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  • Writer's pictureTania Cucciniello

An in Depth Guide to Insomnia- Part 1

Updated: May 3, 2020


Insomnia is a condition of the nervous system; it's a chronic inability to fall asleep or remain asleep for an adequate length of time. This abnormal wakefulness may cause mood swings such as being constantly irritated, fatigue or feelings of depression. There are different types of insomnia, primary and secondary insomnia. Primary insomnia means that a person is having sleep problems that are not directly associated with any other health condition. Secondary insomnia means that a person is having sleep problems due to something else such as another health issue or mental stress. Insomnia can vary in how long it lasts and how often it occurs. Short-term insomnia is called acute, long-term insomnia is called chronic, and intermittent insomnia is when the person's sleeping problems come and go. Acute insomnia can last from one night to one week, it is often caused by emotional or physical discomfort and can be related to a single specific event. Chronic insomnia is when a person hasn't slept for at least 3 nights a week, lasting 1 month or longer. As you can guess, intermittent insomnia lasts somewhere between the length of the other two and is sporadic.

The chronic type can be caused by past health problems and insomnia is now a consequence of a previous illness. It can also be due to a present medical condition such as tinnitus, where a "phantom" noise in the ear can be heard especially when it's quiet and keeps the individual awake all night. The diagnosis for insomnia is made by an evaluation that consists of a physical exam plus a collection of medical history and sleep history data. Many cases get referred to a sleep centre where you will be asked to stay overnight while your sleeping habits are recorded. Although prior to that, you may be asked to write a sleep journal for up to 2 weeks and record your sleep patterns at home. A sleep journal or diary (which you can try on your own even before seeking professional advice) can help surface details about what is going on and why you just can't fall asleep. It should include what time you fall asleep each night and for how long, what the last thing you were doing before bed was; the time you wake up or number of times you woke up during the night, how you feel in the morning, energy levels throughout the day and possible mood swings you experienced. You now have information to reference and a tool to help make healthy lifestyle changes in the areas needed most.

Symptoms and causes

Those who suffer with insomnia experience one or more of the following symptoms:

  1. Difficulty falling asleep (of course!)

  2. Waking up often during the night and have trouble falling back asleep

  3. Red, tired, itchy eyes

  4. Dark, baggy circles under the eyes

  5. Mood swings and irritability

  6. The infamous "3pm crash"

Sound familiar? If this is you then you must be wondering why- which brings us to the variety of causes that range from everyday life stress like noise, light, temperature of the room to heartburn, indigestion, or a common cold that keeps you up at night. Other causes which are more severe will also break sleep patterns, such as an illness like cancer, arthritis, asthma, depression or other sleep disorders such as sleep apnea, narcolepsy and R.L.S- restless leg syndrome.

Risk Factors

Insomnia can cause complications throughout the day when we need to be most productive and at our best. These complications like fatigue, difficulty concentrating, irritability and mood swings can prevent us from getting ahead in our work. They can lead to procrastination and lack of being present, to being unable to drive or operate machinery.

Another major risk factor is becoming dependant on sleep medication. Anti-insomnia drugs are rapid, onset and short-acting to help people fall asleep and stay asleep. Anti-insomnia drugs are described as Central Nervous System (CNS) depressants. CNS depressants slow down the activity in nervous system and cause drowsiness. Side effects of sleeping pills can become just as problematic and identical to the symptoms as the insomnia itself! You may get a good night's rest with the sleeping pills but the following day will not be so easy. Waking up from a medicated sleep can leave you feeling foggy- causing trouble concentrating, headaches- sensitive to light and loud noises, drowsiness and fatigue during the day which makes driving or operating heavy machinery difficult.

To conclude Part 1, I believe that sleeping pills still prevent those who suffer from insomnia to feel vital and to excel in life. In Part 2 of this post we will look at the benefits of massage therapy for insomnia, a list of healthy lifestyle changes to prevent insomnia and other natural healing methods- including cannabis (yes, cannabis). Stay tuned!

To begin looking at the difference between pills and cannabis, check out The Body Blog's Energy Healing board on Pinterest!


Photo credit: tirachardz/Freepik

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