Thank you so much for joining me on today’s episode of Simple Health Radio
Today’s question comes to us from Dave who is the host of the Sleepy Time Tales podcast. You can visit his website at www.sleepytimetales.net
He has an interesting format. The goal of his show is to help people fall asleep. He also recorded a question for us to answer.
Let me thank Dave for sending in a great question about insomnia. Over 40 million Americans have insomnia each year. That represents about one-third of the adult population. About 10% will have chronic insomnia which lasts for at least 3 months.
To understand insomnia, we have to understand what sleep actually is. Sleep is a part of healthy homeostasis. This means that all the things we do throughout the day such as walking, exercising, thinking, and even digesting need to be restored at night.
There are multiple stages of sleep.
These are labeled as stage I, stage II, stage III, stage IV, and RAM or rapid eye movement sleep.
Stage I sleep is the lightest form and EEG brainwave testing tells us that were slightly slower than one was fully awake. Our breathing is normal and her muscle tone is actually normal as well. This is similar to taking a brief nap.
Stage II is a deeper sleep and it’s harder to wake up people at this level.
Stage III and IV become deeper and deeper types of sleep. It takes louder noises to wake up people in this level of sleep. As people get older, for some reason they spend less time in stage III and stage IV. That’s why some people say they need less sleep as they get older. However, if you wake up a person who’s in stage IV sleep, they are very groggy and dizzy. If you asked them of math question or a computer-related question, can take up to half an hour for them to fully awaken and be able to function properly. Waking up someone who’s in this stage of sleep actually causes a decrease in mental performance.
The final stages of REM sleep. This is where people have dreams and nightmares. Their muscles are without movement to protect them otherwise they would act out on their dreams thinking they are real. The breathing becomes very unusual and irregular and even the heart rate will jump up frequently. If you look at someone’s eyelids, will see that their eyes are moving back and forth quickly and that’s why we call it rapid eye movement sleep or REM sleep.
Now that we’ve identified the different types and deepness of sleep, we can talk about insomnia. Insomnia can mean you have trouble falling asleep, you have trouble staying asleep, or you wake up too early. Most people feel exhausted when they wake up if they have insomnia because they never get into those deeper and deeper stages of sleep.
When people don’t have enough sleep, the body is unable to heal properly. This includes muscles, bones, and even nerves. For example, if you have a teenager who doesn’t get enough sleep, they will actually be shorter than other friends who sleep deeply at night. The reason is that wearing a deep sleep, there’s more regeneration of the bone and more calcium deposited into the shins and the thigh bones which allows those people to be taller. A lack of sleep also affects blood pressure. When the body is unable to go into that deep sleep that we talked about, it causes an increase in cortisol which is a stress hormone. This has been linked with high blood pressure, diabetes, heart attack, and stroke.
There are people who actually have mood changes due to insomnia. This can include mild irritability meeting they just are not pleasant people to be around. It can progress to depression, meaning those people just can’t focus and function in society. They can also develop anxiety and paranoia. Those people start to see bugs crawling on the wall and they get very jumpy even at the slightest noises. And there is a high risk of suicide in people who are chronically sleep deprived because the brain depletes all of its healthy chemicals and this causes people to become manic or erratic in their behavior.
People are unable to sleep will have a lot of car accidents and they make mistakes at work. They leave the oven on or they forget to pick up the kids from daycare.
In fact, worrying about sleep makes sleep problems even worse. It also makes other chronic issues feel worse. These include things like chronic pain, congestive heart failure, acid reflux, Parkinson’s disease, and even hormone imbalances.
The way to treat insomnia depends on the person and the severity. Most people just need a quiet room that’s cooler in temperature, has heavy curtains to block out any extra light and leave the phone and the TV off and out of the bedroom. If that doesn’t work, some people can take over-the-counter medications like Benadryl or Unisom or melatonin and within 1 or 2 nights they have fixed their problem. Others may require prescription medicines like Lunesta, Ambien, or trazodone. Others may have to change their work schedule, change their eating habits, or start talking to a psychiatrist if they have deeper psychological issues.
I have some links to different websites that you can read through to learn more about different treatment options for insomnia. It’s important not to ignore sleep issues because it is linked with so many other chronic problems. I want to thank Dave for sending in a great question about insomnia. You can listen to his podcast sleepy time tales and hopefully, his method will actually help you sleep as well. You can visit his website at www.sleepytimetales.net
If you have a question you’d like me to answer, just record it on your phone or computer and send it to us by email. You can connect with us on social media and visit our website www.simplehealthradio.com to listen to this episode and previous ones.
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