There’s nothing worse than dealing with insomnia. Sometimes it seems that no matter how tired you are, you still can’t seem to fall asleep! Instead of struggling with this over a long period of time, you need to take control of your sleep schedule and take steps to determine the cause of your insomnia and then find effective tools to treat it and get back to sleeping like a baby.
What Is Insomnia?
Insomnia is a sleep disorder in which it’s difficult for you to fall asleep or stay asleep. Acute insomnia lasts from a single night to a few weeks. Chronic insomnia lasts longer than three weeks over a period of three months, although it can come and go during that time. Chronic insomnia can have a variety of negative long-term effects on your overall health.
Long-Term Effects of Insomnia
Sleep is essential for the proper functioning of our body, which is why long-term insomnia can wreak havoc on a wide variety of different body systems and functions. Thankfully, it’s not detrimental if you don’t get enough sleep for just one night. However, if you consistently don’t get enough sleep due to insomnia, here are some potential long-term effects that you might experience as a result:
- Memory issues: Sleep helps your central nervous system function properly, as your brain is able to form connections during that time to help you process and remember new information as you encounter it throughout the day. When you’re tired, your brain is tired, and it cannot send signals as quickly or process information as quickly.
- Trouble concentrating: Similar to the cause of memory issues, sleep deprivation can also make it difficult for you to concentrate on different tasks, whether it’s at work or home. Since your brain isn’t functioning at its best, your creativity and problem-solving abilities are also impacted. Over time, this can easily impact work performance, especially if you rely heavily on creativity and concentration for your job.
- Mood changes: Sleep has a big effect on your mood! This is something that is easier to notice in people who are sleep deprived— they are crankier and moodier. They may snap about little things or say things that they otherwise wouldn’t. You can become more emotional and experience swift mood swings. Over time, sleep deprivation can affect your mental health and contribute to conditions like depression and anxiety.
- Weakened immune system: Your immune system builds up its defenses against bacteria and viruses while you sleep. So if you aren’t getting enough sleep, your body is less capable of effectively fighting off these invaders. This makes you more susceptible to catching illnesses like the common cold or influenza. It can also make it harder for you to recover from these illnesses. In order to give your immune system the best shot, make sure to get enough vitamins, minerals, and sleep.
- Higher risk of health conditions: In addition to increasing your risk of catching viral illnesses due to a weakened immune system, long-term sleep deprivation can also increase your risk of developing more serious health complications like high blood pressure, heart disease, and diabetes. This is because sleep affects processes that keep your heart and blood vessels healthy and functioning properly.
- Weight gain: Sleep deprivation can impact your digestive system by affecting the hormones that control your body’s feelings of hunger and fullness. Ghrelin stimulates your appetite when you’re hungry. Leptin signals to your brain that you’ve had enough to eat. When these hormones are out of whack, it’s easy to end up eating more than you need to, leading to weight gain over time.
- Low sex drive: In order to produce testosterone, you need at least three hours of uninterrupted sleep a night. If you aren’t getting this, you could have low testosterone levels, which can contribute to lower libido in males.
What Causes Insomnia?
There are many different causes of insomnia that range from stress to actual sleep disorders. In order to effectively deal with your insomnia and finally get some sleep, you need to understand why you’re unable to sleep in the first place! While you should definitely talk to your doctor if you are experiencing frequent insomnia, here are some potential causes that you may want to discuss during your appointment:
- Stress: Perhaps one of the most common causes of insomnia is stress. You’re simply unable to get to sleep because your mind is racing and worrying about work, school, and just everyday life issues. Stress can make it difficult for you to shut off your mind and fall asleep peacefully.
- Jet lag: There’s really nothing worse than jet lag— and this can cause insomnia for obvious reasons! When you travel long distances, this impacts your circadian rhythms that tell your body when it’s time to go to sleep and when it’s time to wake up. Switching time zones and confusing your body by being awake when it’s used to being asleep can be difficult to deal with when traveling.
- Caffeine: Caffeine is a stimulant that can make it harder for you to get to sleep. Obviously, drinking caffeine in the morning is a great way to wake up but drinking it in the afternoon or evening can conversely keep you awake when you should be sleeping! So make sure to skip caffeinated tea, coffee, and soda at least seven hours before you want to go to sleep.
- Blue light exposure: Believe it or not, your electronic devices could be impacting your sleep! Blue light blocks melatonin in your body that makes it sleepy. So if you’re on your phone or computer before going to bed, it may be harder for you to fall asleep. Many smartphones these days have “nighttime” settings that lower the level of blue light in the screen to a more sleep-inducing yellow light.
- Medications: Some of your medications could also be causing your insomnia. Medications that contain stimulants or caffeine could be the equivalent to drinking a big cup of coffee right before bed! Make sure to speak with your doctor if you are concerned about your medication’s effect on your sleep.
- Sleep disorders: Disorders like sleep apnea and restless leg syndrome can impact the quality of your sleep. Sleep apnea causes you to stop breathing at times while sleeping and interrupts your sleep. Restless leg syndrome can prevent you from falling asleep due to involuntary body movements that make it hard to relax.
Tools to Help With Insomnia
Once you have a better idea of what’s causing your insomnia, it’s time to take some concrete steps to address it and help you get the good night’s sleep that you deserve. Here are some tools that you can use to help with insomnia:
- Essential oils: Using an essential oil diffuser can be a great way to help you sleep. This high volume diffuser can provide you with beneficial essential oils all night long! Some of the best essential oils for sleep include lavender, vanilla, valerian, sandalwood, ylang-ylang, and bergamot.
- White noise machine: White noise machines may help people sleep due to the relaxing noises that they generate. Maybe you’re a person that can’t sleep in total silence. Or maybe you’re a person who needs the TV on to sleep but then ends up getting distracted by it. In either case, a white noise machine offers different calming “soundtracks” that can help you fall asleep.
- Blackout curtains: If you work the nightshift and have trouble sleeping during the day from all the light coming into your bedroom, you should definitely try out blackout curtains. Blackout curtains help preserve your body’s natural circadian rhythm so that you can easily sleep whenever you need to— whether it’s daytime or not.
- Blue light glasses: As mentioned earlier, too much blue light exposure before bedtime can cause insomnia— and wearing blue light glasses is one way to address this! This is an especially effective method if you’re on your computer or watching television a lot before bed. Blue light glasses filter out blue light and reduce strain on your eyes that can make it harder for you to fall asleep.
- Cooling fan: Temperature control is super important while you sleep. The cooler your bedroom is, the easier it will be for you to fall asleep. The ideal temperature for sleep is between 60 to 67 degrees. If you don’t want to crank your air conditioner all night (or don’t have one), then buying a fan to help cool you down can be an effective alternative.
- Quality pillows, sheets, and blankets: Create a bed that makes it easy for you to fall asleep with quality pillows, sheets, and blankets. Memory foam pillows, high thread count sheets, and plush throw blankets all contribute to an amazing bed.
Just as there are many causes of insomnia, there are also many things you can do about it! So don’t let your insomnia become a real problem and take some concrete steps to improve it now before it really starts to affect your health.