State of Exhaustion – Insomnia
“My eyelids are heavy, but my thoughts are heavier”
What is Insomnia…Really?
Most adults have had a restless night of sleeping or maybe years. Unfortunately, insomnia is the most common sleep disorder that can lead to all kinds of side effects from lack of energy, mood swings, and poor quality of life, but it can lead to physical challenges like blood pressure, heart palpitations, and depression.
According to WebMD, insomnia is “a sleep disorder in which you have trouble falling and/or staying asleep.” In plain terms…it’s almost unbearable. For some people it only lasts a few days but for others it can last years.
There are two types of insomnia, which are primary insomnia and secondary insomnia.
- Primary insomnia just means that this sleep condition isn’t connected to something else.
- Secondary insomnia means there’s trouble sleeping because of something else like heartburn, back pain, etc.
- Then there's acute...
- And then there's chronic!
There are even more categories for this sleep disorder:
- Sleep-onset insomnia which means you have trouble getting to sleep.
- Sleep-maintenance insomnia is when you have trouble staying asleep or wake up to early.
- Mixed insomnia is when you have trouble falling asleep and staying asleep.
- Paradoxical insomnia is when you underestimate the amount you’re asleep. It feels like you sleep a lot less than you really do.
If you can even believe it…there’s even more types of insomnia! If you are curious what those are, check out this video @ What are the Different Types of Insomnia and Their Symptoms? - YouTube
Although it seems pretty common in America to talk about (and even brag) about lack of sleep, it’s hard on the body. Here are common symptoms of insomnia:
- Difficulty falling asleep at night
- Waking up during the night
- Waking up too early
- Not feeling well-rested after a night's sleep
- Daytime tiredness or sleepiness
- Irritability, depression or anxiety
- Difficulty paying attention, focusing on tasks or remembering
- Increased errors or accidents
- Ongoing worries about sleep
Where Does Insomnia Come From?
Military members or Veterans know that the military life is full of stress and can absolutely cause the inability to sleep. Here common causes for insomnia according to Mayo Clinic:
- Concerns about work, school, health, finances or family can keep your mind active at night, making it difficult to sleep. Stressful life events or trauma — such as the death or illness of a loved one, divorce, or a job loss — also may lead to insomnia.
- Travel or work schedule. Your circadian rhythms act as an internal clock, guiding such things as your sleep-wake cycle, metabolism and body temperature. Disrupting your body's circadian rhythms can lead to insomnia. Causes include jet lag from traveling across multiple time zones, working a late or early shift, or frequently changing shifts.
- Poor sleep habits. Poor sleep habits include an irregular bedtime schedule, naps, stimulating activities before bed, an uncomfortable sleep environment, and using your bed for work, eating or watching TV. Computers, TVs, video games, smartphones or other screens just before bed can interfere with your sleep cycle.
- Eating too much late in the evening. Having a light snack before bedtime is OK, but eating too much may cause you to feel physically uncomfortable while lying down. Many people also experience heartburn, a backflow of acid and food from the stomach into the esophagus after eating, which may keep you awake.
- Mental health disorders. Anxiety disorders, such as post-traumatic stress disorder, may disrupt your sleep. Awakening too early can be a sign of depression. Insomnia often occurs with other mental health disorders as well.
- Medications. Many prescription drugs can interfere with sleep, such as certain antidepressants and medications for asthma or blood pressure. Many over-the-counter medications — such as some pain medications, allergy and cold medications, and weight-loss products — contain caffeine and other stimulants that can disrupt sleep.
- Medical conditions. Examples of conditions linked with insomnia include chronic pain, cancer, diabetes, heart disease, asthma, gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD), overactive thyroid, Parkinson's disease and Alzheimer's disease.
- Sleep-related disorders. Sleep apnea causes you to stop breathing periodically throughout the night, interrupting your sleep. Restless legs syndrome causes unpleasant sensations in your legs and an almost irresistible desire to move them, which may prevent you from falling asleep
- Caffeine, nicotine and alcohol. Coffee, tea, cola and other caffeinated drinks are stimulants. Drinking them in the late afternoon or evening can keep you from falling asleep at night. Nicotine in tobacco products is another stimulant that can interfere with sleep. Alcohol may help you fall asleep, but it prevents deeper stages of sleep and often causes awakening in the middle of the night
If any of these things sound familiar, the first step is to go see your doctor right away. Some experts suggest keeping a sleep journal for two weeks. Make sure to write down when you get in bed, sleep patterns (if you can remember), how you feel during the day, what you drank or ate three hours beforehand, and even ask your bed partner about how you are sleeping and if they notice anything. Depending on what your doctor thinks, they could send you to a sleep center for special tests.
Other prevention methods you can try include (Insomnia - Symptoms and causes - Mayo Clinic):
- Keep your bedtime and wake time consistent from day to day, including weekends.
- Stay active — regular activity helps promote a good night's sleep.
- Check your medications to see if they may contribute to insomnia.
- Avoid or limit naps.
- Avoid or limit caffeine and alcohol, and don't use nicotine.
- Avoid large meals and beverages before bedtime.
- Make your bedroom comfortable for sleep and only use it for sex or sleep.
- Create a relaxing bedtime ritual, such as taking a warm bath, reading or listening to soft music
Treatment and Resources
If the insomnia seems to be related to short-term stress like a recent move or change in job, then there’s probably not much you need to do other than take a look at your whole health. Make sure you are eating right, drinking enough water, dropping the process sugar and alcohol (yes, I said it), and definitely stop the caffeine intake 6 hours before bed (Yes, I said that too!). Other holistic options to look at include:
- White noise machine The Best White Noise Machines for Better Sleep in 2022 - CNET
- Meditation specifically for sleeping Guided Sleep Meditation for Insomnia (Sleep, Relaxation, Calm your Mind) - YouTube
- Updating your sleep routine to include turning off electronics at a certain time, taking a hot shower or bath
- Using essential oils Essential Oils for Sleep | American Sleep Association
- Working out
- Calling a friend (studies have shown that socializing reduces anxiety…and helps with sleeping!)
But if the insomnia has been going on for longer than a week or two, then again you need to see your doctor. There could be treatments that you can try out until you find something that works. Your doctor might suggest behavioral therapy, medication, or other changes.
Lack of sleep is a big deal and can cause serious complications. These complications include things like (What Happens When You Don't Get Enough Sleep? – Cleveland Clinic):
- Increased blood pressure
- Overeating (which leads to obesity)
- Higher risk of falling
- Trouble with focus
- Mood swings
- Slow reaction times in critical situations
How Fleet Sheets Can Help Those in the Fleet
According to the National Library of Medicine (Insomnia in United States Military Veterans: An Integrated Theoretical Model - PMC (nih.gov)), insomnia and/or insomnia-like symptoms are present in 27-54% of military personnel and Veterans (Sleep Disorders and Associated Medical Comorbidities in Active Duty Military Personnel). This is two to three times higher than in the general U.S. adult population.
If you are serving in the Fleet, the little time you have to sleep is critical. That’s why Fleet Sheets is here for you to make sure you are the most comfortable and sleeping with style. Check these out:
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