Do you have trouble sleeping at night? Do you find yourself waking up in the middle of the night or falling asleep during that day? Are you groggy, irritable, depressed?
A good night’s sleep is as important as a proper diet or exercise in helping us to maintain and healthy mind, body and spirit. If you believe you have insomnia, it is a good idea to check with your health practitioner, nutritionist or doctor.
Insomnia Statistics and Medical Conditions that Cause Insomnia
Insomnia is the most common sleep disorder in the United States. Teachers report that sleep deprivation is the primary cause of students falling behind in their classroom studies. The United States leads all other countries in sleep deprivation among pupils.
Among older populations, insomnia is a frequent medical diagnosis. Between 40% and 60% of people over the age of 60 suffer from insomnia. According to the US Surgeon General, insomnia costs the U.S. Government more than $15 billion per year in health care costs. About one-third of the adult population has experienced it at some time and approximately 10% have chronic insomnia. It can be chronic, transient, or temporary. Insomnia can be the primary health problem or a secondary symptom associated with other medical conditions such as:
Symptoms or Side Effects of Insomnia
People with chronic insomnia may suffer from a wide variety of mild to severe health disorders or symptoms, including:
- “Nodding off” or “micro-sleeping”
- Lack of alertness
- Memory problems
- Impaired Judgement
- More mistakes at work and school
- Poor relationships
- Chronic fatigue
- ADHA symptoms
- Diabetes risk
- Body aches
- Increased heart rate
- Excessive yawning
- Eye strain
- Stomach upset
- Muscle fatigue and weakness
- Muscle twitching
- Weight gain or weight loss
- Stunted growth
- Weakened immune system
- Slurred speech
- Nerve pain
- Numbness and/or tingling
Sleeping Disorder Diagnosis
If you believe you have insomnia and are seeking help from a doctor or trusted healthcare provider, your health practitioner should conduct an extensive interview with you to determine what your symptoms are and to rule out any underlying medical conditions or serious sleeping disorders. It is helpful if you arrive at your doctor’s office with a sleep diary to share any symptoms you have been having and to report your sleeping patterns. It is important to share what foods you eat regularly, your exercise pattern, and any medications, vitamins or herbal supplements that you take. Insomnia can be caused by side effects of prescription medications.
The doctor might schedule you for a psychological evaluations generally involve interviewing but may also involve a series of written diagnostic tests. The doctor or healthcare professional should do a thorough physical exam and might want to schedule you for blood or urine laboratory tests. Other extensive tests might be ordered such as EEG, EMG, or MRI to rule out other chronic conditions. Your doctor might recommend a polysomnogram (PSG) if he or she thinks an underlying sleep disorder is causing your insomnia. If so, you will most likely stay overnight at a sleep center. The PSG records brain activity, eye movements, heart rate, and blood pressure.
If it is determined that you have sleep apnea, you will most likely be prescribed a CPAP device. CPAP is a nonintrusive method of providing continuous positive airway pressure, is a treatment that uses mild air pressure to keep the airways open.
CPAP is the most effective nonsurgical treatment, for obstructive sleep apnea, and is the first treatment choice. Many studies have shown that it is effective in helping those with obstructive sleep anpea, caused by bocked or narrowed airways in your nose, mouth, or throat. When sleep apnea occurs, the airway becomes blocked when the throat muscles and tongue relax during sleep. This generally results in snoring and interrupted sleep, sometimes with frequent gasping or awakenings, as the person struggles for air.
If your healthcare practitioner believes that you do not have a physical or biological such as heart failure, or sleep apnea, or other serious medical conditions requiring immediate and radical interventions, the doctor might suggest that you explore alternative lifestyle changes and natural solutions first, before trying prescription drugs.
