More and more studies are pointing out the importance of sleep and the harmful effects when we don’t get enough of it. Sleep insufficiency is widely linked to chronic health issues like heart disease, stroke and obesity, as well as vehicular accidents. Sleep problems are also a major cause of productivity loss among employees.
Sleep is essential to your health as food, air and water. Cell repair and healing takes place during sleep, that’s why we feel more energetic and refreshed as we wake up each morning. But this is not the case for many people, particularly those who have insomnia.
Insomnia is one of the most common sleep problems. According to the NHS, about a third of people in the UK have episodes of insomnia. This sleeping disorder tends to be more common in women and more likely to occur with age. Untreated insomnia can cause serious problems to a person and may significantly affect his or her quality of life.
Below are some surprising facts about insomnia that you need to know, especially if you think you have it.
Insomnia and depression are linked.
It’s often hard to tell which one comes first. That’s because insomnia can lead to depression and depression can cause insomnia. In a 2014 study published in the journal Sleep Medicine, insomnia was linked to depression, generalised anxiety disorder, and panic disorder in teenagers. The study authors note that “having insomnia in addition to anxiety or depression can further intensify the problems being experienced with each individual disorder.” Meanwhile, a 2013 Canadian study found that treating the two conditions simultaneously can improve symptoms of both.
Some people are predisposed to insomnia.
Bad news: sleep problems could also run in families. In a 2007 study published in the journal Sleep, researchers found that about 35% of those with insomnia had a family history of the said sleep disorder. Another study, which involved nearly 800 teens, found that those whose parents have insomnia have an increased risk for using prescribed sleeping pills, and having mental problems.
Sleeping pills won’t help you in the long term.
If you want to get rid of insomnia for good, medication isn’t the answer. Whilst sleeping pills can make you fall asleep easier, their effects can wear off if they’re used long-term. What’s better than popping pills is establishing healthy sleep habits. Keep your bedroom dark and cool, go to bed at the same time each night, don’t take too much caffeine, and don’t oversleep on weekends. Proper diet and regular exercise are also crucial. It’s also recommended that you see a GP regularly for check-up because some health conditions can cause sleep difficulties.
A ‘sleep ‘diary may help.
GPs recommend keeping a sleep diary so you gain a better understanding of your sleep patterns. This in turn helps you decide which method of treatment to use. The NHS recommend keeping track of the following: the time you go bed; how long it takes you to get to sleep; the number of times you wake up in the night; what time it is when you wake up episodes of daytime tiredness and naps; what time you eat meals, consume alcohol, take exercise and when you are stressed.
Women are more likely to have it.
Women are two times more likely to have insomnia than men, according to the National Sleep Foundation. Experts speculate that the reason may have to do with women’s hormones. Sleepless nights and daytime sleepiness have been linked with hormonal changes in a women’s life, including pregnancy, menopause, and the menstrual cycle. For instance, for women experiencing menopause, when hormone levels are erratic, sleep problems are a common complaint.
Chronic insomnia ups risk for alcohol abuse.
In 2012, researchers from Trinity College Dublin, in Ireland, found that people who drink alcohol to help them get to sleep could wind up developing a drinking problem. An earlier study, published in 2001 in the American Journal of Psychiatry, showed that participants with insomnia were about twice as likely to report using alcohol to sleep, compared with those without insomnia. Attempting to self-medicate insomnia with alcohol, however, will ultimately worsen insomnia, the study authors said.
Natural remedies are available.
Researchers from Louisiana State University found that drinking tart cherry juice before bed improved insomnia symptoms in older adults, and previous research has suggested that herbal remedies, like chamomile tea, may help as well. Psychotherapy and cognitive behavioural therapy, and in my own professional experience hypnotherapy has also been extremely effective.