Sleepless| Insomnia

Insomnia: The Ins and Outs

“I struggle with my sleep. Do I have Insomnia?”
This is a question that a lot of people ask themselves. Especially since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic, more and more people have problems sleeping. Google trend shows an increase in searches related to insomnia since 2019. This indicates that people get more curious about their sleep difficulties.

So, what is Insomnia?

In short, Insomnia is a sleep disorder. It means people are having trouble initiating and/or maintaining sleep. The results of insomnia are the impairment of daily functioning and distress. It is important to note that just because someone is sleeping 4 hours a night, that does not automatically mean that the person has insomnia. It takes more for someone to be diagnosed with it. The person not only has to be dissatisfied with their sleep. They also should show signs of impairments during the daytime due to their sleep.
Examples are: not being able to go to work, low mood, irritability, etc.

What are the causes?

The main triggers of insomnia are stress-related. This could be a loss of a family member or a friend, stress from turbulence in one’s relationship or stress from other areas of life, such as work. Usually, sleep problems are resolved once the stress-causing factor disappears or is dealt with. This is known as acute insomnia. Yet, sometimes even though the factor that initially triggered sleeplessness disappears, sleep disturbances stay. This type is called chronic insomnia. There is a treatment for both, chronic and acute insomnia. They both can be treated with cognitive behaviour therapy for insomnia. Sleep specialists or psychologists provide this treatment.

Insomnia can manifest itself in three different forms:

1. Sleep onset insomnia: This type of insomnia refers to difficulty falling asleep at the beginning of the night when a person attempts to initiate sleep. It is associated with a person tossing and turning without being able to get to sleep. Most people with sleep onset problems cannot fall asleep even after spending more than 30 minutes in bed.
2. Sleep maintenance insomnia: This type of insomnia refers to a person’s inability to stay asleep through the night. Most often, this means waking up a few times during the night and struggling to get back to sleep.
Note: It is normal to wake up a few times during the night. It usually happens when one is transitioning from different sleep stages. However, it becomes a problem when after waking up, the person struggles to get back to sleep.
3. Early morning awakening insomnia: This type of insomnia refers to a person waking up well before a person wants or plans to in the morning and not being able to go back to sleep.

Factors that maintain your insomnia

When someone presents with disturbed sleep, it is common to see an increased effort from them to restore their sleep. This can include, going to bed early, napping or sleeping in. Yet, despite such efforts, insomnia defeats many people. So they continue to struggle with their irregular sleep patterns.

So, which factors maintain your insomnia?

1. Sleep drive: Sleep drive is a biological process that tells your body that it is time to sleep. To be able to go to bed and sleep at night, your sleep drive needs to be strong. One sign of a weak sleep drive occurs when a person goes to bed. There they spend much time tossing and turning. This shows that their sleep drive is not strong enough to tell their body to sleep at that hour. (More can be read on sleep drive on our previous blog: Sleep drive)
2. Circadian clock: Circadian clock is an internally driven 24-hour clock that controls your body temperature, hunger, sleep, hormone production etc. When a person does not have a regular circadian rhythm (e.g. regular sleeping time/ waking up time, eating time, etc), it can leave the circadian clock unsure of when to signal the body to sleep. This leaves the person unable to sleep at bedtime.
3. Busy mind: Sometimes a person’s sleep drive and circadian clock work well together in signalling their body that it is time to sleep. However, as soon as they get to bed, the person may not be able to sleep because of their busy mind. Here, the problem is not a biological process, such as sleep drive or internal clock, but a persons’ ability to quiet their mind.
A busy mind can be:
1) thinking about the past;
2) worrying about your future;
3) mentally making a to-do list;
4) thinking about what happened today; etc.
While insomnia can be a very frustrating disorder, there are many treatments out in the clinical field that can help a person get their healthy sleep back. If you find yourself thinking that you have been struggling with insomnia, contact your physician and try getting a referral for a sleep psychologist/specialist.
At COPE Centre we can help you when you are experiencing Insomnia. Book your appointment now under Home – Client Bookings Power Diary
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By Vanika Lall
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