Dealing with Insomnia – Symptom vs. Underlying Illness
Dealing with insomnia is a huge issue today because we have an insomnia problem in the United States. We even have a new field of medicine today viz. Sleep Specialists because of the importance of sleep to our mental and physical hygiene. Sleep to the brain is like insulin to the pancreas. We all need a good night sleep to repair our bodies, keep our hearts healthy, reduce stress, help with memory and other mental tasks; and help control our body weight. Scientists believe that sleep maintains and repairs our bodies and minds. Every night we cycle through three stages of sleep ranging from light sleep to deep sleep, and finally, to rapid eye movement (REM) sleep. A complete sleep cycle takes ninety to one hundred minutes on average. While we sleep our brains are using important neuronal connections that might otherwise get worse from lack of activity. During deep sleep, brain activity that controls emotions, decision-making processes, and social interaction stops; thus allowing us to maintain optimal emotional and social functioning when we are awake. Cell repair and cell growth takes place to combat the affects of stress and UV rays in this stage as well. Hence deep sleep is really beauty sleep. Dealing with insomnia is a common struggle in today’s stressful society.
Sleep also strengthens our immune system and helps our bodies fight infection, this is because our immune system releases a sleep inducing chemical while fighting a flu or an infection. Sleep helps the body conserve energy and other resources that the immune system requires to mount an effective attack. Start your insomnia treatment as soon as possible to prevent sleep deprivation. When dealing with insomnia we must remember that insomnia is not an illness but rather a symptom of something else. Unfortunately, many people are dealing with insomnia and treat it as an illness and never get to the underlying cause. Almost 90% of people with depression and anxiety, suffer from insomnia. One should get a complete physical and mental examination to rule out these factors. Diet, lack of exercise, stress, mental illness, acute crises, and physical inactivity can each be responsible for insomnia.
Dealing with Insomnia – Best Treatment
Sleep aids do play a significant role (temporarily) in dealing with the underlying causes of insomnia because lack of sleep begets more sleeplessness and spirals downward from there. If you are suffering from insomnia, you need to see your doctor to learn what is causing it. Often insomnia is caused by sleep apnea which is a very serious condition yet very treatable. I know of a gentleman who was waking 6 times a night to use the restroom and then could not get back to sleep. Even though he was not overweight, didn’t snore or have the “typical profile”; he tested positive for sleep apnea. Now that he’s on a CPAP machine, he sleeps soundly throughout the entire night without waking once. Surprisingly his apnea episodes are central in nature, the CPAP machine is still effective in treating his condition with great success! Sleep apnea is more prevalent than most believe; one need not be overweight to suffer from sleep apnea because there is also a condition referred to earlier in this article of central apnea which involves the brain failing to “tell the body to breath”. Obstructive sleep apnea is caused from the soft tissues of the neck obstructing the opening to the lungs, therefore, air can’t get to them. This is caused usually from weight issues. Though sleep aids should be used temporarily, if someone has to use these long term; I believe that the consequences of not getting the therapeutic sleep can be far more devastating than prolonged use of sleep aids.
Here are some statistics that you might find interesting about dealing with insomnia:
- People today are sleeping on average 20% less than they did 100 years ago.
- Over 30 Million Americans suffer from insomnia (10%)
- 20-40% of adults in the US experience insomnia in any given year
- 51% of Americans are losing sleep due to stress and/or anxiety
- 40% – 60% of people over 60 suffer from insomnia
- Women are between 1.5 and 2 times more likely to suffer from insomnia than men
- Approx 35% of insomniacs have a family history of insomnia – red flag of an underlying disorder
- Approx 10 Million people in the US use prescription sleep aids/insomnia medications to help them sleep
- The average person needs eight hours of sleep, while infants need sixteen hours of sleep, and teenagers need about nine hours.
- People who suffer from sleep deprivation are 27% more likely to become overweight.
You need your sleep for your mental hygiene and overall health – don’t dismiss insomnia as typical of a “busy person” – get help. Dealing with insomnia is one of the most critical issues to mental hygiene today. Insomnia should be a red flag that signals a the need to change your diet, exercise, and begin some stress management; if these alone don’t work, please seek psychiatric help.