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July 2021 Blogs Insomnia

Did you know that 30 to 40 percent of American adults experience some type of insomnia every year? I have dedicated the month of July to learning more about insomnia and how to combat it so you can get more quality sleep and feel better mind, body and soul.

Insomnia is defined as a common sleep disorder that can make it hard to fall asleep, stay asleep or cause you to wake up too early as well as not being able to go back to sleep after you wake. You may still feel tired when you wake up. Most cases of insomnia can be traced back to poor sleep habits, certain medications, depression, anxiety, lack of exercise, chronic illness and even poor diet.

Symptoms of insomnia can include difficulty falling asleep, difficulty staying asleep through the night, waking too early and not feeling fully rested. There are many holistic treatments for insomnia that do not include over the counter (OTC) pills and that is what I want to focus on this month. Helping you treat your insomnia from the root cause to create a more quality sleep for yourself. In week one we will cover the background of insomnia and what the cause may be for your particular situation.

The American Academy of Sleep Medicine’s ICSD-3 manual states that there are many possible factors and symptoms, but insomnia is diagnosed on two components: “sleep difficulties that occur even though there are adequate opportunities for normal sleep and daytime impairment that results from poor sleep quality or duration.”

Insomnia that occurs three times per week for at least three months is known as chronic insomnia. Insomnia that lasts less than three months is known as short-term insomnia. Sometimes, patients may show insomnia symptoms without meeting the criteria for short-term and may need some form of treatment. This type is called other insomnia.

The two categories that create insomnia are:

1. Sleep-onset insomnia

a. Difficulty falling asleep.

b. May occur with those who have a hard time relaxing in bed at the end of the day.

c. May occur with those whose circadian rhythm is not in sync due to irregular work schedules, jet lag or not enough time outdoors.

2. Sleep maintenance insomnia

a. Difficulty staying asleep after initially being able to nod off just fine.

b. Occurs in those who consume alcohol, caffeine or tobacco.

c. Occurs in those with racing minds and anxiety.

d. Occurs in those with sleep apnea, periodic limb movement disorder, restless legs or chronic pain/inflammation.

Some people may fall into both categories at one time or another and those with chronic insomnia find that these symptoms shift over time.

Researchers believe that insomnia originates due to a state of hyperarousal that impacts the onset of sleep as well as sleep maintenance. Hyperarousal can be anything from physical or mental arousal or a combination of both. Psychological, physiological and environmental factors can all play a role in your insomnia. Here are some examples:

1. Ingesting or consuming substances that will affect sleep patterns.

a. Alcohol

b. Nicotine

c. Caffeine

d. Drugs

e. Medications: diet pills, cold remedies, withdrawal from medications

2. Health problems

a. Physical pain or discomfort

b. Enlarged prostate, bladder incontinence or pregnancy

c. Sleep apnea

d. Chronic pain/inflammation

e. Restless leg syndrome

f. Heart and lung diseases

g. Autoimmune inflammation

3. Behavioral and mental health disorders

a. Depression

b. Anxiety

c. Stress

d. Bipolar disorder

e. Excessive worry

Insomnia is also linked to unhealthy lifestyle habits that have been adopted over time. Many started the habits when they were young and now they are too hard to break as adults. These habits can include:

· Going to bed at a different time every night

· Napping too long during the day

· Too much “screen time” from computers, smartphones, televisions, Pads.

· Working a swing shift

· Inadequate exercise

· Excessive noise or light at night

· Not enough time spent outdoors

Insomnia symptoms will include difficulty falling asleep and/or staying asleep once you’ve woken in the night, not feeling tired or ready for bed at night, waking up earlier than expected without a reason. Insomnia can also create daytime impairment which can be serious if not addressed immediately. This can become apparent with fatigue, chronic illness, memory or concentration issues, irregular mood, irritability, aggression, hyperactivity and other behavioral issues.

Trouble sleeping can be a symptom of another disease or condition so it is best to discuss it with your general practitioner. Depression, chronic pain/inflammation from an autoimmune disorder, stress and certain medications for other ailments could all be the cause for your insomnia.

Most of the time, insomnia is caused by the combination of factors that could include medical, psychological issues as well as relationship issues, inadequate diet and exercise routines, hyperactivity, watching too much on tech screens and poor bedtime routines.

Create an action plan!

The first step you will want to take is to keep track of when you sleep. The easiest way to do this is to use an app like a Fitbit or Applewatch to track your sleep cycle. This was eye opening to me as I thought I was getting 8-9 hours of sleep when in reality I was only getting 6-7 and explained why I felt so tired every morning.

Tracking will serve two purposes; It can identify activities that hurt your chances as well as those that help your chances for more quality sleep each night. It is also a very useful tool for your doctor or therapist to see your tracking numbers to see if there is something else that may be off balance in your body. My naturopath discovered my adrenals were not in balance so after doing a quick cleanse and reset I feel much better. Digital programs like Zeo or Yawnlog can also be useful and make your ZZZ’s tracking much easier.

Stay tuned as next week I will dive into different techniques you can use to gain more quality sleep.


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