Can’t sleep? Googling reasons you can’t sleep at two in the morning?
No need to feel attacked. It can happen to the best of us, and in fact it does — commonly.
Insomnia isn’t an uncommon problem, but it can have some unpleasant and unwanted side effects.
We’re not talking about feeling tired the next day — that’s a given. What we mean is that lost sleep can really mess with your body, especially if it becomes a frequent occurrence.
Insomnia can have some tell-tale symptoms, but it’s best to look at the full picture.
But insomnia is a blanketed term for two different types — chronic and acute.
Acute insomnia, as you might suspect, lasts just a short time — days or weeks, generally. It’s typically brought on by new problems, stressors or traumas.
Chronic insomnia can last for a month or much, much longer. Often, chronic insomnia is actually a side effect or secondary condition.
In other words, chronic insomnia is usually caused by something.
The “thing” can be other conditions like sleep apnea, stress, depression, anxiety or it can be caused by medication or other medical conditions.
It can also be the result of substances like caffeine or tobacco.
In rarer cases, when chronic insomnia is not caused by other underlying conditions, it’s referred to as primary insomnia.
Within the forms of insomnia, however, there are also categories that determine how insomnia manifests.
This is where the falling asleep versus staying asleep question is addressed. Sleep onset insomnia is when a person struggles to fall asleep, either because they have a hard time relaxing or making the transition to a sleeping condition.
Common causes might include irregular work schedules, staying out too late, jet lag or other interruptions to your normal rhythms.
Sleep maintenance insomnia, on the other hand, is all about staying asleep — or rather, about not staying asleep.
Common causes of this may include caffeine, alcohol, drugs and tobacco or sleep apnea. Both can happen to you simultaneously, by the way.
Insomnia can plague us all, but the people most vulnerable to insomnia may share some common traits.
You might experience insomnia from high work or personal stress, grief, depression, anxiety, chronic pain or discomfort due to other illnesses, as well as side effects of certain medications or substances.
There are external factors that place you at a higher risk for insomnia, such as economic status and ethnicity. Low income and minority populations are generally more prone to insomnia.
Symptoms of insomnia might include difficulty falling asleep, difficulty staying asleep, waking up earlier than planned, not feeling tired at bedtime, memory and concentration issues during the day, daytime fatigue and malaise, as well as general irritability, hyperactivity and even aggression.
Insomnia doesn’t mean going to sleep at a different hour than you want to — it has to do with how you enter sleep (or don’t) and how long you stay there.
So, don’t stress too much about bedtimes ahead of one of these tests.
What an insomnia quiz, insomnia test or other insomnia questionnaire will aim to find out is how you feel just before bed, and whether you feel rested the morning after.
To determine this, the test will typically investigate waking feelings, whether your mind races before bed, as well as any medications or substances you use.
Some common topics for questions might include whether you:
Have trouble falling asleep at night.
Wake in the night.
Feel your mind race and interfere with your sleep.
Worry and have trouble relaxing.?
Feel restless or alert when going to bed.
Rely on aids such as medication to go to sleep.
Take longer than 30 minutes to fall asleep.
Feel refreshed upon waking in the morning.
Taking any medication with sleep related side effects.
Feel tired or fall asleep unintentionally during the day.
Drink caffeine or alcohol or use tobacco before bedtime.
This is by no means a complete version of a questionnaire (actually, that’s down below), but it may help give you an idea of some of the things that may be addressed.
Insomnia sufferers generally have a few options when it comes to treating their problem.
Some things you can do to reduce the effects include:
Making your bedroom cooler and quieter without artificial light
Making (and keeping) a sleep schedule
Avoiding caffeine, tobacco and alcohol at bedtime
Getting regular exercise at least five hours before bedtime
Avoiding daytime naps
Limiting fluid intake close to bedtime
Avoiding late night dinners
Avoid certain cold and allergy medications that disrupt sleep
Treatments that might be recommended by a healthcare professional include stress reduction through mindfulness meditation, yoga, massage therapy, acupuncture or even dietary supplements, in some cases.
These are not meant to be a complete list, so much as a set of guidelines.
A healthcare professional will be able to give you more customized treatment suggestions based on their assessments.