You’re trying to get 8 hoursevery night, but you struggle to fall or wake up all night. Sounds familiar? You may have insomnia.
About 30% of all people haveand about 10% of these people will be diagnosed with insomnia, according to Dr. Deirdre Conroy, Clinical Director of the Behavioral Sleep Medicine Clinic at the Michigan Medicine Sleep Disorders Centers.
Of the 10% of people who have been diagnosed with insomnia, about 40% experience mental illness, according to the National Sleep Foundation. This is not surprising given that most people can say that if they do, they also have difficulty sleeping.
Although mental health problems are one of the biggest causes of insomnia, they do not explain all cases. Keep reading to find out more about the most common causes of insomnia and what you can do to get some relief and much needed sleep.
What is insomnia and how is it diagnosed?
Insomnia is basically a sleep disorder that is characterized by difficulty falling asleep, falling asleep or getting enough hours of sleep. Insomnia can occur for a short time, or it can be persistent, which is called chronic insomnia.
There is no test or laboratory work that can specifically diagnose insomnia, so according to Dr. Conroy, most doctors will look for some key symptoms to make the diagnosis. “They have to tell me that they either have trouble falling asleep or fall asleep or wake up too early, and it disturbs their daytime in some way,” says Dr. Conroy.
Disrupting your daytime work can look different for everyone, according to Dr. Conroy. You may feel more irritated or sad or in some extreme cases you may fall asleep in the middle of the day while trying to work.
In addition to having difficulty falling asleep, falling asleep or waking up prematurely, the Mayo Clinic says that other symptoms of insomnia may include:
- Do not feel rested after a night’s sleep
- Fatigue or drowsiness during the day
- Irritability, depression or anxiety
- Difficulty paying attention, focusing on tasks or remembering
- Increased errors or accidents
- Ongoing anxiety about sleep
How do you know if you have insomnia?
Many people will experience occasional sleep problems, which are sometimes related to stressful events or other life factors that affect sleep (such as having children). But insomnia has a specific set of symptoms. For example, if you have only had sleep problems for a week or two, you will probably not get a diagnosis of insomnia from a doctor.
The first thing a doctor will ask is how long you have had trouble sleeping. If you have insomnia, you must report to a doctor that you have had difficulty sleeping for more than a month. Then you must also report that the sleep problems you experience have a significant impact on your quality of life or affect your work or your social life. Your doctor also wants to rule out that your sleep problem is not directly related to another drug or substance you are taking.
“The thing is, that’s really what you say to the provider – there are no blood tests, in fact, even sleep studies are not indicated for insomnia in the absence of other medical complications,” explains Dr. Conroy.
The most common causes of insomnia and how they are treated
Mental disorders such as anxiety and depression
Mental conditions such as anxiety and depression are common and can affect your sleep, which explains why many people with insomnia also experience mental health problems.
When it comes to treating insomnia related to mental health, you have several options that can help address both sleep problems and mental health. “In general, there are two main options that most of the research studies support. Either medication and / or cognitive behavioral therapy for insomnia specifically. CBT is a great, it can be used for anxiety and depression but there is a specific method of action that we take when it comes to about insomnia, says Dr. Conroy.
Shift work or work on night shifts
When you work on shift work, especially on the night shift, your body begins to readjust, also known as the “clock” that your body works on. When you change the time you sleep from night to day, or vice versa, your body will move that circadian rhythm over time. Once that has changed, it is not easy to go back, or at least not directly.
“You readjust. But it takes some time. For many people who only have that experience a few nights or a few weeks of sleep problems, it can trigger some stress about it. So then you have two problems. You have an internal biological clock. Problems and you is worried about it, says Dr. Conroy.
“The good news is that there are things you can do like behavioral interventions that we work with people all the time, lifestyle factors that you can change to get you back on track,” says Dr. Conroy.
Medical problems and other sleep disorders
One of the most common sleep disorders is, which can lead to other serious health problems and make you feel more tired during the day. According to the National Sleep Foundation, sleep apnea can be an underlying cause of insomnia.
“If you have a little snoring, if someone has seen you stop breathing, or if you have suffocation or gasping at night, it is a sign or symptom of sleep apnea. And it may manifest itself as if I have trouble sleeping. So You may want to talk to your doctor about the other types of symptoms because there are hundreds of types of sleep disorders and many of them we test for in the lab, says Dr. Conroy.
Tips for better sleep
If stress or anxiety about COVID-19 keeps you up at night and disrupts your daily life, be sure to talk to a doctor first. You want to rule out any medical or mental problems first to determine why you are struggling to sleep. In addition, Dr. Conroy some tips on how to deal with anxiety or stress-induced sleep problems.
“We are bombarded with information all day and so many of my patients just roll through their phones before bed,” says Dr. Conroy. While you may have good intentions for everything that rolls – say, want to follow the current COVID-19 or political news – Dr. suggests. Conroy that you put down your phone an hour before bedtime. “Put your phone outside the bedroom if you can,” she says.
Instead of lying in bed and stressing about all the things you need to take care of tomorrow, try to get those worries out on paper. “Worry can be OK if you do it constructively. One technique I go through with my patients is to take 15 minutes to write down all your worries and what you can do about it right now. Most people take their worries off until they “Go to bed and turn off the lights, so set aside some time to constructively worry,” says Dr. Conroy.
Exercise during the day and avoid naps
“Be more active during the day if you can. Take a walk and get light exposure, maybe if you are not exercising now, create a workout routine. And watch the naps and avoid snoozing between Zoom meetings. Avoid naps in general during the first part of the day and not too close to bedtime, and try to limit them to 20 to 30 minutes, says Dr. Conroy.
The information in this article is for educational and informational purposes only and is not intended as health or medical advice. Always consult a doctor or other qualified healthcare provider regarding any questions you may have about a medical condition or health problem.