Treating Insomnia Without Prescriptions
Prescription drugs are often the method of choice when working with a healthcare professional. Approximately 10 million people in the U.S. use prescription sleep aids. This might be the right solution for you, and is a decision between you and your trusted healthcare practitioner. However, there are many lifestyle changes that you can discuss with your doctor and might be effective, before trying medications. As always, consult with your trusted healthcare practitioner before trying any of these supplements or suggestions.
- Sip something warm before going to bed: chamomile, anise or fennel seed teas, or warm milk.
- Sleep on your back to take stress off your heart, stomach or lungs.
- Sleep on a firm mattress to support your spine and allow it to relax.
- Eat a light meal at least two hours before sleeping so that your digestive system can relax and not be overly working while you are trying to rest.
- Take a warm bath to relax your muscles and lower your blood pressure, just before going to sleep.
- Avoid stimulating drugs, such as caffeine, energy drinks, and nicotine, particularly before going to bed.
- Exercise several hours before going to sleep.
- Use a sleep mask to block out interfering light.
- Try writing in a journal or praying before sleeping and imagine releasing your problems or stress over to a higher power
- Read a relaxing book before sleeping.
- Try the regular practice of meditation to lower stress hormone levels.
- Try taking natural sleep herbal remedies or supplements such as: melatonin, tryptophan, magnesium, chromium, chamomile, kava, arsenicum album, coffea cruda, valerian root and others.
- Avoid alcohol- it is a leading cause of poor sleep.
- Minimize noise when trying to sleep.
- Listen to relaxing music.
- Try hypnotherapy sessions or recorded hypnotic sleep suggestions before retiring.
- Maintain a comfortable bedroom temperature.
Insomnia is a serious health problem that can lead to other physical, mental or emotional problems if not treated. However, if there is no serious underlying medical cause requiring radical intervention, there are many resources and simple, natural lifestyle changes available. As always, check with your family doctor or practitioner before making a change in your normal routine or trying new health supplements.
National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute (2012). “What is Sleep Apnea?”. National Institutes of Health..
“Sleep Apnea: Who Is At Risk for Sleep Apnea?”. NHLBI: Health Information for the Public. U.S. Department of Health and Human Services.
Ng, Beng-Yeong; Lee, Tih-Shih (2008). “Hypnotherapy for Sleep Disorders”. Annals of the Academy of Medicine, Singapore 37 (8): 683–8.
Hurwitz, Thomas D.; Mahowald, Mark W.; Schenck, Carlos H.; Schluter, Janet; Bundlie, Scott R. (April 1991). “A retrospective outcome study and review of hypnosis as treatment of adults with sleepwalking and sleep terror”. Journal of Nervous & Mental Disease 179 (4): 181–241.
Melinda Smith, M.A., Lawrence Robinson, Robert Segal, M.A. (September 2011). Sleep Disorders and Sleeping Problems
This article is written by Jean Voice Dart, M.S. Special Education from Illinois State University. Jean is a published author and has written hundreds of health articles as well as hosting a local television program, “Making Miracles Happen.” She is a Registered Music Therapist, Sound Therapist, and Master Level Energetic Teacher, and is the Executive Director, founder and Health and Wellness Educator of the Monterey Bay Holistic Alliance. The Monterey Bay Holistic Alliance is a registered 501 (c) 3 nonprofit health and wellness education organization. For more information about the Monterey Bay Holistic Alliance contact us or visit our website at www.montereybayholistic.com.
Disclaimer: The Monterey Bay Holistic Alliance is a charitable, independent registered nonprofit 501(c)3 organization and does not endorse any particular products or practices. We exist as an educational organization dedicated to providing free access to health education resources, products and services. Claims and statements herein are for informational purposes only and have not been evaluated by the Food and Drug Administration. The statements about organizations, practitioners, methods of treatment, and products listed on this website are not meant to diagnose, treat, cure, or prevent any disease. This information is intended for educational purposes only. The MBHA strongly recommends that you seek out your trusted medical doctor or practitioner for diagnosis and treatment of any existing health condition.