“Insomnia is a vertiginous lucidity that can convert paradise itself into a place of torture.”
Emil Cioran, Philosopher
Insomnia: Causes, Effects & Solutions
Insomnia (also sometimes referred to as a lack of sleep, sleeplessness, sleep deprivation or insufficient sleep) can be defined as an unwanted lack of sleep which can be due to several factors.
Insomnia can lead to severe mental as well as physical health issues. Sleeplessness has become an increasing problem in the past decade.
This can be attributed to the fact that many people feel stressed and are not able to deal with the information overload many of us experience every day.
In this article, the causes, symptoms, effects and solutions for insomnia are examined.
Why is Sleep important?
Sleep is crucial for our mental as well as for our physical health. During sleep, our body repairs itself and also undermines harmful substances so that we can start healthy into the next day. Moreover, while we are sleeping, we can process all the experiences that we had the day before.
By doing so, when we wake up the next morning, we have sufficient free capacities for new tasks available. Thus, without enough sleep, our body and our brain will not be able to work ideally, which can lead to several health issues in the short and also in the long run.
Causes for Insomnia
- Mental problems
- Problems at work
- Family problems
- Excessive stress
- Physical health problems
- Drug use
- Noisy areas
- Snoring of your partner
- Excessive amounts of food before bedtime
- Loss of a loved one
- Social pressure
Mental issues are a main cause of insomnia. Many people in our society suffer from mental health problems. This is due to the fact that we have never had this level of information overload in the past. Our brain has to process many different things every minute of our life.
Moreover, some people feel to be obliged to be available 24/7 for their work or also for their private life, which leads to a state where the brain is always on. This increases the likelihood of mental problems which in turn often leads to sleeping issues.
Worries of different sorts may also contribute to the issue of sleep deprivation. People are different and some people are better able to deal with their thoughts and worries than others.
If you haven’t learned how to deal with your worries, you are at great risk to suffer from a lack of sleep since you will not be able to disconnect from these worries when you go to sleep and are likely to stay awake at night.
Problems at work
Another cause for sleeplessness can be problems at work. When you hate your job and have a negative feeling about your work all day long, chances are that you are not looking forward to the next workday, which may translate into sleeping problems at night.
Moreover, if your job is quite stressful, this can further negatively affect your sleep quality since you might be worrying about how you will be able to deal with all the work.
Insufficient sleep may also be due to problems with your family. Especially if you have children, you have many different problems to solve. Your children may get sick or may be in a bad mood from time to time, which may translate into additional mental and physical work for you.
If you already are in danger for information overload from your work, you might come to a point where you will not be able to deal with all of the stuff that is going on around you anymore and may suffer from severe insomnia.
Stress of all sorts is a sleep killer. Stress leads to significant levels of worrying, which in turn may translate into sleeping problems. This is especially true for people who haven’t learned to deal with stress properly and are therefore at risk to become overwhelmed by their emotions, which can lead to serious sleep deficits.
Physical health problems
Physical health conditions may also contribute to a lack of sleep. If you suffer from severe physical health issues which also translate into significant levels of pain, chances are that you will not be able to get enough sleep since this pain will keep you awake or also will wake you up in the middle of the night.
Burnout is usually caused by excessive levels of stress. In the state of burnout, people experience several health issues, including sleeping problems since these people are not able to deal with the information overload and the resulting stress appropriately.
Obviously, if you are homeless, chances are that you also suffer from a lack of sleep since the conditions for your quality of sleep are quite bad. If you sleep on the sidewalk, there are usually people walking around you. Moreover, noise levels might also be quite high.
Additionally, it is quite uncomfortable to sleep on the sidewalk compared to sleeping in a bed. You may also feel insecure by sleeping on the street since you may get physically attacked or robbed, which further prevents many homeless persons to get proper sleep.
Drug use may be another cause of insomnia. Some drugs may keep you awake for quite a long time. This may include staying awake for a few days in a row without any sleep. Moreover, the use of some drugs implies a high risk of addiction.
Drug addiction will in turn also lead to sleeplessness, since drug addicts may become homeless and also always have to make sure that they have sufficient drug supply which may result in committing criminal actions during nighttime.
Some people are also quite proud of their work. These people need their work to feel important and valuable. If they become unemployed, these people may suffer from severe mental issues and worries, which in turn may translate into sleeplessness.
If you live in a quite noisy area, chances are that you will also suffer from sleep deprivation since you may wake up in the middle of the night due to noises from vehicles. The higher the noise level in your area, the higher the chances that you will suffer from sleep problems.
Snoring of your partner
If you are married or living with your partner, chances are that you suffer from significant sleeping issues if your partner is snoring. Depending on the noise regarding the snoring, although this sounds funny in the first place, it can lead to severe sleeplessness.
