What Is Insomnia?
In a nutshell insomnia is one of the most common sleep disorders characterised by the inability to sleep. But in reality it can manifest in at least three different ways
Some people have difficulty nodding off and falling asleep. They may lay in bed for hours, unable to get to sleep.
Other people may have difficulty in staying asleep. They might nod off fast enough but can only stay asleep for a short period before waking up. This can happen multiple times during the night.
Others may wake up during the night (or too early in the morning) and might not be able to get back to sleep
Some people may have a combination of more than one insomnia symptom and may feel stuck in a cycle of sleep disorders.
What Causes Insomnia?
It’s difficult to pinpoint one cause of sleep problems – different factors may contribute to it being a problem. Some of these include
- Illness or chronic pain may cause sleep disorders
- Use of drugs or medication can keep you up at night
- Bereavement, grief or loss
- Lifestyle stress can result in sleep disorders
- Depression and anxiety can contribute to sleeplessness – including anxiety of not being able to sleep
- Working in shifts can change your circadian rhythms
- Being older makes you statistically more likely to experience insomnia
- Females are more likely to experience sleep problems like insomnia
Identifying the source of your insomnia is an important step in determining the appropriate course of treatment for sleep problems. Working closely with a psychologist who specialises in sleep disorders can help you to resolve any underlying issues that are inhibiting your ability to fall asleep or stay asleep.
What Are The Dangers Associated With Sleep Problems?
A lack of sleep has a proud effect on your working memory and concentration. This can lead to reduced performance at work or at school. It can also put you in danger if you are operating machinery or driving a motor vehicle because your capacity for making mistakes increases.
A lack of sleep can also affect your mood and emotional wellbeing. Being tired can make you moody and cause you to feel depressed.
Experiencing the side effects of tiredness and fatigue can also be a cause of anxiety, which can lead to further insomnia and sleep disorders.
Having sleep disorders can disrupt your routine and make it difficult to get up when your morning alarm goes off. It can also result in the development of tension headaches and cause other digestive disorders.
What Are The Different Types Of Insomnia?
If you want to know what causes insomnia it can be helpful to establish what type you have.
- Short term or acute insomnia occurs commonly. It is usually caused by lifestyle factors and stresses, and may last for days or weeks. Most people recover from acute insomnia on their own.
- Chronic insomnia is diagnosed when you have three nights of bad sleep in a month, for three or more months. It is usually caused by other issues such as anxiety or other sleep problems.
- Primary insomnia is diagnosed when no other cause can be identified.
- Secondary insomnia is diagnosed when your sleeplessness is caused by an underlying health condition (such as illness or pain).
- Delayed sleep phase syndrome occurs when you cannot sleep until very late at night or the early hours of the morning.
How To Manage Sleep Disorders?
Having a good bedtime routine can improve your insomnia symptoms. While working with a psychologist can help to address underlying or unresolved issues, you can make changes on your own to improve your ability to sleep. These include:
- Routinise your bedtime and don’t stay up too late. Disrupting your own body clock can make it difficult to get back into your routine. Try to go to bed at the same time every night and wake at the same time every morning.
- Avoid stimulants too late in the afternoon. This includes alcohol and your phone. Lots of people use their phones in bed or until late at night. We recommend switching off electronic devices a few hours before you want to fall asleep.
- Make sure you get daily exercise. Staying indoors all day and not having access to sunlight can also confuse your body about when it’s time to sleep. Don;t exercise too close to bedtime however, as this can over-stimulate you.
- Avoid naps in the afternoon and sleeping in over the weekends. If your body is accustomed to a certain number of hours’ sleep and you get some of them during the daylight hours, you can’t expect to be able to sleep for the same period of time.
- Consider the habits of your bed partner. If the person you sleep next to is a snorer or clenches and grinds their teeth at night, this could also be disturbing your sleep. You can visit a dentist if you’re experiencing teeth grinding at night.
- Check the comfort level of your bed. If your mattress is lumpy or your pillows are too hard, you will find it difficult to sleep. Also consider whether your bedroom is dark enough and get black-out curtains if necessary. Some people find sleeping with an eye mask is helpful.
If you’re still not sure what causes insomnia you probably need professional help. Please contact us for an appointment with our psychologist: (02) 9884 9300.