Insomnia is the medical term given when you have problems sleeping on a regular basis. It is an issue that affects thousands, if not millions, of people across the country and it can lead to several health problems.
Today’s post will take a closer look at the problem of sleepless nights, including the causes, symptoms, treatments and ways of getting a better night sleep. Firstly, let’s take a look at some sleeping statistics.
Insomnia – The Statistics
Last year, Aviva’s Well-Being Report revealed some shocking insomnia statistics. Some of their findings which really stand out include:
- 67% of adults suffer from disrupted sleep.
- 23% of adults manage no more than five hours of sleep a night.
- More than one in 10 people take sleeping tablets to help them get to sleep.
- 31% of people said that they suffer from insomnia.
- 48% of adults admit that they don’t get the right amount of sleep.
- 51% of adults don’t take any measure to help them sleep… despite improving sleep being the biggest heath ambition for 26% of the adult population.
As you can see, insomnia is a big problem here in the UK, but what symptoms mean that you’re suffering from it?
Symptoms & Dangers
If you you have insomnia you will find that you regularly suffer from the following issues:
- Difficulty getting to sleep.
- Lying awake throughout the night.
- Feeling tired after waking up.
- Waking up on several occasions throughout the night.
- Waking up early and not being to get back to sleep.
- Feeling tired throughout the day.
- Difficulty concentrating through the day because you’re so tired.
These symptoms can carry on for months, even years in some extreme cases. Several sleepless nights can cause you to find it really difficult to concentrate and to make decisions in your daily life. you may also begin to feel rather down and you could even fall asleep during the day.
Of course, the above can create huge problems at work and can also put you and others at risk if you’re behind the wheel or in charge of machinery at work. Did you know that almost 20% of accidents on major roads are sleep-related? Of these sleep-related accidents, around 40% involve commercial vehicles.
You may also begin to see your weight increase over time as sleep deprivation affects the levels of hormones involved in regulating your appetite. Levels of this hormone, known as leptin, will drop and the levels of the hunger hormone ghrelin will rise.
There are several different reasons for a person suffering from insomnia. These can vary depending on your everyday life or the environments that you sometimes find yourself in. Some of the most common causes include:
- Depression and anxiety.
- Shift work.
- Your room being too hot or too cold.
- Jet lag.
Alongside environmental and recreational causes, some medical conditions can also put you at risk of insomnia. Examples include mental health conditions such as schizophrenia or bipolar disorder, Parkinson’s Disease, Alzheimer’s and restless legs syndrome. Some medications for these conditions can also lead to sleepless nights.
How Much Sleep do we Need?
Generally, we need to have around eight hours of good-quality sleep each night in order to function properly. Some people require less hours, whilst others require much more. It’s important that you find out how much you need to feel healthy and then try to achieve it.
As a general rule, if you wake up tired and spend the day longing for a chance to have a nap, it’s likely that you’re not getting enough sleep.”
You can help treat your insomnia by making some changes to our sleeping habits. You should try to go to bed and wake up at the same time every day, but only go to bed when you feel tired. Another tip would be to relax for at least one hour before bed, perhaps by reading or relaxing in the bath.
Other methods of self-treatment include:
- Making sure that your bedroom is dark and quiet. Try using blackout curtains and blinds, as well as using ear plugs or an eye mask.
- Regular exercise during the day.
- Making sure your mattress, pillows and covers are comfortable.
- Avoid eating a big meal late at night.
- Not napping during the day.
- Not using electronic devices right before you go to bed – bright lights make you more awake.
If changing your sleeping habits doesn’t help and you’ve had trouble sleeping for months then you should make an appointment with your doctor. Your GP will try find out what is causing your insomnia and you may be referred to a therapist for cognitive behavioural therapy. This can help you change the thoughts and behaviours that keep you from sleeping.
It’s rare nowadays for doctors to prescribe sleeping pills to treat insomnia, as they can have serious side effects and you may become too dependent on them. If they are prescribed, it will only be for a few days or weeks at the most.
After months of lost sleep, it may take several weeks for you to catch up and feel refreshed once again. On a weekend, try to add an extra hour or two of sleep a night by going to bed when you’re tired and allowing your body to wake up in the morning by itself – no alarm clocks! Expect to sleep for upwards of 10 hours a night at first. After a while, the amount of time you sleep will gradually decrease to a normal level.
NHS’s 7 Benefits of a Good Night’s Sleep
The NHS list the following health benefits of a good night’s sleep:
- It boosts your immune system.
- It can help you to remain at a healthy weight.
- It boosts your mental well-being – a lack of sleep can lead to depression.
- It prevent diabetes.
- It increases your sex drive.
- It helps to fight off heart disease.
- It increases your fertility.
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