Eyes agape, you lie restless in the dark. Your overtired mind and the slumbering sound of your lover should be enough to lull you to sleep. Instead, you bore holes in the ceiling. Sometimes this lasts for hours – sometimes it wakes you in the night, but it always comes, like a faithful friend, and it keeps you from drifting.
Good news…you aren’t alone.
Restlessness is a growing epidemic, and based on statistics from the National Sleep Foundation, sleep eludes nearly 40 million Americans, but what’s even worse than a case of nighttime insomnia is how you feel come the morning, and the effects sleeplessness will have on your body long-term.
Insomnia is a haunting, debilitating issue that is cloaked in mystery. Its plethora of symptoms, the amount of time spent coping and its even larger list of potential causes makes it impossible to predict, hard to treat and even more challenging to understand, but what we can tell you with certainty is that insomnia is the inability to initiate or maintain sleep, and it puts a real damper on the rest of your life.
If you frequently combat bouts of insomnia, its symptoms are something you have come to know well. However, for those of you who aren’t sure that you deal with sleeplessness, you and your doctor should examine its list of symptoms. Some of those indicators might include: waking during the night, issues falling asleep, rising too early and feeling tired even after a full night of what should be peaceful sleep.
Did You Know?
Little do you know that during the night when you’re fast asleep your body is recovering and fighting off the stressors from the day. There is actually a scientific explanation for the way your body and mind lag after spending too many hours without the coziness of your covers.
Did you know that though we often view sleep as a lap of luxury, it is essentially one of the most vital and necessary functions for your body’s overall health and well-being? There is actually a critical reason why your doctor tells you to get more rest when you’re sick.
Sleep supercharges your immune system while supporting a healthy metabolism. During slumber your body also works overtime to repair and replenish cells that are damaged by things like anxiety and UV rays that you encounter through the day. Sleep also helps your body regulate moods by releasing hormones, and allows you feel alert and stay focused throughout the day.
A CDC report found that approximately 4.2 percent of drivers have fallen asleep at the wheel in the last 30 days – that means a proper sleep cycle can literally prevent thousands of deaths a yearly.
If those little sleepy snippets aren’t enough for you to consider hitting the hay a bit earlier tonight, a normal, healthy sleeping routine also allows your body to combat and ward off a number of chronic disease and issues including: obesity, high blood pressure, diabetes, cardiovascular disease and depression.
So if you have children stealing all your ZZZs, make sure you’re divvy up those late nights between yourself and your spouse.
Categorize Your Insomnia
There are a several kinds of insomnia and each is contingent on how long the person has been restless, how it effects their social or occupational life and when the problem occurs. The amount of time the sufferer spends dealing with the condition makes their specific type of restlessness acute or chronic.
Transient, Acute or Chronic?
It’s primary to first address the amount of time you’ve spent dealing with restless nights. Feeling tired and getting little sleep from a few days to a few weeks is known as having an acute type of insomnia. Chronic insomnia is often categorized by having sleepless nights for a month or more. Additionally, transient insomnia is the lesser of the two, resulting in less than a week of sleeplessness.
Onset, Sleep Maintenance or Terminal?
Furthermore, insomnia can be subcategorized down even further in regards to when and how you have difficulties.
Onset insomnia is the type that is most synonymous with our general ideas of insomnia. This kind refers to having issues with the process of dozing off or falling asleep.
You count sheep, twiddle your thumbs, get some water, use the restroom but nothing you do can ease you back to sleep. Waking in the middle of the night and not being able to drift back off is referred to as sleep maintenance.
You’ve fallen asleep without a problem and you’ve stayed asleep all night, but come first light your eyes spring open and stay that way. Waking too early is known as terminal insomnia.
The most common form of insomnia (psychophysiological insomnia) is secondary. As hinted in the title, this type is a secondary problem resulting from a larger issue. This type of insomnia is often described as a symptom of something else. Environmental, medical or psychiatric issues are often to blame for this form of restlessness. For instance, if you’ve been drinking coffee, exercising too close to bedtime or you have an injury that is making sleep difficult, you’re likely experiencing secondary insomnia.
Specifically, psychophysiologic insomnia, which affects approximately ten percent of the population, is learned or behavioral insomnia, and is often associated with stressing over sleep. Your snoozing habits are disturbed for a few nights, after which you become obsessed with thoughts of sleeping poorly. Most people who experience this type of restlessness spend their days anxious over falling asleep, and because of the mental arousal around bedtime, it’s impossible to drift off.
Primary Insomnia/Diopathic Insomnia
Primary insomnia, which is diagnosis by a number of criterion including difficulty falling and maintaining sleep, early awakening, poor sleep and other daytime issues caused by inadequate sleep, is often thought of as a disorder rather than a symptom of some undying issue. Primary insomniacs are always people who are experiencing chronic insomnia.
