9 Things You Need To Know About Insomnia: Causes, Effects And Cure

Sleeplessness can be a cause of many health concerns, here’s all you need to know about insomnia in detail.

Shubhangi Shah
Written by: Shubhangi ShahPublished at: Aug 08, 2021Updated at: Aug 08, 2021
9 Things You Need To Know About Insomnia: Causes, Effects And Cure

A negative doctor’s report about her disabled child last year is when Seema (name changed), a 50-year-old mother, started having trouble falling and staying asleep. It started with poor quality sleep, which soon culminated into complete sleeplessness. After tossing and turning for nights, she decided to get professional help. A sleeping disorder, insomnia is when one has trouble falling or staying asleep, describes Dr. Sudipto Chatterjee, a psychiatrist associated with Parivartan Trust, which deals with mental health and de-addiction. In a conversation with Onlymyhealth, Dr. Chatterjee said first we need to understand sleep, before delving into the disorder.

1# Why do we sleep?

Not just humans, each and every organism sleeps in its own way. This fact highlights that sleep is a part of evolution and hence crucial for an organism’s survival, so much so that we end up spending 1/3rd of our lives asleep. Although it appears we don’t do anything while asleep, it gives time to the brain to rewire and helps in memory consolidation. As we all have experienced that lack of sleep can leave us feeling tired and irritated the next morning, a prolonged lack of the same can lead to major illnesses such as hypertension and diabetes, along with several mental health issues.

2# What are the causes of Insomnia?

There are several factors that can induce insomnia, such as sleep apnea (in which a person’s breathing is obstructed during sleep, snoring loudly is one symptom). Other causes include obesity, depression, stress, anxiety and other psychological and physiological factors.

Also read: Are You Unable to Sleep? Treat Your Insomnia With This 12-Minute Technique

3# What role do stress and anxiety play in inducing insomnia?

In simpler terms, stress makes the brain super-active, thus not allowing it to shut down. It also affects the body’s circadian rhythm, which is the body’s biological clock that tells it’s time for bed, or to wake up. The modern lifestyle, which tells us it’s better to be on your feet 24/7 and it’s a futile exercise to rest, messes with this circadian rhythm, which in turn leads to sleeping disorders. Many end up gulping loads of coffee, alcohol and other stuff, which in turn hampers sleep.  In the pursuit of success, often (mis)understood as happiness, many people ignore rest, thus destroying the thing they aspired for. For many, work from home during the COVID-19 pandemic has encroached upon their personal times. Long working hours mean less time to rewind and screen time till late at night messes with the circadian rhythm, thus disrupting sleep. 

4# Are women more prone than men to insomnia?

Although the sleeping disorder doesn’t have a gender component, women could suffer from other mental health issues that in turn affect sleep. This is primarily because, in a patriarchal society that is India, the society ends up dictating a large part of a woman’s life. Many women also face domestic abuse and violence that have an impact on their mental health. 

5# How does a doctor diagnose if you’re suffering from insomnia?

A patient’s record is the first thing that a doctor refers to when figuring out if a person is suffering from the disorder, as the person wouldn’t seek medical help if he/she isn’t having trouble sleeping. The doctor then looks into other aspects to figure out the cause behind it, such as if the person is suffering from sleep apnea, depression, stress, anxiety, etc.

Also read: Who Is Affected By Insomnia?

6# Can it turn fatal?

Not directly. But lack of sleep over a long time can lead to major physical and mental health conditions, such as diabetes, high blood pressure, which in turn can shorten a patient’s life.

7# How can it be treated?

Insomnia can be treated with medication. The patient also needs to make some lifestyle changes for long-term benefits.

8# What about medicine dependency?

Several patients tend to develop a dependency on sleeping pills. Once they stop using, they fall into the cycle of having trouble falling/staying asleep. One way that doctors deal with it is by tapering off medicines eventually, while the patient makes lifestyle changes for better sleep.

Also read: Insomnia can be genetic, says study

9# What are some ways to get better sleep?

Here are a few activities that you can follow for a sound sleep:

  • Follow a routine, i.e. try to go to bed and wake up at a fixed time. Stay away from the screen before bedtime as the blue light emanating from them messes with the circadian rhythm, thus disrupting sleep.
  • Exercise and eat light food in the evening. 
  • Sleep has become a multi-billion dollar industry and there are several apps that promise a
  • good night’s sleep. You can try them. 
  • If sleep still evades you, it’s better to read a boring book than tossing and turning in bed.
  • In the end, do remember, equal amounts of work, play and sleep are crucial for a good quality life. 

With inputs from Dr. Sudipto Chatterjee, Psychiatrist, Parivartan Trust

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