easily defined. Is it not something that is set in stone. Insomnia comes in various flavors! Some of the common types of insomnia are as follows:
Short Term Insomnia
Also called acute insomnia or adjustment insomnia, this type of insomnia lasts about three to four months. However, short-term insomnia must be dealt with immediately as it has the potential to turn into something more problematic.
As the term suggests, chronic insomnia lasts longer. If you are unable to sleep properly for three months or more, you might have chronic insomnia. However, like most types of mental health illnesses, chronic insomnia is not ever-present. It may come and go in short bursts. You might struggle with sleeplessness for a few months at a time, followed by months of restful sleep.
While insomnia is majorly categorized into acute and chronic varieties, there are other ways of quantifying the type of sleeplessness one is struggling with. These include:
Sleep Onset Insomnia
The inability to fall asleep is called Sleep Onset Insomnia. If you are one of those people who ‘toss and turn’ while trying to sleep, it might be an effect on insomnia. While it might not seem like a huge problem, sleep nosey insomnia effectively shaves away thirty minutes to half an hour of your total sleep time. This might negatively impact your health later on!
Sleep Maintenance Insomnia
Insomnia can manifest in many different ways. If you keep waking up in the middle of the night or get only fragmented rest when you sleep, it could be a sign of sleep maintenance insomnia. This type of insomnia creeps upon you, as you might feel like you slept the night, but the quantity and quality of your sleep suffer greatly!
Early Morning Awakening Insomnia
Since we were kids, we have been told that waking up at the crack of dawn is the thing to do. However, insomnia has many shapes and forms. One way it comes to life is by waking its victim up earlier than they wanted to. This might give you time to go for that morning jog or get your work done, but it might affect your mental health and well being.
While people have quantified sleep disorders into neat boxes, the reality is often messy and confusing. Mixed insomnia is another way your sleeplessness can affect you. This means that you might sleep late, toss and turn at night, and wake up early as well, leading to an overall bad day.
What Can Cause Insomnia
People have long speculated as to what can cause sleeplessness. From late-night tea drinking to UV rays from mobile phones, many different things have taken blame over the years.
One of the most common causes of insomnia is stress. With our fast-paced lives, stress is a common ailment in most people. Stress and worry can give birth to short-term or acute insomnia. Worrying about school, work, presentations, the monthly budget, etc, can have a huge hand in why you can’t go to sleep at night!
Another reason is the messing up of our internal clocks. Human beings have a natural internal rhythm that tells them when to go to sleep, and when to wake up. This circadian rhythm is often led astray because of things like night shift, working late at night, waking up too early to finish that paper you need to submit, and other such things.
Mental Health Issues
Mental health and insomnia work very closely together. Sleeping problems often have a give and take relationship with mental disorders. For example, if you suffer from anxiety, it might lead to sleepless nights. But on the other hand, your sleeplessness can greatly affect your anxiety or make it worse!
Physical Health Issues
Your insomnia might be caused by (or affect) mental disorders like depression, anxiety, eating disorders, PTSD, etc. However, physical problems like gastroenteric issues, muscle pain, or sleep apnea might also play a role in exacerbating your insomnia!
Food or Drinks
A lot of people like to drink that last cup of chai before sleeping. Some might also enjoy one last smoke before bed, this might be the cause of your sleeplessness. Caffeine, alcohol, and nicotine have detrimental effects on your sleep pattern and quality.
Some kinds of medication may change or alter sleep patterns. If you notice that taking your meds is keeping you up at night, you should immediately consult a doctor or go to a sleep clinic to get checked out! Sleep medication, infamous for getting people hooked to it, also causes sleep disorders.
Electronics and gadgets have inundated our lives. All electronic screens, including laptops and smartphones, emit a blue-white light. These lights drastically suppress the production of melatonin, the hormone that controls the body’s day-night cycle. According to a Business Insider report, staying away from our many gadgets can cause separation anxiety! This can also cause insomnia and other mental issues.
Some people might have insomnia in their genes. Biological reasons relating to brain chemicals in addition to bad sleep hygiene can lead to chronic insomnia. This can further flare up into mental disorders and stress.
How Does Insomnia Affect You
Under-eye circles are not the only way that sleeplessness can show up in your life. Sleeplessness can have a lot of physical and mental impacts as well. When insomnia comes to play, you might feel tired all the time, forget many things, and get annoyed faster.