According to sleepdex.org, Diopathic insomnia is associated with a lifetime of problems associated with sleep, and its severity is amplified during times of anxiety. Diopathic insomniacs have an inability to neurotically control their sleep and wake cycle.
Causes and Solutions
Ok, so now we know an awful lot about how insomnia works and what types exist, but what’s even more central than familiarity with its symptoms and categorization is being knowledgeable about its causes and possible solutions, especially since insomnia is often a result of something that is preventable.
There are dozens of possible causes of insomnia, so we’ll just touch on a few of the most common including anxiety, the consumption of substances, health issues, schedules, sleep time routines and sedentary lifestyles.
We’re walking stress balls all the time, and this causes a lot of anxiety to surface at bedtime since it’s the one occasion during the day that your brain isn’t simultaneously focusing on doing a dozen things at once. Good news – there are a number of techniques you can adopt around bedtime to make the process of drifting off easier. Some are listed below, but in addition we also suggest exploring breathing techniques and a variety meditation methods. Cognitive-behavioral therapy (CBT) is another therapeutic approach that encourages a healthy, stress-free mind that is conducive to positive sleeping habits.
Various medications and other things we consume throughout the day can take a serious toll on our sleeping patterns. Substances like certain antibiotics, allergy medication, alcohol, caffeine and high blood pressure prescriptions can result in insomnia. Our suggestion is to track the consumption of any medication and substances that may contain caffeine and avoid using them several hours before bedtime. If that isn’t an option, consult with your doctor about other possible options.
There is this nifty little idea that comes in the form of physically wearing yourself out. Living a sedentary lifestyle makes sleep difficult because your body is never exhausted. Extra energy is bouncing around in there that never has an opportunity to escape.
We sit behind our desks at work for hours at a time, we park as close to the grocery store as humanly possible and we frequent the elevator instead of the stairs. Switch it up! Jog down a flight several times a day or take a few minutes to do some light stretching on your lunch break.
On top of the fact that exercising three to five times a week is great for your waistline and your dietary health, getting a good sweat in several hours before bed makes meeting the sheets so much more satisfying. Adults are recommended a mere 150 minutes of activity a week, people! That’s 30 minutes fives times a week. Let’s get moving!
Additionally, take in some rays! Make sure to get (at least) 15-30 minutes of sunlight a day.
Mental health conditions can also be an underlying sleep issue. If you experience depression, PTSD, chronic stress, anxiety, schizophrenia or bipolar disorder each can be responsible for your insomnia. Consult with your doctor about possible options.
General pain or sickness can also result in bedtime restlessness. Issues that make breathing difficult, recent injuries or chronic pain, various sleeping disorders, menopause or gastrointestinal disorders can all be to blame.
If you find yourself sneezing and wheezing or huffing and puffing at bedtime make try to identify the trigger and eliminate it. Flare-ups often happen at night thanks to things like pet dander and laying your head too flat. Prop your head to avoid obstructed passages and congestion, and make sure you aren’t bunking next to your favorite four-legged friend. Eating earlier in the night, propping your head and sleeping on your side can also silence GERD.
Proper sleep often hinders on regulating your schedule. We realize getting to bed around the same time each night requires lots of planning (especially if you have a family, work hours that are not standard or do a lot of travelling), but it is a necessary part of developing a cycle for your body to adjust to. This means going to bed and waking up at the same each day – including the weekends, and avoiding naps during the day.
Sleep Time Routines
Turn off your TV, light a few candles and cozy up with a good book. In tandem with following a set schedule, creating a routine that signifies that it is time to wind down is vital. Relaxing rituals before bed can be anything from a hot shower with a little light music to turning off all gadgets or meditation. Too often life gets in the way, and we become over-stimulated too close to bedtime. Overstimulation allows our brains to run rampant, thus, creating an environment that is not conducive to sound and rejuvenating sleep.
Since there are so many classifications and factors that go into diagnosing insomnia, you can imagine that there is no cookie-cutter approach to treatment. However, if you’re concerned that what your experiencing is some form of restlessness the first step is to chat with your healthcare provider. Your doctor will be able to identify your specific case (primary or secondary) and decided whether to pinpoint and treat an underlying issue or to treat the condition itself.
Prescription sleep aids can be used as a solution, but they can often be habit forming and cause grogginess after use. Many of these supplements are also not suggested for long-term use. Solutions like meditation, exercise, CBT therapy, setting a schedule or creating a relaxing in-home nighttime routine are healthier alternatives that have no limitations.
Other over-the-counter alternatives like melatonin, L-tryptophan pills and various teas and other extracts can also be used to incur restful nights. However, before beginning any alternative medicine it is always best to consult your physician.
Take your time mulling over each option that applies to your situation with your doctor. Satisfying sleep doesn’t have to be a struggle, and we think you deserve every blissful z.