Insomnia

What is insomnia?

Insomnia is a common problem and a major health concern that also adversely affects the quality of life. It can be regarded as either a recurring difficulty in going to sleep, a regular difficulty in remaining asleep or both. The World Health Organisation define it 'lasting more than 1 month, and affecting at least 3 days of each week.'

It is rarely an isolated problem. It usually means that there are deeper underlying issues within the mental, emotional or physical life.

Why is it so common?

Our daily lives may leave us over-stimulated and overwhelmed with tasks. Life is often so fast paced that we neglect our basic needs. We seem to be bombarded by stimuli from all directions, computers, phones, televisions, the environment and other people to name a few.

Switching off at night can be difficult. How much time do we spend in pure quiet and stillness? It will often feel awkward whenever we do find the odd moments as we are simply not used to it. It may seem uncomfortable and strange so we look for stimuli to occupy our minds. This is exhausting and not conducive to a high quality and restorative sleep.

Body and mind influences on sleep

Insomnia can be caused by lifestyle changes, as routine helps the body develop a healthy sleep pattern. Changing sleep habits time and time again can exacerbate the problem. Stress is another common cause, and acute or chronic illness or mental health concerns can result in insomnia.

We may not nourish our bodies with healthful foods; we may miss meals or eat too fast. Our bodies may be craving movement and physical activity, but we may instead lead sedentary lives, unaware of our poor posture, tense muscles, and sluggish breathing techniques.

Our minds may be craving calm, love, and peace, with an inner awareness and connection. However instead our minds are overflowing with thoughts, worries, isolation and negativity. We have become disconnected from ourselves. We stop listening, and I mean really listening to what our minds and bodies need. This is an active process that requires us to focus our awareness on our physical body and also on our thoughts and feelings.

We need to question ourselves as to why we may be feeling a certain way. We may need to use body-mind techniques such as mindful breathing, relaxation methods, yoga and the practice of gratitude, visualisation, and affirmations. The aim is to reconnect with the deeper part of yourself, your soul. This will bring about deep feelings of peace and security.

The effects of insomnia

Insomnia is a very unpleasant experience and can lead to loneliness, frustration, and helplessness. Sleep deprivation reduces your physical and mental functioning and productivity during the day. It can cause:

  • fatigue
  • physical ailments
  • reduced concentration
  • poor attention span
  • memory disturbances
  • low moods
  • anxiety
  • irritability
  • feeling ‘wired

It will affect all areas of life from work, personal and social which is usually difficult to ignore. Completing even the simplest of routine tasks may seem difficult. Often people suffering from insomnia feel misunderstood. They may isolate themselves from the outside world.

Insomnia can be unpredictable and very frustrating. Just the thought of not having enough sleep can result in anxiety, which in turn can affect your sleep perpetuating insomnia. By focusing on insomnia, it can make the situation worse. Remember that every night of sleep will vary and no two nights will be the same. There will be some nights where a person has a better quality of sleep in comparison to others. Preoccupation with sleep can prolong insomnia.

Lack of sleep can build up and result in a sleep debt. The body will crave the extra sleep to make up for what has been lost. The longer we are sleep deprived, the greater the body's requirement for sleep becomes.

Article written by Dr Aleesha Dhillon
Dr Aleesha Dhillon
Disclaimer: This article is solely for information purposes. It is not to replace a consultation with a qualified health professional. It should not be used for the diagnosis or treatment of medical conditions. The article is based on the opinions of the author who retains copyright. You are advised to make your own health decisions based on your research and alongside a qualified health professional. Please consult a doctor if you have any health concerns.

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