The importance of sleep & how to treat insomnia is a pressing matter of health discussion these days. We all see this on social media, newspapers, or television networks.
After all, having a good, quality sleep is as important as eating nutritious foods or doing regular exercises. It contributes not just to physical well-being but also emotionally, psychologically, and intellectually. Experts consider it one of the pillars of health.
Unfortunately, a lot of people don’t get good sleep.
One of the primary reasons for this is insomnia. Insomnia affects millions of people globally. It could be a friend, a family member, a co-worker, or a classmate. Not only does it make a person vulnerable to chronic diseases, but insomnia can also lead to trauma and psychological issues. After all, experts list it among the sleep disorders. Fortunately, there are practical ways to overcome such and achieve quality sleep.
Benefits of a Good Sleep
1. Good sleep helps achieve physical fitness
Numerous studies associate poor sleep with weight gain. People who sleep less weigh significantly more than those who sleep for maximum hours. Short sleep bears one of the most influential risk factors causing obesity.
One extensive review study showed that children and adults with lesser sleep were 89% and 55% prone to obesity, respectively. That is why, if you want to lose weight and achieve a physically fit body, get quality sleep.
2. Good sleepers tend to consume fewer calories
Experts reveal that sleep-deprived individuals tend to have a bigger appetite and thus, consume more calories. That is because, sleep deprivation disrupts the daily fluctuations in appetite hormones, which in turn, leads to poor appetite regulation. This include increased levels of ghrelin, the hormone responsible for appetite stimulation, and decreased levels of leptin, the hormone which does otherwise. Of course, the more calories you eat, the more you become obese.
3. Good sleep boosts Concentration and Productivity
Good sleep helps ensure a healthy brain function in various aspects. Among these are cognition, productivity, performance, and concentration. Without proper sleep, all these can be negatively affected. Accessible research on medical interns gives a good picture of this. Interns who were allowed to sleep more committed 36% fewer errors compared to the interns whose traditional schedule were extended to more than 24 hours.
A similar study also showed that deprived sleep could adversely affect some brain functions to a relative degree as alcohol intoxication. On the other hand, studies show that good sleep improves problem-solving skills, and boosts memory performance among both children and adults.
4. Good sleep improves Athletic Performance
Good sleep can significantly enhance athletic performance. A study among basketball players showed that a longer sleep improves their speed, accuracy, reaction times, and well-being. On the contrary, those who experienced lesser sleep showed poor exercise performance and functional limitations in older women.
Another study involved 2,800 women. Results revealed that those deprived of sleepwalked slower had lower grip strength, and showed greater difficulty in performing certain activities.
5. Good sleep helps lessen risks to heart disease and stroke
A comprehensive review of 15 types of research showed that people who lack sleep are more susceptible to heart disease and stroke compared to those who sleep 7-8 hours per night. The same review found out that sleep quality and duration can have significant effects on various health risk factors. These factors drive chronic diseases if left unchecked. That is why make sure to have a good sleep to do away yourself from these.
6. Good sleep helps prevent diabetes
Several studies show that sleep deprivation affects glucose metabolism leading to increased Type 2 diabetes risk. A recent survey among young men showed that sleeping for only four hours per night for six nights in a row lead to prediabetes symptoms. But after one week of optimum sleep duration, the symptoms disappeared entirely.
The study also indicates that sleep deprivation correlates to adverse effects on blood sugar among the general population. Moreover, those sleeping for below six hours every night consistently manifested an increased risk of type 2 diabetes. So if you want to avoid that, get a decent sleep.
7. Good sleep helps minimize factors leading to depression
Various mental health issues, such as depression significantly contribute to poor sleep quality and sleep disorders. Researchers show that an estimated 90% of depressed people complained about the lack of quality sleep.
Poor sleep is also known to drive suicidal tendencies and has been responsible for increased cases of death by suicide. Moreover, people who struggle with sleeping disorders such as insomnia or obstructive sleep apnea reported greater susceptibility to depression than those without such conditions.
8. Good sleep significantly improves your Immune Function
Even a slight loss of sleep can adversely impair immune function. A two-week study exemplifies this. It monitored and assessed the progression of the common cold among people given nasal drops containing the cold virus. Findings show that those who slept for more than seven hours were almost three times more likely to develop a cold than those who slept for eight hours or beyond.
That is why, if you have colds, make sure to achieve quality sleep every night as it hastens the healing process. Drinking fresh lemon juice or eating garlic/ginger can help as well.
9. Good sleep reduces risks of inflammation
Lack of quality sleep poses a significant effect on the body’s inflammation. Experts reveal that sleep loss causes the appearance of undesirable markers of inflammation and cell damage. Furthermore, poor sleep leads to long-term inflammation of the digestive tract, a condition called inflammatory bowel diseases.
A famous study revealed that people with Crohn’s disease were twice as likely to relapse if they sleep for fewer hours compared to patients who sleep at least 8 hours. Today, experts recommend sleep evaluation to help predict results in individuals with long-term inflammatory issues.
10. Good sleep helps improve social skills
Several studies confirm the role of good sleep in enhancing social skills and interactions. One study using emotional facial recognition tests revealed that those who slept well had an increased ability to recognize facial expressions such as anger and happiness. On the other hand, those who lacked sleep showed difficulty identifying critical social cues and processing emotional information.
Now, that we’ve discussed the benefits of good sleep, let us talk about insomnia and how it should be treated. But before delving into that, it is imperative to identify the underlying factors leading to insomnia. At least, you will have a more unobstructed view of the issue and therefore, think of better ways to deal with it.
What is Insomnia?
Insomnia is the inability to fall asleep or stay asleep at night, leading to non-restorative sleep. If you are struggling with this, you will also feel weakened and burdened after waking up. Insomnia is not just about the lack of hours of sleep. That is because some people who have insomnia can still sleep for eight hours.
