All people experience insomnia at one point in their lives and there are many factors that can cause it that we may not be aware of. For instance, stress, anxiety, a poor diet, jet lag, and disrupted sleeping patterns can prevent you from getting the adequate amount of sleep that your body needs.
Over 60 million people suffer from insomnia each year and they wake up in the morning feeling exhausted and unhappy. Insomnia usually lasts from a few days to months or even years.
We at Bright Side gathered some information about this sleeping disorder and what causes it, what the symptoms are, what effects it has on the human body, and ways to get rid of it at home.
What causes insomnia?
There are 2 types of insomnia, primary insomnia which does not have an underlying cause or secondary insomnia which has a specific cause. Insomnia can either be acute or chronic. Either way, there are various factors that can contribute to it.
Here are the main causes of insomnia:
- Anxiety and stress: At night, emotions are usually stronger, possibly because there is more time for us during the evening to process the events of the day. Stress at work or family issues can keep you up at night. Also, traumatic events such as the death of someone you love, relationship issues, or the loss of a job can lead to chronic insomnia.
- Depression: This is one of the most common causes of insomnia. Due to a chemical imbalance in the brain, your sleeping patterns become disrupted. Another possibility can be excess stress that derives from fears and troubling thoughts that keep you from getting enough sleep.
Sex: Women are twice as likely to develop insomnia than men. This is due to hormonal changes during the menstrual cycle that can be responsible for the disruption in your sleeping patterns. This usually happens more when women are coming closer to menopause and they experience night sweats and/or hot flashes. Furthermore, the lack of estrogen in menopausal women can cause insomnia.
Age: Insomnia can become a more frequent issue with age because our sleeping patterns change with time and older people find it more difficult to get more than 8 hours of sleep. Sometimes, they even need to nap during the day in order to compensate for the lack of sleep during the night. Research suggests that approximately 50% of adults over 60 years old experience insomnia.
Medications: Various medications can cause insomnia. For example, pain medications, weight-loss products that contain caffeine, stimulants, or decongestants. Furthermore, many prescription medications can also cause insomnia or disrupt your sleeping patterns, for example, allergy medications, blood pressure medications, heart medications, and antidepressants.
Secondary causes of insomnia are:
- Jet lag
- An inconsistent sleeping schedule
- A poor diet that does not provide the body with enough nutrients
- Eating very late at night
- Mental health problems
- Medical conditions such as cancer, asthma, and heart disease
- Chronic pain
- Sleep apnea
- Restless leg syndrome
Symptoms of insomnia
According to the Sleep Foundation, people suffering from insomnia may have one or more of the following symptoms below:
- Difficulty sleeping;
- Difficulty sleeping for over one hour;
- Waking up too early in the morning (waking up at 4-5 AM instead of at 6-7 AM);
- Experiencing “Non-restorative sleep” which means sleeping but not resting;
- Fatigue and low energy levels;
- Difficulty concentrating;
- Mood swings and irritation;
- Behavioral changes such as aggression, impulsiveness, and over-sensitivity;
- Difficulty working;
- Difficulty in social and personal relationships with people including family, friends, classmates, or coworkers;
- Weight gain and increased appetite;
- Dry skin and breakouts;
- Wrinkles on the skin and dark circles around the eyes;
- Sugar cravings;
Below we have listed the side effects that insomnia has on your body and natural ways to get rid of it to help you get your health back on track.
1. The lack of sleep can cause accidents:
Lack of sleep is a major public safety hazard, especially on the road. Fatigue can cause your reactions to become extremely slow and this equals to driving drunk. According to The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, drowsiness is responsible for approximately 100,000 car accidents and about 7,000 car-related deaths in the United States alone.
Furthermore, tiredness can also cause accidents and injuries in the workplace. Studies have shown that people who did not get enough sleep had significantly more accidents at work than those who didn’t, and many of those accidents were repeated.
2. Slower cognitive process
Sleep plays an important role when it comes to thinking, processing, and learning. Fatigue can slow down these processes significantly. It can impair concentration, alertness, reasoning, and problem-solving, thus preventing your brain from reaching its full capacity and causing difficulties at work or at school.
In addition, during the REM sleep cycle, we are able to collect and connect information and memories that happened during the day; therefore, the lack of sleep will cause you to forget what you’ve learned during that time.
3. Life-threatening health problems
According to a recent study, 90% of people who suffer from insomnia also have another one of the following health problems:
- Irregular heart palpitations;
- High blood pressure;
- Heart disease;
- Heart failure;
4. Mental health problems
Lack of sleep can cause symptoms of depression. A study has found that people who slept less than 6 hours every night were diagnosed with depression and anxiety. Furthermore, insomnia is strongly linked to depression as the same study has shown that people suffering from insomnia were 5 times more likely to develop symptoms of depression than people who did not suffer from insomnia.
Depression and insomnia create a vicious cycle because they then feed each other as depression causes insomnia. On the other hand, if someone is able to treat insomnia then they will be able to treat depression, as well.
5. Premature aging
Even one day of not getting enough sleep can be seen on the skin. We’ve all seen how our eyes become puffier and our skin becomes more sallow when we miss a few hours of sleep. Chronic sleep deprivation can have a huge impact on the skin. It causes it to become loose, makes fine lines appear faster, and causes dark under-eye circles.
When the body does not get the adequate amount of sleep that it needs, it releases an excess amount of a hormone called cortisol. Cortisol then destroys collagen in the skin which is responsible for keeping it firm.
