Lack of sleep, caused by a variety of issues, is a common complaint today experienced by youth and adults alike. While sometimes the stress of a new baby, a new job, or other life-altering condition might disrupt sleep patterns for short periods, some people suffer from a long-term condition called insomnia. Insomnia is characterized by the inability to get to sleep or stay asleep. While most adults can function with 6-8 hours of sleep, insomnia may make it hard to reach this goal, which can cause problems with your energy levels and mood. In addition, lack of sleep, especially when it is long-term due to insomnia, can begin to cause issues at work or in your personal life.
Symptoms of insomnia include difficulty falling asleep, trouble staying asleep, not feeling well-rested, daytime sleepiness, anxiety, depression, and forgetfulness. Causes are similar to that of an occasional restless night, such as stress, work schedules, excessive alcohol, caffeine, or nicotine use, or poor sleep habits. However, it can also be attributed to underlying medical conditions or certain medications. For example, sleep apnea, chronic pain, cancer, heart disease, hyperthyroidism, and Alzheimer's disease are medical conditions that may cause insomnia. Risk factors include women, people over the age of 60, and those with any of the above medical conditions or lifestyle factors.
Diagnosis is usually completed by conducting a physical examination, including a review of sleep cycles. Also, a doctor may suggest a sleep study to understand better your particular sleep habits, which will help make an accurate diagnosis. Treatment options include cognitive behavioral therapy, prescribed medications, or over-the-counter medications. Without treatment, complications can arise. Unfortunately, lack of sleep can lead to severe complications like an increased risk of heart disease and high blood pressure, decreased performance at school or work, and an increased risk of car accidents. Decreased immune function is also strongly tied to a lack of sleep, so it is vital to do everything in your power to alter changeable factors in your life.
Let's discuss preventative measures, including lifestyle changes that can boost your sleep and prevent the severe consequences associated with insomnia.