However, they would wake up feeling tired and fatigued. Thus, they lack the energy to kick off their day. Unfortunately, the chronic type of insomnia contributes to serious medical concerns.
By the way, what stage of sleep does insomnia occur? Studies suggest that it usually occurs at Stages 1-2. For others, it occurs at Stages 3-4.
Among the most common symptoms of insomnia are:
- Have difficulty in catching sleep even though tired
- Waking up during the night from time to time
- Difficulty in getting back sleep when awakened
- The non-restorative feeling after waking up
- Reliance on pills or alcohol to fall asleep
- Waking up as early as 2:00 am or 3:00 am
- Feeling tired, fatigued or irritated during the day
Insomnia may be the most common sleep complaint, but it’s not a single sleep disorder. Studies show that it’s merely a symptom of another problem. The problem causing insomnia varies from one person to another.
Fortunately, however, most cases of insomnia can be cured without relying on sleep specialists or turning to drugs or alcohol. By resolving the core causes and adopting simple changes to your daily habits and sleeping environment, you can finally win over insomnia and get a good night’s sleep.
What are the Common Causes of Insomnia?
For some people, insomnia goes away after some days, especially when it's linked to temporary causes such as a painful breakup, insomnia, or anxiety over an upcoming presentation.
Chronic insomnia, however, magnifies an underlying physical or mental issue. Among the common insomnia causes are:
- Anxiety, stress, and depression. While these may be causes, these can also be the effects in an even worse state. Add to this anger, worry, grief, bipolar disorder, trauma, and other emotional and psychological causes. Addressing these underlying issues is imperative to overcoming insomnia.
- Medical Problems or Disease. Various medical illness and conditions lead to the development of insomnia. Among these are Parkinson’s disease, asthma, allergies, hyperthyroidism, acid reflux, kidney disease, and cancer. Researches also show that even chronic pain results in insomnia.
- Medications and Prescription Drugs. Many medical operations and drugs can affect one’s capacity to fall asleep. These include antidepressants, high blood pressure medications, some types of contraceptives, stimulants for ADHD, thyroid hormone, and corticosteroids. Drugs which contain sleep-depriving elements such as pain relievers with caffeine and cold tablets with alcohol add to the problem.
- Sleep Disorders. While insomnia itself is a sleep disorder, it can also be a result of other sleep disorders such as circadian rhythm disturbances, sleep apnea, and restless legs syndrome.
Practical and Time-Tested Approaches to Addressing Insomnia
Based on comprehensive studies, here are some useful and self-help techniques on how to cure insomnia.
1. Identify habits that cause insomnia and disrupt sleep
While addressing the physical and mental roots of insomnia is a viable first step, it is also essential to look at your daily habits. Some of the practices you do to deal with insomnia may be aggravating the issue.
For instance, you may be drinking several cups of coffee a day, making it more difficult to fall asleep later. Or you may be resorting to sleeping pills and other drugs to catch sleep, affecting sleep even more. Daytime habits such as eating sugary foods or heavy meals just before sleep, lack of exercise, or having an irregular napping schedule all limit your ability to sleep at night.
Sometimes, changing such habits are enough to cope with insomnia altogether. It may take some days or even weeks, but once your body gets used to it, you will catch sleep better.
2. Create a better sleep environment
A quiet and comfortable sleep environment plus a relaxing bedtime routine are potent weapons against insomnia. Both can significantly contribute to improving your quality of sleep. It is also one of the recognized strategies on how to recover from insomnia.
To achieve that, here are some strategies you can apply:
- Keep your bedroom quiet, dark, and cool
- Follow a regular sleep routine
- Turn off all screens or even gadgets at least an hour before sleep
- Refrain from stimulating activity and stressful conditions before sleep
- Avoid naps during the day
- Avoid drinking too much juice or water just before you sleep
- Refrain from alcohol, heavy meals, and caffeine
3. Address anxiety that disrupts your typical sleeping pattern
It’s imperative to deal with the negative attitudes you developed over your sleep and insomnia. The key is to replace self-defeating thoughts with more realistic ones. Stopping anxiety takes time and commitment. That is why it helps to jot down negative thoughts popping up and how you can challenge them.
4. Apply these tips when insomnia keeps you up in the middle of the night:
- Refrain from stressing over your inability to sleep on focus on positivity. Do breather and repeat.
- Focus on relaxation, not sleep. Try techniques such as visualization or meditation.
- Rub your ears or roll your eyes to boost relaxation.
- Engage in a quiet and non-stimulating activity such as reading a novel.
- Stop worrying and thinking about things.
5. Apply supplements and medication wisely
While it can be tempting just to consume prescribed sleeping pills, know that there are potential side effects. Prescription sleep medications may result in temporary relief, but they do not cure insomnia. If not applied correctly, they can aggravate your insomnia in the long run. That is why experts recommend these only as a last resort. Evidence suggests that lifestyle and behavioral changes are the most significant contributors to overcoming insomnia.
6. If self-help methods don’t work, check out a specialist’s help
If you’ve already applied the different self-help techniques, better schedule an appointment with a sleep specialist. Make sure that you tell the doctor every critical detail about your confirmation. That is why it helps to take note of your observations and experiences.
One of the methods applied by specialists is cognitive-behavioral therapy (CBT). It is a form of psychotherapy which modifies negative thoughts, emotions, and patterns of behavior. A Harvard Medical School study showed that this is more effective in curing insomnia than sleeping pills or a restful sleep supplement. Moreover, it has no side effects.
So there, you have it. Those are just some of the necessary information you need to know about the importance of sleep & how to treat insomnia. Do strive for a good sleep and achieve an overall healthy being.