Insomnia is not just a nuisance. It Can Have Serious Effects on You

Erika Zar saw a doctor for the first time about her inability to sleep or insomnia disease, he was 9 years old. “I remember mostly asking questions about how much soda I was drinking,” she said. Unfortunately, the doctor could not help him. Dice’s insomnia followed him into adulthood, worsening mental health issues along the way.

“For many years before I learned to manage it, insomnia was undoubtedly a contributing factor throughout my life. anxiety and depression,” said Zar. “I remember many dark nights when I felt almost suicidal.”

Insomnia can harm physical and mental well-being, worsen existing health problems, and increase your risk of chronic disease down the road. It can also affect your ability to work throughout the day. Fortunately, there are things you can do to sleep more and better.

Sleep disorders, including insomnia, affect millions

Sleep disorders, which are any conditions that cause a change in the way you sleep, are approximately 70 million Americans. While there are more than 80 types of sleep disorders, the most common is insomnia, Sleep apnea, restless legs syndrome and narcolepsy.

Insomnia can be further divided into two types: acute and chronic. Acute insomnia is a short-term problem that lasts for days or weeks and is often accompanied by a specific stressor – an anxiety that keeps you awake at night.

Chronic insomnia is a long-term condition that lasts for months or longer. It may be due to stressful situations, such as acute insomnia, he said. Dr. Smita PatelAn integrative neurologist and sleep medicine physician at the iNeuro Institute and a member of HealthyWomen’s Women’s Health Advisory Council (WHAC). There may be other causes, Patel said: irregular sleep schedules, poor sleep hygiene, constant nightmares, mental health disorders, underlying physical problems, medications, a noisy or restless bed partner, or other sleep disturbances.

With both acute and chronic insomnia, people have trouble falling or staying asleep to the point that it affects their ability to function throughout the day. It’s important to note that insomnia is not the same as sleep deprivation, Patel said.

“Often people with insomnia want to sleep, they can go to bed at a regular time, etc., but they often can’t sleep, stay asleep, or wake up too early,” he said. In other words, staying up too late to binge-watch your favorite show doesn’t count as insomnia.

Changing hormones, disturbed sleep

According to Patel, women are twice as likely as men to have trouble falling or staying asleep, and hormones plays a key role in this gender gap. Because estrogen and progesterone affect sleep, insomnia is more common in the premenstrual and postmenopausal years, when hormonal changes are most extreme.

Insomnia is also an important problem for women during perimenopause, the transitional period leading to menopause. In one study, between 31% and 42% of perimenopausal women Women reported experiencing insomnia, where symptoms worsened as they approached menopause.

Risk factors for insomnia include stress, nutrition

As many of us have learned the hard way, stress is one of the biggest risk factors for insomnia. Covid-19 Pandemic. Almost 3 million people googled “insomnia” In the US for the first five months of 2020 — a 58% increase over the same time period in the previous three years. Stress, whether momentary (next day test anxiety) or chronic (anxiety about the future), can keep you from falling or staying asleep.

Nutrition can also play a role in insomnia. Patel points out Research indicating a high diet Candy and trans fats and low fiber can negatively affect your ability to fall and stay asleep. The relationship between nutrition and insomnia is often bipolar, as lack of sleep can cause you to suffer from insomnia. craving the types of food that make insomnia worse.

Other risk factors for insomnia include being over 60, having a family history of insomnia, and not having a regular sleep schedule. There also seems to be a link between psychiatric disorders such as depression and anxiety and insomnia. “Most people with chronic insomnia have a psychiatric disorder, and most people with psychiatric disorders have insomnia,” Patel said.

Saundra Jain, PsyD, LPCShe hears about sleep deprivation quite often in her psychotherapy practice, said MD, a psychotherapist and associate clinical fellow at the University of Texas at Austin and a member of HealthyWomen’s WHAC. “The data support that sleep difficulties are very common in those who suffer from mental health problems such as depression, anxiety, bipolar disorder and other conditions,” said Jain.

Long-term effects of insomnia

In addition to worsening pre-existing health problems, insomnia can increase your risk of developing new ones. Lack of sleep is associated with: Chronic Conditions as depression and other mood disorders, high blood pressure, cardiovascular disease, type 2 diabetesand obesity.

Insomnia may also be linked to brain problems, including: memory loss and difficulty concentrating. “In the long run, insufficient sleep can put a person at higher risk for cognitive decline and dementia,” Patel said.

Sleep helps the brain It performs important cleaning tasks by removing potentially hazardous substances such as beta amyloid proteins associated with Alzheimer’s disease. Many factors contribute to Alzheimer’s risk, and insomnia may be one of them. “Studies have found that even one night of sleep deprivation can increase the amount of beta amyloid in the brain,” Patel said. Said.

Taking steps to sleep better

Good news? Even the most severe insomnia can be managed. Patel and Jain recommend these steps for better sleep:

Set a consistent wake time. The time you wake up has a big influence on how you sleep. Patel suggests getting up at the same time every day, even on weekends. When you get up, expose yourself to bright light as soon as possible, letting your body know it’s time to start your day. Natural light is best, but a full spectrum light box will work as well.

Add movement to your routine. “Many people, especially those working from home, don’t get enough movement during the day,” Patel said. “I’ve never been able to fall asleep faster or stay asleep better than when I did some strenuous physical activity during the day,” Zar said.

Consume carbohydrates and caffeine in moderation. Because high-carb diets are linked to poor sleep quality, people with insomnia may benefit from eating less food. complex carbohydrates. As for caffeine, Patel said it’s best to consume it early in the day if you’re sensitive.

Seek professional support. Jain explained that insomnia often leads to extreme anxiety about not being able to sleep, which further fuels poor sleep and causes a negative cycle. he recommends cognitive behavioral therapy for insomnia (CBT-i), a program that has helped many of its patients break the cycle. Medication may also be an option to help treat insomnia.

Insomnia one night at a time

Despite the occasional sleepless night, Dice is no longer at the mercy of insomnia. With consistent application of techniques like those suggested above (including the help of a good therapist), Dice is getting the rest he needs. While he worried in the past that he would never be able to sleep again, he knows he will sleep now – even if it takes some work to get there.

This resource was created with support from Eisai.

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