Insomnia – The Long-Term Energy Drainer

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Unlike some non-fitness related articles on this blog, this particular topic hits home hard for me. I am one of the millions of people who suffer from insomnia, at least once in a while. If you are also a sufferer, you will know how it is like to live your life like a zombie day after day. Needless to say, I did some research on the topic and will share it with you today.

The first thing to note is that insomnia can be temporary or permanent. Short-term or acute insomnia tends to occur mostly when there is a shift in one’s life circumstances. For example, jet-lag from travelling, changes in relationship status or jobs, worrying about an upcoming test might all give rise to worries that manifest itself as insomnia.

Long-term, also known as chronic insomnia is defined as being unable to fall or stay asleep persistently for months on end. Unsurprisingly, it is more likely to be due to medical or psychological conditions. There is no blanket rule when it comes to figuring out potential treatment options for this. Logically, the best way is to find out what the root cause is and then take it from there.

Is this a serious problem? Well, it can be. Not only does insomnia cause fatigue, it also comes with an ugly array of side effects such as bad mood, irritability, loss of memory, impaired cognitive and decision-making ability and increased chances of getting sick due to a weakened immune system. Of course, like everything else, this can spiral into worse problems if not dealt with early enough.

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So what do you do if you have insomnia? Unlike other conditions, there are many ways to skin a cat, so to speak. It also depends on who you consult. Some of these methods include cognitive-behavioural therapy, alternative medicine, or prescription medication. However, each of those comes with their own issues and potential side effects.

Another thing you can try doing is to keep a “sleep diary”. There are certain steps you have to take to make sure that you are doing it right. The first is to pick a good time period – one which you do not have stressors and obligations, such as while on holiday. During this period, take note of what time you sleep each night (or day) and what time you wake up refreshed. After about a week you should be able to figure out how many hours of sleep you need per night on average.

If the above is too difficult, you can also try to create a habit of sleeping and waking up at the same time each day. I know that this is easier said than done, but one can still try. Other things you can do include avoiding alcohol and stimulants like chilli, caffeine and nicotine a few hours before bedtime. Also try and avoid foods which contain the chemical “Tyramine”, which can keep people awake at night. If you do get hungry at night, have some carbs instead.

What if you find yourself waking up in the middle of the night? Contrary to popular belief, you should actually get out of bed and do something ‘boring’. If you are a uni student, a podcast of your latest lectures should do the trick. Jokes aside, you get my point. Truth be told, tossing and turning won’t actually help you fall asleep.

Still having trouble? The next piece of advice will be the expected one. As with any other health problem, issues that can’t be resolved by yourself should then be escalated to health professionals. We might be experts at seeking the advice of “Dr. Google”, but more often than not it will leave you more confused, and even more worried due to exaggerated claims of underlying problems.

You have insomnia? This could be the sign of a brain tumour! (says someone on the internet). Now you really can’t fall asleep amidst this anxiety, can you?

Mark

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