Annie Lennox might have made her dreams come true by traveling the world and the seven seas, but not everyone is as lucky. Insomnia affects more than a quarter of the adult population in the US and, according to research published in the US National Library of Medicine via the
Sleep Med Clinic, there are almost certainly many more who never speak to their doctor about the problem.
Chronic sleep deprivation does more than just make you tired. Long-term insomnia can have significant side effects on the mind and body. Failure to get adequate rest for more than three consecutive months can impact your mood, tank your energy levels, and even create a cycle of stress that can exacerbate the problem. There are ways, however, to promote healthy sleep patterns and it starts by addressing the underlying cause of your restlessness.
The body is a complex mechanism and even seemingly unrelated health conditions can lead to sleepless nights. Medical News Today explains that COPD, angina, congestive heart failure, chronic fatigue syndrome, arthritis, and hyperthyroidism along with hormones associated with pregnancy and menopause can all trigger acute or chronic insomnia.
While physical maladies may be the culprit, more often than not, insomnia is triggered by psychological issues including anxiety, depression, and stress. These must be discussed with a qualified healthcare professional as neither this nor any other internet post can diagnose mental health problems.
Promoting healthy sleep
If you find yourself having trouble falling asleep and have been unable to identify physical or mental health triggers, a few simple changes with your nighttime routine may be able to help. Start by setting a sleep schedule so that your body’s circadian rhythm can get back on track.
Physical activity -- think a quick workout or long walk with the family -- at least four hours before bedtime can also promote restful sleep. Instead of watching television or mindlessly scrolling through your social media accounts, pick up a book or simply meditate in the 30 minutes prior to
Your environment also plays a part in healthy sleep. Stress at home and work, which often can’t be avoided, may be slightly offset by making changes to your bedroom. If noise is a concern, HomeAdvisor suggests installing sound-dampening material throughout your bedroom. You can also add blackout curtains to block out light from outside sources. The temperature of your bedroom can make or break your ability to fall asleep – and stay asleep – so take steps to ensure your home is a comfortable temperature before you turn out the light. There’s no set temperature that’s ideal for sleep but most experts suggest between 65° and 69°. Interestingly, men tend to sleep better in lower temperatures than women.
Your personal prescription for happiness
Just as there are many negative consequences to not getting enough sleep, visiting Mr. Sandman for the recommended seven to nine hours each night can provide a significant mental health boost and within a relatively short period of time. Psychology Today notes that sleep
gives the brain an opportunity to purge excess data and waste that backs up into the central nervous system. Getting enough sleep will also ensure appropriate reaction times, improve your ability to make good decisions, and can significantly reduce the likelihood that you will develop
depression or severe anxiety disorders. This Huffington Post infographic goes into greater detail on the happiness/sleep connection.
Unfortunately, there is no foolproof way to ensure you’ll never be affected by sleepless nights. However, by making changes to your daily routine, modifying your sleeping space, and addressing underlying issues that can cause or worsen your sleeplessness, you give yourself a greater chance of enjoying all the physical and mental health benefits of a good night’s rest.