Insomnia: Why it happens and what to do about it

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Sleep is an important part of life and health, and this is all the more true if you are dealing with a specific medical issue, such as chronic pain. It is, after all, while we are asleep that our bodies run the necessary repairs, and our minds strengthen, making our memories faster and deeper. In other words, if you’re not sleeping enough, it’s going to have repercussions for your physical and mental health. Given that up to a third of adults in the UK report experiencing insomnia, it’s clear that this is an issue that has implications for many of us.

If we’re going to do something about this – undoubtedly serious – issue, then it’s important to know what we’re dealing with and why it happens. So, if you are experiencing sleepless nights, read on for more information on this prevalent, yet under-emphasised health issue.

What exactly is insomnia?

In short, insomnia is defined simply as a difficulty in falling (or staying) asleep when you have the chance to do so. If your sleep is disrupted by an external cause such as noise, it’s not technically insomnia – in most cases, addressing that external cause will allow you to sleep.

Why does insomnia happen?

In the vast majority of cases, insomnia is driven by a mental health factor. Most commonly, these factors will be anxiety, depression or general stress. As you will know if you experience any of these conditions, that’s a particular problem because a lack of sleep can itself be highly stressful, and a major contributor to depression and anxiety.

What are the risks of ongoing insomnia?

We’ve all had a sleepless night or two, from time to time. It’s unpleasant, but the problem is often self-correcting. If you have a night of disrupted sleep and then, the following night, sleep like a log thanks to being extra-tired, that’s not so much of a problem. It’s when it becomes persistent that insomnia really becomes a serious issue. 

As well as its contribution to mental health issues, continued lack of sleep can affect your skin and cause you to gain weight, but it gets worse: chronic insomnia has been linked to increased risk of diabetes, heart disease and hypertension.

What can we do about insomnia?

If you can confidently trace your insomnia to a precipitating mental health issue, then addressing that issue is the first step in beating insomnia. Make an appointment with a doctor; in fact, do this even if you don’t think you’re depressed or anxious – these conditions can operate beneath the surface for some time. 

It’s also wise to look at natural remedies. The signs are that, for example, CBD oil can help you sleep simply by gently easing your stress. While sleeping pills will allow you to nod off, they may be too effective – you may find that they knock you out for as long as 12 hours, and you wake up feeling groggy. 

Should I keep a sleep diary?

Some doctors do recommend recording the time you go to bed, the time you get up, and how you feel your sleep has gone during the night so that you can see any patterns. However, doing admin just before bedtime is felt by others to be more likely to make insomnia worse – so while it may get to the bottom of the issue, it can make insomnia worse in the mean time.

All in all, insomnia is an issue that seriously affects your quality of life and can have negative impacts going forward. Don’t suffer in silence with it – take action today!

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One thought on “Insomnia: Why it happens and what to do about it

  1. Invisibly Me says:

    Really good topic to cover because insomnia – not merely poor sleep, which is bad enough – can have distress consequences mentally and physically. I’ve had bouts of insomnia since my teens, so I’ve not been a great sleeper for a while. I’ve had times where things have been better, been worse, with no identifiable cause. These days, with chronic illness, I know things are a bit different (problems with breathing, pain, stress) but I also can’t afford to sleep through the night because I need to be up to empty my stoma bag so insomnia isn’t quite as bad as it used to be as it serves a practical purpose ?

    t’s not often straightforward, and even meds can interfere or contribute to sleeping issues just to complicate matters. I do think it’s a good idea to try a sleep diary though, to see if there’s any pattern or to help you figure out what may help improve things.
    Caz xx

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