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Not Sleeping? How Insomnia Can Affect Your Health
Humans spend approximately 1/3 of their lives asleep. Despite the vast body of research that has been devoted to the mechanics and purpose of sleep, scientists do not yet fully understand why sleep is necessary. What we do know is that we cannot do without it, and that sleep deprivation has a profound impact on both our physical and mental health.
When you do not get enough sleep, you feel drained of energy. Your work performance, your health, and even the quality of your life may be compromised. The inability to fall asleep or stay asleep is known as insomnia, and it is one of the most common of all health complaints.
The typical signs and symptoms of insomnia include the following:
At least 30% of all people (including teenagers and children) experience insomnia from time to time, while 10% to 15% of individuals experience chronic insomnia. What causes this distressing condition, and what are the health consequences that may result from the inability to get enough sleep?
Insomnia is most often the result of an underlying physiological problem. There are a large number of possible factors which may contribute to difficulty sleeping:
A range of tests can help you to identify which of these issues may be causing your insomnia. A knowledgeable health care professional can assist you with these lab tests:
By pinpointing the cause(s) of your insomnia, your health care provider will be better able to recommend a plan for treating and managing your sleep problems.
Certain individuals may be at greater risk for developing the symptoms of insomnia. Women are more likely to suffer from insomnia due to hormonal fluctuations during menstruation and menopause; men and women over the age of 60 are also likely to experience changes in their sleep patterns. Those with a history of emotional disorders such as depression, anxiety, post-traumatic stress disorder, and bipolar disorder frequently experience sleep disruptions; stress, night work, or changing shifts at work can interfere with sleep patterns, as well.
Lack of sufficient sleep can cause serious consequences for insomnia sufferers. There are both short-term and long-term complications that may occur when you do not get enough sleep.
Insomnia can have far-reaching health consequences if it is left untreated. Fortunately, by properly identifying the cause and developing an individualized plan for managing your condition, you can reverse the negative effects and enjoy a healthy and satisfying life.
Treating the underlying cause of your insomnia may include nutritional support with dietary sleep supplements, exercise, detoxification, and relaxation techniques such as meditation and breathing exercises. Cognitive therapy may be useful to some patients who have mood disorders at the root of their sleep problems. Light therapy can be helpful for individuals who suffer from a phase shift disorder.
Prescription and over the counter sleep medications may help you get to sleep initially, but they also reduce the quality of your sleep and may have unpleasant side effects. There is also a risk of becoming dependent on sleep aids, and it is best to avoid them if possible.
Most of all, try not to worry persistently about your inability to sleep. The stress of constant worry can itself prevent you from sleeping, resulting in a cycle of insomnia.
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