Getting a good night’s sleep is essential for your physical, mental, and emotional health. But millions of people in the United States suffer from insomnia—a disorder concentrated on rest. Here’s a look at what insomnia is, what causes it, and how you can treat it.
What Is Insomnia?
Insomnia is a sleep disorder that happens when a person struggles to fall asleep or stay asleep throughout the night.
There are two main types of insomnia: primary and secondary. Primary insomnia means that the condition is independent of other medical or psychological problems. Secondary insomnia occurs when another medical or psychological issue causes pain. For example, certain medications may cause side effects such as trouble sleeping, which would be considered secondary insomnia.
Symptoms of Insomnia
The most common insomnia symptoms include difficulty falling asleep (or waking up several times throughout the night) and early morning awakenings. Other symptoms may include fatigue during the day, irritability and mood swings, poor concentration and focus, restlessness at night time, or feeling tired but unable to sleep even when tired.
A variety of factors can cause insomnia. Here are some of them:
Medical Conditions and Medications
Certain medical conditions can put you at a higher risk of developing insomnia. These medical conditions include chronic pain, asthma, heart failure, arthritis, thyroid disorders, gastrointestinal illnesses, and cancer. Additionally, medications such as beta-blockers (commonly used to treat high blood pressure) and antidepressants can interfere with your ability to get a good night’s sleep. Talk to your doctor about possible solutions or alternatives if you have any of these health issues or are taking any medications contributing to your insomnia.
Periodontitis and Oral Pain
Periodontitis, a common gum disease caused by bacterial infections, may also be to blame for your sleep troubles. This inflammatory condition can cause pain and inflammation in the mouth, making it difficult to fall asleep at night. The key is to prevent periodontitis in the first place. One way to do this is by getting solid teeth replacements for teeth you might have lost. Gaps between your teeth can be particularly vulnerable to periodontitis, so a quality full or partial denture can help protect your gums from harmful bacteria.
Certain lifestyle habits can also increase the risk of insomnia. This includes drinking caffeine late in the day or consuming large meals before bedtime, which can cause indigestion and make it difficult to fall asleep.
Additionally, smoking cigarettes has been linked to sleep disruptions due to nicotine acting as a stimulant and interrupting standard sleep patterns. Finally, using electronic devices too close to bedtimes, such as phones or laptops, can lead to difficulty falling asleep due to the blue light emitted from their screens, affecting melatonin production in people’s bodies.
Mental Health Issues
Mental health issues such as anxiety and depression are also known risk factors for insomnia because they create an abundance of negative thoughts that make it hard for people to relax and drift off into dreamland. Stressful life events such as losing a job or divorce can also disrupt people’s natural sleeping patterns, leading to insomnia if left untreated over time.
Treatment for insomnia depends on the underlying cause and can vary from person to person. Here are some common treatments for the disorder:
Sleep Hygiene Practices
The first step in treating insomnia is ensuring good sleep hygiene practices. This includes avoiding caffeine, alcohol, and nicotine late in the day, avoiding large meals close to bedtime, exercising regularly (but not too late in the evening), establishing a regular wake-up time, not using electronic devices before bed, and creating a comfortable sleeping environment. You may also consider exploring relaxation techniques like yoga or mindfulness meditation to reduce stress and help you relax before bed.
Cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) is another effective treatment for insomnia that can help address underlying mental health issues like anxiety or depression that might contribute to sleeplessness. CBT focuses on identifying and changing unhealthy thought patterns that lead to poor sleeping habits and developing strategies for better sleep hygiene practices, and managing stress levels more effectively. You should talk with your doctor about whether psychological therapy could help improve your sleep quality.
It is normal to experience occasional sleeplessness due to stress or other external factors, but if you are experiencing chronic insomnia, it is vital to seek medical attention as soon as possible to determine the underlying cause and find an appropriate treatment plan. With proper treatment and lifestyle modifications, you can get back on track with healthy sleeping habits that will benefit your physical and mental health.