Sleep. It’s as elusive as leprechaun gold, and twice as valuable. The number of health conditions linked to poor or inadequate sleep is almost endless, with obesity, diabetes and heart disease topping the list. But sleep ought to be something we can control — just get to bed early and sleep the night away, right?
So, how come you’re still so tired? The answer may surprise you. If you are lying in bed for hours unable to fall asleep, are waking up during the night, or are just plain not feeling refreshed in the morning, see if one of these factors is souring your sweet dreams.
What is insomnia?
Insomnia is a common sleep disorder that can be caused by a variety of factors such as stress, anxiety, depression, medical conditions and medication side effects. Poor sleep habits, which sleep expert Nathaniel Watson, M.D., says “develop over a lifetime,” can also contribute. These habits may include not keeping to a regular sleep schedule, napping during the day or drinking too much alcohol right before bedtime.
What’s more, hormonal fluctuations in women related to the menstrual cycle, pregnancy and menopause can lead to insomnia, says Shelby Harris, clinical associate professor at the Albert Einstein College of Medicine in New York and director of sleep health at Sleepopolis.
Temporary vs. chronic insomnia
Insomnia is considered chronic when it occurs three nights a week for three months. Fewer nights of disrupted sleep would be indicative of short-term, or temporary, insomnia.
“When people have these unhappy moments in their life, there’s probably a little bit of difficulty sleeping and we shouldn’t get too hung up on that,” says Watson, who is codirector of the University of Washington Medicine Sleep Center. “If somebody’s having a short-term insomnia issue related to something happening in their life, I would caution people from catastrophizing around that and think of that as the normal experience of human emotion.”
To learn more about the causes of insomnia and treatment options, from AARP, CLICK HERE.