Excessive amounts of food before bedtime
If you consume too much food close to bedtime, you may also suffer from sleeping problems since your body has to process all of this food, which may translate into bad sleep or nightmares. It has been shown in many studies that excessive amounts of food close to bedtime will significantly lower the quality of sleep you are getting.
Loss of a loved one
If you experience extreme events such as the loss of a family member or of a close friend, you may also temporarily suffer from significant insomnia since you will have to deal with this event emotionally for a few days or weeks in order to process it and to move on.
Many people in our nowadays society are quite insecure and suffer from social pressure. People often feel like they have to fit in to the mainstream society and artificially deny their true selves.
However, this may lead to severe mental conditions and also to sleeping problems since it will cause inner stress not to live your life on your terms.
Some people are also quite fearful and pessimistic about the future, either for themselves or also for their children or other family members or friends. They may just feel that they have nothing positive to look forward to which may translate into sleeping problems and other mental issues.
Symptoms and Effects of Insomnia
- Concentration problems
- Low quality of life
- Physical health issues
- Weak immune system
- Significant changes in weight
- Altering of hormone levels
- Decrease in motivation
- Decreased sex drive
- Drop in mental performance
- Increased chances for accidents
- Sleep debt
Insomnia can cause significant concentration problems. If we do not get enough sleep, our brain will not be able to process the things that happened to us in the near past.
Therefore, it will be quite hard for us to focus on problems in the future since our brain is still processing happenings in the past and will not be fully capable to focus on current issues.
Low quality of life
If you are not able to get sufficient sleep, chances are that you will suffer from quite a low quality of life since your mental as well as physical fitness may significantly suffer and you might also feel quite exhausted due to a lack of sleep.
Physical health issues
Insomnia can also lead to physical health issues. For instance, insufficient sleep can lead to an increase in blood pressure and may also cause severe heart conditions which may in the worst case even lead to death.
People who are suffering from insomnia also often experience significant levels of fatigue. These people just feel tired of their life due to insufficient sleep.
Depending on the severity of insomnia, people may also not be able to go to work since they just feel too tired and do have zero motivation to get out of bed.
Weak immune system
Your immune system may also suffer due to insufficient sleep. Since our brain and body are connected in a complex way, a lack of sleep can also weaken the ability of our body to fight bacteria, which may in turn result in severe health issues.
Significant changes in weight
Depending on the person, insomnia can either lead to a large increase or also a significant decrease in weight. Some people who suffer from sleeping issues and the resulting increase in stress levels may eat much more in order to cover their negative feelings. Some people may also refrain from eating enough since they lost their appetite due to stress.
Altering of hormone levels
Insufficient sleep can also lead to a decrease in testosterone levels. Depending on the severity of insomnia, people may lose significant levels of testosterone, which may lead to mood swings and other issues related to mental instability caused by the altering of hormone levels.
Depending on the person, some people also get quite aggressive when they do not get enough sleep. People are much easier to irritate and may lose their mind due to minor issues which they would have ignored if they got enough sleep.
Decrease in motivation
The overall motivation to accomplish things and life goals may also suffer due to insomnia. People often lack the mental and physical power to get up and be motivated since they are just tired and just want to relax instead of doing things.
Decreased sex drive
Many people also lose interest in sexual activities due to a lack of sleep. Our sexual drive is closely related to our mental state. If we do not get sufficient sleep, our brain might tell our body that it is time to sleep instead of engaging in sexual actions.
Drop in mental performance
It has been shown in many studies that insomnia leads to a significant drop in mental performance. This may be quite a big problem, especially in jobs that are mentally demanding.
Imagine a doctor that suffers from insomnia and who accidentally prescribes the wrong drug or the wrong dosage of drugs. In the worst case, this could lead to the death of people due to mental underperformance.
Increased chances for accidents
Insomnia also increases the risk of severe accidents of all sorts. For instance, imagine driving your car when you get insufficient sleep. Especially when driving long distances, this could lead you to fall asleep while driving your car which may lead to horrible accidents.
Sleep deprivation may also lead to significant sleep debt, meaning that our body and brain store information on the accumulated shortage of sleep. In severe cases, this could lead to breakdowns of people or even to death in the worst case.
Some people, especially people who already have to deal with significant emotional issues in their lives, are also at risk to suffer from depression due to insomnia.
Since enough sleep is crucial for our mental well-being, a significant lack of sleep can lead to severe depressive states.
