Almost everyone experiences insomnia from time to time. Many people experience problems sleeping including not getting enough sleep, not feeling rested and not sleeping well. This problem can lead to difficulties functioning during the daytime and have unpleasant effects on your work, social and family life. Problems sleeping can be secondary to a medical illness such as sleep apnea, or a mental health condition like depression. Sleep issues can be a sign of an impending condition such as bipolar disorder. In addition to affecting sleep itself, many medical and mental health conditions can be worsened by sleep-related problems.
One of the major sleep disorders that people face is insomnia. Insomnia is an inability to get the amount of sleep needed to function efficiently during the daytime. Insomnia is caused by difficulty falling asleep, difficulty staying asleep or waking up too early in the morning.Insomnia is often a characteristic of depression and other mental health disorders.
With untreated depression, you may have overwhelming feelings of sadness, hopelessness, worthlessness, or guilt. These feelings can interrupt sleep. Moreover, your mind may be in overdrive, thinking about situations over which you have no control. With that thoughts come high levels of anxiety, fears about poor sleep, low daytime activity levels, and a tendency to misperceive sleep. In other people, insomnia can be a result of a person’s lifestyle or work schedule. Sometimes insomnia or other sleep problems can be caused by sleep apnea, which is a separate medical condition that affects a person’s ability to breathe while sleeping. A doctor or sleep specialist can diagnose sleep apnea and provide treatment to improve sleep.
Short-term insomnia is very common and has many causes such as stress, travel or other life events. It can generally be relieved by simple sleep hygiene interventions such as exercise, a hot bath, warm milk or changing your bedroom environment. Long-term insomnia lasts for more than three weeks and should be investigated by a physician with a potential referral to a sleep disorder specialist, which includes psychiatrists, neurologists and pulmonologists who have expertise in sleep disorders.
CAUSE AND EFFECT
More than one-half of insomnia cases are related to depression, anxiety or psychological stress. Often the qualities of a person’s insomnia and their other symptoms can be helpful in determining the role of mental illness in a person’s inability to sleep. Early morning wakefulness can be a sign of depression, along with low energy, inability to concentrate, sadness and a change in appetite or weight. On the other hand, a sudden dramatic decrease in sleep which is accompanied by increase in energy, or the lack of need for sleep may be a sign of mania.
Many anxiety disorders are associated with difficulties sleeping. Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder (OCD) is frequently associated with poor sleep. Panic attacks during sleep may suggest a panic disorder. Poor sleep resulting from nightmares may be associated with Posttraumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD).Substance abuse can also cause problems with sleep. While alcohol is sedating in limited quantities, intoxication with alcohol can make you wake up numerous times in the night and disturbs your sleep patterns.
Poor sleep has been shown to significantly worsen the symptoms of many mental health issues. Severe sleep problems can decrease the effectiveness of certain treatments. Treatment of sleep disorders has also been studied in relationship to schizophrenia, ADHD and other mental illnesses. All of the scientific data shows the connection between medical and mental illnesses: good sleep is necessary for recovery or prevention in both types of conditions.
WHY IS SLEEP SO IMPORTANT?
Normal sleep is a healingstate. However, when sleep is disrupted or inadequate, it can lead to increased tension, alertness, and irritability. Physical or emotional trauma and other medical problems can trigger sleep disturbances. Poor sleep can lead to tiredness. With tiredness, you exercise less and that leads to a decline in your fitness level. Eventually, you find yourself in a bad cycle of inactivity and disturbed sleep, which causes both physical and mood-related symptoms.
WHAT HAPPENS IF YOU HAVE INSOMNIA?
There are serious health risks associated with chronic insomnia. According to the National Institute for Health, insomnia can increase your risk for mental health problems as well as overall health concerns.
(1) INCREASED RISK FOR MEDICAL CONDITIONS
These include:· Stroke, ·•Asthma attacks, •Seizures, •Weak immune system, •Sensitivity to pain, •Inflammation, •Obesity, •Diabetes mellitus, •High blood pressure, •Heart disease
(2) INCREASED RISK FOR MENTAL HEALTH DISORDERS
These include: •Depression, •Anxiety, •Confusion and frustration
(3) INCREASED RISK FOR ACCIDENTS
Insomnia can affect your: •Performance at work or school, •Sex drive, •Memory, •Judgement
The immediate concern is daytime sleepiness. A lack of energy can cause feelings of anxiety, depression, or irritation. Not only can it affect your performance at work or school, but too little sleep may also increase your risk for car accidents.
(4) SHORTENED LIFE EXPECTANCY
Having insomnia can shorten your life expectancy. An analysis of 16 studies that covered over 1 million participants and 112,566 deaths looked at the correlation between sleep duration and mortality. They found that sleeping less increased risk for death by 12 percent, compared to those who slept seven to eight hours per night.
A more recent study looked at the effects of repeated insomnia and death over 38 years. They found that those with frequent insomnia had a 97 percent increased risk of death.
SLEEP TIPS THAT CAN HELP WITH DEPRESSION
Here are some lifestyle tips that may help improve sleep and resolve insomnia: •Meditation, listening to soft music, or reading a book before bedtime can help increase relaxation while focusing your thoughts on neutral or pleasant topics.
- Clear your head of concerns by writing a list of activities that needs to be completed the next day. Then tell yourself you will think about it tomorrow.
- Get regular exercise — but no later than a few hours before bedtime. Daily exercise, including stretching and conditioning exercises, can help to facilitate sleep and relieve the associated anxiety many people have about staying asleep.
- Avoid looking at a bright screen (for example, a laptop or television) prior to bedtime because the light emitted from computer monitors or LCD screens can suppress release of the natural hormone melatonin, which signals the brain to go to sleep.
- High levels of arousal associated with racing thoughts, worries, or rumination may delay sleep onset. Relaxation therapies such as yoga and deep abdominal breathing may be useful in initiating sleep.
- Don’t use caffeine, alcohol, or nicotine in the evening. Check the ingredients in any over-the-counter or prescription medications to see if “sleeplessness” is indicated. Some medications such as headache medicines contain caffeine, which can cause poor sleep.
- Don’t lie in bed tossing and turning. Get out of bed and do some light activity (such as reading or listening to soft music) in another room when you can’t sleep. Go back to bed when you are feeling drowsy.
- Use the bed only for sleeping and sex. Don’t get into the habit of watching TV, eating, or performing any other activities in your bed. You want to train your brain into thinking that once you are in bed it is time to go to sleep. If you routinely engage in other activities in bed, your brain will be more difficult to shut down at bedtime as well. Do not use your bed for anything other than sleep and sexual intimacy.
- Take a warm shower right before bedtime to increase deep sleep as your body cools.
- Keep your bedroom at a cool temperature.
- Wear earplugs and a sleep mask if noise and light bother your sleep.
- Get blackout shades for your bedroom to keep outside lights from bothering you.
If taking the above steps doesn’t cure your insomnia, then it’s time to see your physician to see if there are any underlying health conditions that may be causing your insomnia. Getting a good night’s sleep is so important to your overall health.
If you are unable to obtain adequate sleep, it can manifest itself physically and emotionally and interfere with your functioning and quality of life. Although taking the above steps takes some effort, it’s important to realize that it’s a process and may take a little bit of time to conquer. However, a good night’s sleep is well worth the battle. Take Care of Yourself and Each Other!