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Insomnia: Causes, symptoms, effects and treatment

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What is sleep deprivation? What causes it? What are the effects and how can it be managed?

Insomnia or lack of sleep leads to sleep deprivation and Jonathan Lethem, an American novelist, essayist and short-story writer, described it in his book, "Motherless Brooklyn", as follows;

"Insomnia is a variant of Tourette's -- the waking brain races, sampling the world after the world has turned away, touching it everywhere, refusing to settle, to join the collective nod. The insomniac brain is a sort of conspiracy theorist as well, believing too much in its own paranoiac importance -- as though if it were to blink, then doze, the world might be overrun by some encroaching calamity, which its obsessive musings are somehow fending off." - Jonathan Lethem

From his elaborate description above, let's pick out a few things.

First, Tourette syndrome is a nervous system disorder involving repetitive movements or unwanted sounds. It is classified as a psychiatric illness, but it is usually caused by genetic factors.

Waking brain races, sampling the world after the world turned away, refusing to settle, to join the collective nod - this may be interpreted to mean brain that is on an endless race to keep awake while observing the world around even when the day has turned into darkness. Refusing to go to sleep (to settle) and join everyone else who is sleeping.

The insomniac brain is a sort of conspiracy theorist as well, believing too much in its own paranoiac importance -- as though if it were to blink, then doze, the world might be overrun by some encroaching calamity, which its obsessive musings are somehow fending off: It's as though the brain has chosen to believe that keeping awake is the best thing to do, despite evidence to the contrary, with a fallacious presumption that if the eyes blink or shuts, calamity may overtake but the only way to prevent the calamity is to stay awake.

What is Insomnia?

Well, Jonathan may have put insomnia to mean that the brain is what is deciding not to have sleep. But in the real sense, does it directly mean so?

Everyone has experienced insomnia at one point in their life, and it is due to several causes. Insomnia/sleep deprivation may seem like a random affair in your life, but that's not the whole truth of the story. Insomnia affects more people than you imagine. According to a research finding published by Cleveland Clinic, insomnia affects more than 70 million Americans every year. Symptoms of insomnia occur in approximately 33 - 50% of the adult population while Chronic Insomnia disorder that is associated with distress or impairment is estimated to affect 10 - 15% of the population.

Insomnia is the inability to get adequate sleep, or the inability to sleep during the nighttime. This is usually followed by several symptoms and sleepiness during the day.

Not being able to sleep properly is a sign of ill health. This can affect your well-being, your mental health, and general productivity. Talking about the adequacy of sleep or what constitutes proper sleep, one would want to know how many hours of sleep is considered adequate for an individual. however, this grossly depends on factors like age, gender, lifestyle, physical exertion and so on. The Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recommends at least 7 hours every night. The CDC also established that 1 in 3 adults do not meet this minimum requirement of 7 hours every day.

Several factors, including some of our everyday activities, can lead to insomnia and sleep deprivation. For example, a student who is studying for an exam scheduled to hold in two days time may experience some level of sleep deprivation especially if he feels there is so much he still need to cover. Lack of sleep is linked to several medical conditions like Type 2 diabetes mellitus, heart disease, obesity and depression, therefore you should address any problems with sleep promptly and proactively.

Common Causes of Insomnia/sleep deprivation

The causes of insomnia may be classified into three broad classes:

  1. Physical
  2. Biological
  3. Psychosocial

Physical causes include: improper sleeping conditions, snoring noise of a partner, environmental noise, etc

Biological factors: relates to factors affecting the circadian rhythm or the biological clock that controls when we go to sleep and when we wake. Drugs, hormones, jet lag, pregnancy and irregular shift working can alter the biological clock and cause you not to sleep well at night.

Psychosocial causes: Stress, anxiety, trauma, depression, bipolar affective disorder, psychotic disorders, etc

Common Symptoms of Insomnia/sleep deprivation

Symptoms of sleep deprivation include the following:

  • Irritability
  • Fatigue
  • Mood swings
  • Reduced desire for intimate relationships
  • Difficulty staying focused
  • Poor memory
  • Sleepiness during the day, etc

Effects of Sleep Deprivation on Your Body

Some common effects of sleep deprivation on your body include:

  1. Reduced immune system functioning, making you more prone to infectious diseases.
  2. Persistent weight changes; weight loss or excessive weight gain.
  3. Sudden change in hormonal levels.
  4. It may cause erectile dysfunction and fertility.
  5. Slow response time due to reduced brain functioning.
  6. Poor academic performance.
  7. Poor productivity.

Treatment and Management of Insomnia/sleep deprivation

There are many management options for insomnia. Some of these may require consulting a health practitioner (a doctor), while others are self-instituted management interventions but will equally help to improve the sleep problem.

First, it is important to identify the cause of insomnia and address it appropriately. If it is due to the stress of any kind, you should try to relieve the stress. If the insomnia is due to medical or psychological conditions, drugs should be given to the sufferer to alleviate the condition. 

Platforms like CheapBuds offer cannabis flowers as treatment options for insomnia. The cannabis flower may serve as effective treatment options for managing insomnia, either directly through interactions with brain receptors that regulate sleep, or indirectly through producing effects that mask certain factors like stress, anxiety or emotional trauma that may make sleep difficult to get. But of course, intake of these substances must be regulated by an expert who knows better how they work and how they are used.

Good exercise can also enhance your sleep. Physical activities during the day enhance night sleep. You should cultivate the habit of regular exercising and you should avoid sleeping too much during the day. This will alter your circadian rhythm and make your night sleep shorter than normal. Night sleep is very important because the activities of the day already shorten the number of hours of sleep you can get during the day. However, the night is like a fixed period for sleep and rest.

Drugs known as sleeping pills can be used to treat insomnia but these can easily become addictive. It is necessary to consult a doctor before taking sleeping pills.

A nutritional modification also forms an important part of the management of insomnia. Food products such as milk, yoghurt, cheese, poultry meat products, Seafood like shrimp, tuna, sardines, cod; nuts and seeds like walnuts, flax, sesame, pumpkin, sunflower, cashews, peanuts, almonds, walnuts, etc, fruits, vegetables and grains may help improve sleep. While caffeine-containing products should be avoided because they worsen insomnia.

The bottom line

Sleep deprivation/insomnia can turn into a harmful mental and physical health issue if not managed promptly and adequately. These may range from hampering your performance at work, to negative effects on your overall lifestyle. 

One thing you need to know is that persistent lack of sleep can be an alarming sign of an underlying health problem, or can lead to further health problems. Therefore, it is important to address it as soon as possible.

Prosper Yole

I am a lifestyle blogger, I write useful articles on successful life tips and hacks. Posts bearing Prosper Yole as author are either written by the blog author himself or by our various other contributors. Thank you for reading through. I look forward to having you more often. Please subscribe to my blog and follow me on Twitter @ProsperYoleOfficial


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