“Wake me up at 6:30 a.m. sharp, not 6:29 a.m.!” This was my favorite line when I still was suffering from the sleep disorder insomnia. What’s yours?
Sleep is a basic need. It is necessary for maintaining your health and well-being. However, for an individual suffering from insomnia, every minute of sleep counts. It is a big deal when sleep is interrupted, even just a minute before the alarm clock rings. Even the slightest noise of footsteps or the crackling sound of the doorknob can wake you up so easily. Having insomnia means you rarely get enough and restful sleep.
I once suffered from insomnia, but I feel better now. I’ve recovered and my body clock is back on track. But what I’ve gone through inspired me to raise awareness about sleep disorders, particularly insomnia.
What happens when you have insomnia?
Insomnia is a sleep disorder characterized by difficulty in falling asleep, difficulty in staying asleep for a long period and difficulty in going back to sleep when interrupted.
When you have insomnia, no matter how early you lay down on your bed, you still will end up sleeping late. It’s like you want to sleep, yet your eyes just don’t want to shut down. You keep twisting and turning, but you can’t fall asleep. In fact, I often ended up falling asleep at 3 a.m. even if I was in bed as early as nine o’clock in the evening.
Another problem is you often get awoken in the middle of the night, particularly in the presence of various disturbances such as environmental noise, full bladder or an uncomfortable sleeping position. Then, you find it hard to go back to sleep; most of the time, you may not fall asleep until it’s already time to get up again. Yes, that awkward moment when your eyes finally are closing but then your alarm clock rings.
The bottom line is every person suffering from insomnia looks forward to sleep at night. In fact, when my day is almost over, I can’t wait to be in bed. I need to sleep but I just can’t…
So what’s the problem then?
Why can’t you fall asleep?
People suffer from insomnia for a lot of reasons but let me list the most common causes.
One of the most common causes of insomnia is an irregular sleeping schedule.
#1 Irregular sleeping schedule
I had slept soundly every night since childhood. My sleeping pattern only changed when I went to college and then got a job. I’ve spent some time working as a registered nurse in a couple of hospitals before, not to mention the three-year hospital internship I had during my college years, which all involved shifting hospital duty schedules. Then, I worked on a graveyard shift as well as being a medical article writer. So I could say I never had a regular sleeping schedule back then. Mostly, I worked at night and slept during the day, which is definitely not my normal sleeping pattern.
The body is naturally accustomed to resting at night and being active in the day. That is why having an irregular sleeping schedule is a bad habit everybody should break. It’s disrupting your body clock, particularly your sleep and wake cycle. Let’s say your body clock gets confused about whether it’s already time to sleep or you still need to stay awake. This is common among people who have shifting work schedules, especially those who have graveyard shifts such as nurses, doctors, security guards, call center agents and hotel receptionists.
Another cause of insomnia is regular caffeine intake.
#2 Caffeine dependence
Coffee, chocolate, energy drinks, soda and some teas are just a few of the products packed with caffeine that we consume regularly. Many people can’t start their day without a sip of coffee or tea. Some individuals have low energy levels without the aid of energy drinks. Soda and chocolate have become necessities to keep you awake at times. It feels like your body is helpless without caffeine.
I remember during my college years when I always needed to stay up for long periods at night. I usually had a pack of chocolates or a liter of Coke handy. I know, that’s quite unusual for health advocates like me but that was the reality. That’s what happened to me years ago; that was my mistake, which helped contribute to my sleeping disorder.
But why does your body crave caffeine that much?
Caffeine is a stimulant, which means it keeps your brain alert and active. Remember, the brain controls everything in your body. So, if it’s on alert mode, then the rest of your body systems receive the command to stay up and work. You also will have a surge of energy. But caffeine’s effects are just temporary. Once they wear off, you will start feeling sluggish and tired. Your energy level crashes. So to feel alert and energetic again, you take another dose of a caffeinated product. The cycle goes on until taking caffeine becomes habitual for you. It becomes part of your daily routine.
Likewise, overthinking makes it difficult to sleep at night.
#3 Overthinking at night
It’s normal to think about what transpired during the day and what might happen the next day. However, when you keep thinking from dusk ‘til dawn and end up sleepless, something’s wrong. Overthinking feeds anxiety and it steals your peace of mind. Above all, it deprives you of getting a good night’s sleep.
What’s more toxic is when you keep thinking about something that you can’t change and that is beyond your control. It’s a waste of energy and not worth sacrificing even a minute of your sleep! Somehow, the silence and inactivity at night make it conducive to think over many things. But when it becomes a habit to use most of your time at night worrying about stuff you can work on during the day, that’s definitely unhealthy.
Now, how about electronic gadgets? Is there any link between insomnia and use of these gadgets?
#4 Using electronic gadgets in your bedroom
In this techy generation, it’s a common habit to bring your smartphone, tablet or laptop into the bedroom, isn’t it? Taking selfies before sleeping, watching videos, playing online games, spending hours chatting, scrolling through your newsfeed and commenting on your friends’ posts, reading eBooks or blogs. What else do you do with these gadgets in your bedroom? Obviously, bringing your gadgets to bed keeps you busy during hours when you are expected to sleep.
What’s an even bigger trend these days is the new game Pokemon Go. It doesn’t just keep you awake for long periods in your bedroom. It even encourages players to go out and search for Pokemon in the late night. It’s good to socialize and take a walk as long as it is not compromising good health practices, such as getting adequate sleep.
Studies on smartphone use and its effect on your sleep study finding indicated that the overuse of smartphones may be associated with anxiety, depression and sleep problems. Another research study funded by popular mobile phone companies revealed that people who often are exposed to mobile phone or smartphone radiation took longer to fall asleep and had less time for deep sleep, the sleep stage that helps your body to rejuvenate, repair damaged tissues and process memories and stress.
These are just a few of the common habits that cause insomnia. If you are doing any of these four, you better bookmark this article. I will be posting a link to my next article soon that will talk about some tips to restore your normal sleep cycle. Have a great day!