As Chuck Palahniuk says in Fight Club,
“With insomnia, nothing’s real. Everything is far away. Everything’s a copy of a copy of a copy.”
Sleep has a close relationship with the brain. It can affect the way you think about things or perceive the world.
The lack of sleep can affect you mentally by hampering your ability to create new memories. Your retention powers go down drastically as well. If you wonder why you can’t remember things when you don’t sleep well, this is the reason why!
Being awake for more than 19 hours can bring your mental capacity down to the same level as someone who is drinking and driving!
Less sleep can also lead to the creation of a toxic protein in the brain called beta-amyloid. This protein is often associated with Alzheimer’s disease.
As mentioned before, insomnia can greatly affect anxiety disorders, This means that if you do not get enough sleep daily, you could be prone to anxiety attacks, panic, attacks, and other mental health issues.
If you are already suffering from mental health disorders like depression, Insomnia will often harm your recovery rate. According to a study, insomnia precedes depression 69% of the time!
Of the many physical health impacts that insomnia might have on your body, some are particularly troubling.
Sleep deprivation can often impair your immune system. Insomnia and PCOS and PCOD also seem to have a strong relationship. Many women complain of not being able to sleep well while suffering from PCOS or PCOD.
Sleeping too little leads to a boost in the development of a toxic protein in the brain called beta-amyloid, which is associated with Alzheimer’s disease. Insomniacs are also linked to a higher risk of Type 2 diabetes because the body becomes less effective at regulating blood sugar levels. With less sleep, you are also prone to a greater number of cancers.
Many people who sleep late or suffer from insomnia complain of a lower sex drive. Oftentimes, after not getting enough satisfying sleep, you’re just too tired for sex.
Sleeplessness can also show up on your skin! Insomnia often rears its ugly head in the form of breakouts, inflammation, sebum production, and other such issues.
One of the most terrifying results of insomnia is ‘micro-sleeps.’ Essentially, the body shuts down because it needs rest, and in these short bursts of time, you are unaware of your surroundings and yourself.
Your muscle mass will decrease, making any exercise redundant. Tired bodies cannot develop, and thus insomnia might lead to weight gain.
What Can You Do To Overcome Insomnia
Many people tend to ignore insomnia and other sleep disorders. Sleeping less means more time to work, right?
Insomnia might help you keep your deadlines and give you more time at first, but will inevitably lead to lower brain function and physical exhaustion. However, all is not lost. There are many ways to combat insomnia and keep up with work and home lives.
You might roll your eyes at this suggestion, but it is often the best way to combat insomnia. Changing your lifestyle is not easy. It takes time and effort, so don’t be disappointed if you cannot make concrete changes at once.
One of the major ways to change your sleep pattern and induce sleep is to reduce the stress factors in your life. Another way to reduce insomnia might be changing your smoking and drinking habits.
Many people find that they cannot sleep well after eating a huge meal. Changing your dinner habits could help you sleep better.
If you find that you have chronic insomnia, you should also keep a track of the amount of caffeine you are ingesting. Maybe don’t drink that last cup of coffee in the evening?
Switch Off Electronics
A lot of us stay away scrolling endlessly at night. Not only does staring at the screens in the dark affect our sleep cycles, but it also impacts our eyesight. Avoiding electronics, especially before sleeping, can help you reduce sleeplessness and introduce healthier sleeping habits to your life.
Consult a Doctor
Do not wait for insomnia to barge into your regular life. Visit a sleep clinic or a doctor for a check-up. This might help you curb chronic insomnia in its infancy!
You should also check with your doctor to see if your insomnia is related to medication that you might be taking regularly. You may be able to switch to a different medication with fewer side effects or the doctor may offer you some tips on how to get the sleep you need without stopping the medication.
Maintain Work-life Balance
There is a reason most offices work only eight hours a day. Working more than that, or ignoring your personal life can lead to problems in your body. This might manifest as insomnia, which might lead to mental disorders. Maintaining work-life balance is one of the most important things to battle insomnia, especially in this modern age.
If you know someone who has insomnia, do not laugh away from the problem. A lot of insomniacs don’t share their problems because the result is often people telling them to, ‘just go to sleep.’ People suffering from insomnia need sympathy, help, and understanding friends and family.
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