I can’t sleep because I am excited about an upcoming trip, Spring break/NO school, pending promotion, having a baby, how much candy will I get for Easter. I can’t sleep because I am stressed/anxious about being fired, can’t pay my bills, had a baby, nothing to wear to prom. Not getting sleep can be caused by the good, the bad or the not so serious issues/events in your life. Your short- term insomnia will most likely correct itself once the issues are over. On the other hand, long-term or chronic insomnia can affect your health, work performance and quality of life. How do you know if you have chronic insomnia? The symptoms are; can’t fall asleep easy, wake up during the night and can’t fall back to sleep, you wake up still tired and you wake up too early.
How much sleep is enough varies as most adults need seven to eight hours a night. I know you are probably not worrying about how much candy you’re getting for Easter or finding that “it” dress for prom, but short-term insomnia can affect everyone, even young children and teens, as sleep problems generally run in families. 35% of people with insomnia have a family history and their mother is usually the one to pass it along to the children, but a genetic component is difficult to identify.
What can we identify as a cause for chronic insomnia? Insomnia is a catch-22 as it can be caused by health problems and it causes health problems. Mental disorders associated with chronic insomnia are; depression, bipolar disorder, attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) and post-traumatic stress disorder. Causes can also be combined psychological and physical conditions like; disruption in a person’s sleep/wake cycle, not associating their bed with sleep, stress over inability to sleep and unsuccessful attempts to control sleep loss thoughts (mind racing) worsening their insomnia.
Medical problems such as; allergies, cancer, heart disease, acid reflux, hypertension, pulmonary diseases, Alzheimer’s, Parkinson’s, hyperthyroidism, epilepsy and fibromyalgia cause insomnia along with the sleep disorder restless legs syndrome (RLS) and obstructive sleep apnea (OSA). Medications can also be classified as sleep stealers, these include antidepressants, beta-blockers and beta-agonist.
Ten to fifteen percent of chronic insomnia cases are due to substance abuse in particular alcohol, cocaine and sedatives. Many people use alcohol as a way to calm down after a hard day at work and fall asleep easy. But excess alcohol used as a sleep aid tends to disrupt sleep after the affect wears off. It also increases the chance for OSA and RLS. Recovering alcoholics suffer from insomnia not only during the withdrawal period but for many years during recovery.
Chronic insomnia makes it hard to focus during the day and can cause additional health problems if left untreated. It has been reported that insomnia can cause heart disease, obesity, type 2 diabetes and depression. If you feel you have chronic insomnia see your family doctor as he may recommend a sleep evaluation at a sleep clinic center. For more information about a sleep study, see: Overnight Sleep Study at a Sleep Clinic Center.
When you make your appointment with your doctor it is sometime advised to keep a sleep journal for at least two weeks. Make note of your sleep schedule; daily routine, number of hours slept, number of times woken up, naps and if you get tired during the day. Keep track of any other symptoms whether mental or physical you may be experiencing, major stress or life changes, list all your medications (prescription, over-the-counter and supplements), family history and a list of questions you may have for the doctor. It could be beneficial to take your partner along to tell the doctor how well you are sleeping and if there are any marriage sleep habits or preferences causing you to have a hard night’s sleep such as snoring or gasping for breathe.
Your doctor will ask questions to determine if you need a sleep specialist These questions I found on WebMD, they include:
• How often do you have trouble sleeping, and when did the insomnia begin?
• How long does it take you to fall asleep?
• How often do you awaken at night and how long does it take you to fall back to sleep?
• What time do you go to bed at night and wake up in the morning? Is this different on weekends?
• How many hours a night do you sleep?
• Do you snore or wake up choking for breath?
• Do you feel refreshed when you wake up?
• Are you tired during the day?
• Do you doze off or have trouble staying awake while sitting quietly or driving?
• Do you nap during the day?
• What is your bedtime routine?
• Where do you sleep? What is the noise level, temperature and lighting in this room?
• What do you eat and drink in the evening?
• Do you use tobacco or drink alcohol?
• Do you take any medications or sleeping pills before bed?
• Have you experienced stressful events recently, such as divorce, loss of a job or increased demands at work?
• Have you ever used sleeping pills?
• What type of work do you do?
• What is your exercise routine?
• Do you worry about falling asleep or staying asleep?
• Do you have any family members with sleep problems?
• Have you traveled recently?
• What medications do you take regularly?
Sometimes (more likely than not) by changing sleep habits and treating underlying causes can restore a person’s sleep/wake cycle to they can get the sleep they need. One non-medicated alternative he may suggest is behavior therapies where they teach you ways to improve your sleep environment and sleep habits, progressive muscle relaxation and breathing exercises, cognitive behavior therapy (thinking positive), sleep restriction and light therapy.
If your doctors prescribes sleeping pills they usually don’t recommend relying on them for more than a few weeks because they are habit-forming and have other side effects. Over-the-counter sleep aids that contain antihistamines like Benadryl can make you drowsy but may reduce the quality of your sleep and also has side effects such as; daytime sleepiness, dry mouth and blurred vision, especially on the elderly.
If you are a 6 or less hour sleeper and have 90 minutes to spare in the afternoon you might consider trying a biphasic sleep pattern. Using the biphasic sleep pattern is simply sleeping 4-6 hours a night and a 90 minute nap during the day. This sleep pattern has been touted to give you enough sleep to feel energized during your waking hours, plus it gives you more time awake to go find that special dress you want for the prom:) Rest assured, heres to finding that dress and making sure no one else wears it! (Can you believe someone actually has a website for that? – amazing)
The content provided in I Cant Sleep Because…..is for information purposes only, intended to raise the awareness of different solutions for you or your families sleep problems and should not be considered medical advice. For medical diagnosis and treatment, please see your qualified health-care professional.