In addition, sleep deprivation creates an imbalance in the human growth hormone. When we are young, this hormone is produced in order to help our body grow, as we get older, this hormone becomes responsible for increasing the muscle mass, strengthening the bones, and keeping the skin tight. That hormone is released while we sleep and it plays a huge role in tissue repair.
6. Memory loss
When we sleep, our brain creates sharp wave ripples which are responsible for memory consolidation. These ripples have the ability to link memories together and transfer new information from the short-memory (hippocampus) to the long-memory (neocortex) part of the brain where it is stored. When we don’t get enough sleep, our brain only stores memories temporarily and prevents us from remembering things in the long-term, causing forgetfulness.
7. Weight Gain:
Another side effect of insomnia is increased hunger and appetite which can lead to obesity. According to a study, people who slept less than 7 hours every night were 2 times more likely to gain an excess amount of weight than those who slept more than 7 hours. There is a strong link between sleep and peptides which are responsible for controlling hunger.
A hormone called ghrelin is responsible for stimulating hunger and leptin which is a protein that regulates fat in the body and signals the brain to suppress the appetite. When we don’t get enough sleep, we do not produce enough ghrelin and leptin in order to let the brain know that we are not hungry after we’ve eaten, thus leading to the illusion that we are still hungry.
Below we have some natural ways that can help you get rid of insomnia at home!
1. Set a sleeping schedule.
Studies have found that people suffering from insomnia seek sanctuary in late-night snacking, causing them to gain weight. Try to give yourself a strict sleeping schedule where you will go to sleep every night at the same time and wake up in the morning at the same time. This will give you more time to rest, to set the mood, and to prevent you from late-night snacking because you will be sleeping.
According to another study conducted by the University of Pennslyvania, a late night snack can add up to 500 calories. In addition, this will worsen insomnia due to the fact that it will give you more energy to keep going.
2. Try chamomile tea
Chamomile tea is the oldest recipe in the book to treat insomnia. Due to its calming effect, it can induce sedation (make you feel sleepy) and it is considered a mild tranquilizer. Chamomile tea has a flavonoid called apigenin which links to the benzodiazepine receptors in the brain which increases hypnotic activity 90 minutes after the chamomile tea is drunk and absorbed by the body.
A study has found that people who suffer from insomnia and drink chamomile tea approximately an hour before bed were able to stay asleep for more than 3 hours in a row without any disruptions.
3. Sleep in cooler temperatures.
Sleeping in colder temperatures will help you fall asleep a lot easier, especially if you are experiencing insomnia due to hot flashes and sweating. During sleep, we become disengaged from our environment, thus the body temperature drops. A cold room helps to facilitate sleep in these stages and keep it from being disrupted.
The ideal temperature is between 57° F to 65° F. In addition, a recent study has found that people who sleep in those temperatures burn more calories than people who sleep in hot temperatures. It adds up to 100 calories every 24 hours.
4. Try blackout blinds or curtains.
Sleeping in complete darkness (a blacked-out room) helps with the human body’s natural production of a hormone called melatonin. It is produced in the body’s pineal gland, which is located at the top and in the middle of the brain.
During the day, the gland is inactive. Once it gets dark, the pineal gland “turns its self on” and it begins to produce this hormone which is then released into the bloodstream. Once the levels of melatonin have risen, the body and the brain become less alert. Studies have found that melatonin helps with fat oxidation (burning fat) and increases lean mass.
5. Avoid using electronic devices.
Turn off all your devices before going to bed and keep them out of your bedroom to avoid the temptation of using them while you are laying down. Using an iPad, your phone, or your computer, or even watching television disrupts the natural production of melatonin and obstructs your metabolism, thus preventing you from falling asleep on time, worsening your insomnia, and slowing down your metabolism.
6. Try eating turkey
Turkey is rich in tryptophan, an amino acid that is found in many types of meat. Tryptophan has powerful sleeping effects. A recent study done with people suffering from insomnia showed that 0.25 g found in chicken or 3 ounces of turkey are sufficient to increase the amount of sleep that you can get without it being disrupted. In addition, other foods rich in tryptophan can also help with both sleep and weight loss.
You can also try:
7. Eat grains during lunch time.
The food we eat throughout the day can affect the quality of our sleep at night regardless of the time we eat it, so it is important to know what to eat and what to avoid when we are suffering from insomnia. It is important to eat complex carbohydrates for lunch instead of dinner. Whole grain complex carbohydrates have a hormone/neurotransmitter called serotonin or otherwise known as the “happy hormone.”
Serotonin is converted into melatonin during deep REM sleep. So instead of eating the carbs right before bed or at dinner, having them at lunch is better, especially if you are suffering from insomnia and want to prevent your metabolism from slowing down.
8. Orange and rose essential oil
Essential oils have been widely known to induce relaxation and improve mental health. Both rose and lemon has been found to promote psychological and physiological relaxation. The benefits of orange essential oil are mental relaxation and the reduction of stress and anxiety.
The benefits of rose essential oil are the remarkable sedative effects on the body. Studies that have been done on people suffering from anxiety have shown significant improvement in decreasing their stress levels. The best way to use it is to add 2 drops of each oil into a diffuser an hour right before bed in order to activate them.
Have you ever had insomnia? Have you tried any of these methods? Please let us know in the comments below. Let us know what other natural remedies helped with your insomnia in the comments section below. Also, don’t forget to share this with your family or friends who might be suffering from insomnia!
Illustrated by Yekaterina Ragozina for Bright Side