Many people experience insomnia from time to time. Factors such as stress, jet lag, and even diet can affect someone’s ability to get good sleep. According to Dr. Godwin Akilo, there is serious health risks associated with chronic insomnia. Insomnia can increase your risk for mental health problems as well as overall health concerns.
Types of Insomnia
Chronic insomnia, lasts a month or longer. Acute insomnia lasts a day or days, or weeks. Comorbid insomnia is associated with another disorder. Onset insomnia is difficulty falling asleep and maintenance insomnia, inability to stay asleep.
Research shows that comorbid insomnia accounts for 85 to 90 percent of chronic insomnia. Insomnia also increases with age. Sometimes insomnia goes away after lifestyle factors such as family or work stress resolve. For more serious cases, addressing the underlying cause can improve your sleep quality.
Effects and impact of insomnia
Increase risk of medical conditions
Dr. Akilo said that lack of sleep can increase risks of many medical conditions. “Some of these conditions include stroke, asthma attacks, obesity, seizures, weak immune system, diabetes mellitus, high blood pressure inflammation and heart disease, he stated.”
Increase risk for mental health disorders
Lack of sleep also increases risk for mental health disorders. These include depression, anxiety, confusion and frustration. Over time, lack of sleep and sleep disorders can contribute to the symptoms of depression. The most common sleep disorder, insomnia, has the strongest link to depression. In fact, insomnia is often one of the first symptoms of depression. Insomnia and depression feed on each other. Sleep loss often aggravates the symptoms of depression, and depression can make it more difficult to fall asleep.
Increase risk for accidents
Insomnia can affect your performance at work or school, memory and judgment. “The immediate concern is daytime sleepiness. Not only can it affect your performance at work or school, but too little sleep may also increase your risk for car accidents, revealed Dr. Akilo.”
Shortened life expectancy
Having insomnia can shorten your life expectancy. Sleeping less increases risk for death by 12 percent compared to those who slept seven to eight hours per night according to a recent research.
Lack of sleep kills sex drive
According to Dr. Gabriel Omonaiye, “sleep-deprived men and women report lower libidos and less interest in sex. Depleted energy, sleepiness, and increased tension may be largely to blame.”
Insomnia ages your skin
Most people have experienced sallow skin and puffy eyes after a few nights of missed sleep. This is because chronic sleep loss can lead to lackluster skin, fine lines, and dark circles under the eyes. When you don’t get enough sleep, your body releases more of the stress hormone cortisol. In excess amounts, cortisol can break down skin collagen, the protein that keeps skin smooth and elastic.
It makes you forgetful
Dr. Akilo said that if you are trying to keep your memory sharp, try getting plenty of sleep. In 2009, American and French researchers determined that brain events called “sharp wave ripples” are responsible for consolidating memory.
The ripples also transfer learned information from the hippocampus to the neocortex of the brain, where long-term memories are stored. Sharp wave ripples occur mostly during the deepest levels of sleep.
Losing sleep can make you gain weight
Lack of sleep seems to be related to an increase in hunger and appetite, and possibly to obesity. Recent research has focused on the link between sleep and the peptides that regulate appetite. “Ghrelin stimulates hunger and leptin signals satiety to the brain and suppresses appetite. Shortened sleep time is associated with decreases in leptin and elevations in ghrelin, says Omonaiye.” Not only does sleep loss appear to stimulate appetite. It also stimulates cravings for high-fat, high-carbohydrate foods. Ongoing studies are considering whether adequate sleep should be a standard part of weight loss programmes.
Causes of insomnia
There is primary insomnia, which has no underlying cause, and secondary insomnia, which is attributable to an underlying cause. Dr. Omonaiye said: “Chronic insomnia is usually caused by stress, jet lag, poor sleep habits, eating too late in the evening and not sleeping on a regular schedule, due to work or travel.”
“Medical causes for insomnia include mental health disorders, medications, such as antidepressants or pain medications, conditions such as cancer, heart disease, and asthma, chronic pain, and restless leg syndrome” revealed Dr. Akilo.
Lifestyle factors that increase risk of insomnia
There are many reasons you may have trouble sleeping. Many of them are linked to your daily habits, lifestyle, and personal circumstances. These include irregular sleep schedule, sleeping during the day, a job that involves working at night, and lack of exercise. Other lifestyle factors that affect good night sleep are using electronic devices like laptops and cell phones in bed, having a sleep environment with too much noise or light, excitement about an upcoming event and recent travel between different time zones which causes jet lag. The use of certain substances seems to have a negative effect on sleep.
These include caffeine, nicotine, alcohol, drugs, and diet pills.
How to treat insomnia
There are many strategies for treating insomnia. Before you talk to your doctor about medications, try making lifestyle changes. “Treatment for insomnia consists of improving sleep habits, as well as identifying and treating underlying causes. Medications provide effective short-term results, but long-term use is associated with mortality, Akilo stated.”
Lifestyle changes to overcome insomnia
•Establish a consistent bedtime routine. Take a warm bath, go for a relaxing stroll, or practice relaxation exercises as part of your regular nighttime routine.
•Try to go to bed at the same time every night, and get up at the same time each morning, including on weekends.
•Get plenty of exercise during the day. Studies have shown people who are physically active sleep better than those who are sedentary. The more energy you expend during the day (preferable earlier in the day) the sleepier you will feel at bedtime.
•Reduce your intake of caffeine and alcohol, particularly in the evening and also avoid large meals late in the evening.
•Take minerals that calm. If you are not getting sufficient calcium and magnesium, this can trigger or exacerbate sleep difficulties. The reason for this is that these two minerals work together to calm the body and help the nerves and muscles to relax.
•Make sure you eat plenty of magnesium-rich foods such as seeds, nuts, green vegetables, whole grains and seafood.
•Milk products, green vegetables, nuts and seeds are particularly good sources of calcium. Magnesium is the more important of the two for a relaxing effect.
Many herbs are said to have sleep-inducing properties. They include chamomile, passion flower, lavender, lemon balm and bitter orange. These can also be used as essential oils in a relaxing bath before going to bed.
Foods that help you sleep
Some foods can help you sleep. Foods such as chicken, turkey, seafood, green vegetables, raw nuts and seeds, milk products and eggs.