Solutions for Insomnia
- Maintain a stable sleep rhythm
- Solve your mental problems
- Learn how to deal with stress
- Put yourself first
- Change your job
- Relocate to quiet areas
- Sleep in separate beds
- Avoid the use of drugs
- Ensure the optimal air temperature
- Sleeping rituals
- Refrain from eating too much
- Raise awareness on the importance of sleep
- Medical treatment
Maintain a stable sleep rhythm
In order to mitigate insomnia and related problems, it is crucial to maintain a stable sleeping rhythm. By doing so, your brain and body intuitively know when it is time to go to sleep and will support the process.
In contrast, if your sleep rhythm is quite irregular, chances are that you will suffer from sleeping issues since your brain will be confused.
Solve your mental problems
You should also try to figure out the causes of your insomnia. Often, it may be related to mental problems that you carried around for a long time.
Therefore, after figuring out what keeps you awake, you should take action to solve your mental problems. Chances are that your quality of sleep will improve significantly after solving your mental issues.
Learn how to deal with stress
Being able to deal with high levels of stress is crucial in order to fight insomnia. Many people suffer from high stress levels, however, they never learned how to deal with their stress and may therefore experience significant deficits in sleep. There are several programs in place which can help you to be able to better handle stress in your daily life.
Put yourself first
Whenever you feel excessive level of stress which might lead to insomnia, it is time to put yourself first. If you feel overwhelmed by the level of work you should achieve, you should take enough time off to reload your batteries.
If you have too much private stress, you should tell your family members about that so that they will refrain from asking you for help all the time.
Only if you are emotionally balanced, you are able to support other people. Thus, put yourself first whenever you feel the need to do so!
Change your job
If you feel that your insomnia is caused by the stress in your job, it is probably time to quit that job and to search for an alternative. Your health should be much more important to you than a few additional dollars. Hence, changing your job in a way that also improves your quality of sleep may be the right way to go.
Relocate to quiet areas
If your sleep deprivation is due to the fact that you live in a noisy neighborhood, you should try to relocate to a different part of the city that is quieter. By doing so, you will not be distracted by loud noises at nighttime anymore and therefore, your quality of sleep will increase.
Sleep in separate beds
If you have a partner who is snoring quite loud, it may be time to sleep in different beds in order to improve the quality of sleep. Although snoring is regarded as a rather minor issue for many people, it can still alter your sleep in an adverse manner.
Avoid the use of drugs
Since the use of drugs can lead to sleeping problems, you should avoid the consumption of these substances. This is not only true for illegal drugs, but also for drugs like caffeine, alcohol or nicotine, which may also lead to sleeping problems.
Ensure the optimal air temperature
Many studies concluded that the optimal air temperature for sleeping is around 16 to 18 degrees Celsius. However, most of the people will heat their flats and houses to temperatures above 20 degrees.
This difference between the optimal and actual room temperature may also lead to sleep issues. Therefore, you should try to lower your room temperature to the optimal level and see if there are any positive results regarding your sleep due to that change.
You can also try to trick your brain with sleeping rituals. Let’s say you are eating a small piece of chocolate every day right before you go to sleep.
Your brain will remember this ritual and may learn that it is time to go to bed after this piece of chocolate. Thus, this kind of ritual might help you to fall asleep faster.
Refrain from eating too much
You should also try not to eat too much for dinner, since your sleep may be adversely impacted due to excessive food consumption close to bedtime. Therefore, try to eat rather light and not too much for dinner in order to improve your sleeping quality.
Raise awareness on the importance of sleep
Many people in our society are still not aware of the importance of sleep. If you living with your partner and he or she will not value sleep, it is time to talk to this person and convince him or her about the importance of sleep. By doing so, both of you may improve your sleeping quality and therefore also your quality of life.
In case your partner is snoring or you live in a noisy neighborhood, you might also try to improve your sleep by using earplugs. By using earplugs, you can mitigate noise disturbances and might be able to sleep better.
If all the measures above have not worked out for you, you might also contact a doctor to prescribe you drugs that are meant to improve your sleep. However, keep in mind that drugs can have severe side effects and should only be used when it is really necessary and appropriate to do so.
Insomnia is a big problem in our nowadays society. Since many people suffer from information overload, they also often suffer from sleep deprivation since they simply are not able to mentally deal with all the information and issues. A lack of sleep can lead to severe mental as well as physical health issues.
There are several ways how you can improve your quality of sleep in your daily life. By doing so, you can lower your risk for health issues and also improve your well-being and your quality of life.
About the author
My name is Andreas and my mission is to educate people of all ages about our environmental problems and how everyone can make a contribution to mitigate these issues.
As I went to university and got my Master’s degree in Economics, I did plenty of research in the field of Development Economics.
After finishing university, I traveled around the world. From this time on, I wanted to make a contribution to ensure a livable future for the next generations in every part of our beautiful planet.
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