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The Ins and Outs of Insomnia

Can’t sleep? You may be surprised why…

First, the facts: According to the American Academy of Sleep Medicine’s ICSD-3 manual, insomnia is defined as “persistent difficulty with sleep initiation, duration, consolidation or quality” (1). Waking up too early, falling asleep too late, not getting consistent sleep, and worrying about falling asleep are all symptoms of insomnia. Although it is generally believed that 10% to 15% of the adult population suffers from chronic insomnia, and an additional 25% to 35% have transient or occasional insomnia (2).

If you’ve ever had a night where you just couldn’t fall asleep, you know how frustrating it is. Lack of sleep leads to all kinds of negative consequences, including irritability, low motivation, low energy, lack of focus, and even depression and anxiety-related symptoms. Those with occasional insomnia can usually pinpoint what caused the lack of sleep – caffeine, alcohol, and stress are the usual suspects. However, chronic insomnia is a more serious condition that requires a more in-depth evaluation to find its cause. Let’s explore some of the potential causes for chronic insomnia.

Stress and anxiety.

Ever had a big test the next day and couldn’t sleep? Or had racing thoughts at night and felt like you just couldn’t “turn your brain off”? Welcome to the wonderful world of anxiety. Anxiety keeps our brains activated and always trying to anticipate a threat. Because our brain is in this state, it is difficult, if not impossible, to fall asleep.

Poor sleep habits.

Having an irregular sleep schedule, looking at screens before bed, eating shortly before bedtime, having an uncomfortable sleeping environment, and using your bed for anything other than sleep or sex are examples of poor sleep habits that can heavily influence the chance of you having insomnia.

Health issues and medication.

Certain medications can affect your sleep quality and make it difficult for you to fall asleep or stay asleep. It’s important to review the possible side effects of all of your medications to determine if it could be the culprit. Health conditions such as sleep apnea and restless leg syndrome can also lead to poor sleep and insomnia. Getting regular physicals and following up with your doctor is essential.

You may be asking, “well that’s great, but how in the world do I manage it?” In our next blog, we will take a further look into how to improve your sleep hygiene, learn relaxation skills, and defeat insomnia once and for all.

Sources:

  1. American Academy of Sleep Medicine. (2014). The International Classification of Sleep Disorders – Third Edition (ICSD-3). Darien, IL.

  2. Karl Doghramji, MD. The Epidemiology and Diagnosis of Insomnia. https://www.ajmc.com/view/may06-2307ps214-s220

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