Insomnia, or the inability to sleep, affects an estimated 50 to 70 million adults in the U. S., with approximately 10 million people Americans admitted to using prescription sleeping aids. According to figures from the Institute of Medicine, hundreds of billions of dollars are spent annually on medical costs that are directly related to sleeping disorders.
According to the National Sleep Foundation, between 30 to 40% of adult Americans have trouble getting to sleep or staying asleep at some point while 10 to 15 % consider their insomnia to be a chronic problem.
The World Health Organization and the World Federation of Sleep Research Societies define insomnia as a "repeated difficulty with sleep initiation, maintenance, duration, and/or quality of sleep, which occurs despite adequate opportunity and time for sleep, and results in daytime impairment."
Insomnia should, however, be distinguished from sleep insufficiency due to factors such as work schedules, or voluntarily not going to sleep due to various other concerns. Insomnia is a sleep disturbance, and while not life threatening, produces side effects that can impact on a person's life, particularly on his thinking, concentration, and performance.
Studies have shown that insufficient sleep has indeed become a cause for concern. Insomnia has been linked to various public safety and public health concerns, including motor vehicle crashes, industrial disasters and other occupational errors; and chronic diseases such as hypertension, diabetes, depression and cancer.
Statistics show that industries in the U. S. lose about $150 billion each year because of sleep deprived workers who are often absent and not as productive. This is because employers spend more in health care costs on employees with sleep problems than for those who sleep well.
Persons who cannot sleep are often irritable, commit mistakes, have poorer relationships and generally have a poor quality of life. Specifically, one who is deprived of sleep has reduced concentration, is moody, less efficient at work, lacks motivation, has reduced alertness and attention levels, and has poor memory.
Decrease in alertness then increases the risk for accidents. A National Sleep Foundation Poll shows that 60% of people have driven while feeling sleepy while 37% admitted to having fallen asleep at the wheel. The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration statistics show that 100,000 vehicle accidents occur annually due to drowsy driving while an estimated 1,500 die each year in these collisions.
The importance of sleep cannot be overemphasized. In many cases, sleeping problems are manifestations of anxiety, depression, bipolar disorder or attention deficit hyperactivity disorder. Thus, there is a need to look into the reasons why an individual is unable to sleep.
However, aside from psychological effects, insomnia has also been known to have effects on one's physical health. Insomnia can increase the risk of developing corononary heart or ischaemic heart disease. It has also been associated with obesity as it disrupts the hormones that regulate glucose metabolism and thus cause one to gain weight.
Since insomnia can affect both young and old alike, it can also affect a person's growth. According to studies, the highest levels of growth hormones are released into the bloodstream when a person is sleeping. So when one has insomnia, there is a decrease in these hormones which can adversely affect his growth.
Another cause for concern among insomniac adults is decreased sex drive. According to sleep specialists, sleep-deprived men and women reportedly have lower libidos and less interest in sex. Their inability to sleep depletes their energy, causes sleepiness, and increase their tension and these may be largely to blame.
Another factor in the sexual slum for men with sleep apnea, a respiratory problem that interrupts sleep, is their low testosterone levels. A study published in the Journal of Clinical Endocrinology & Metabolism reported that many men with sleep apnea also have low testosterone levels.
Long bouts of insomnia can be symptoms of depression. A Sleep in America poll found out that individuals who have been diagnosed with depression or anxiety tend to sleep less or cannot sleep at all. According to medical experts, insomnia and depression feed on each other. Lack of sleep often aggravates the symptoms of depression, and depression can make it more difficult to fall asleep.
Insomnia may be classified in various ways but one of the most common is to classify it in terms of duration of symptoms. If it lasts less than a month, it is considered transient, while if it continues for one to six months, it is considered short-term. Inability to sleep lasting for more than six months is considered as chronic.
Among the more common causes of insomnia are death or loss of a loved one, nervousness about a thing or an event, discomfort due to illness or injury or even jet lag. People suffering from chronic insomnia, however, may be suffering from deeper psychological problems.
Chronic insomnia is often associated with psychological problems such as stress, anxiety or depression. It can also be associated with medical problems iron deficiency anemia breathing disorders, kidney dysfunction, diabetes, and in the case of HIV, may be due to side effects caused by medication. Insomnia can also be caused by poor eating habits, caffeine, & lack of exercise.
Cure of mild insomnia may be simple such as reducing intake of caffeine. Medical studies showed that caffeine can be addictive and it can take a long time to clear caffeine from the body. Aside from coffee, caffeine is also found in colas, chocolates and some medicines. Another possible causes of inability to sleep is alcohol consumption and smoking. Alcohol can cause fractured sleep while nicotine is a brain stimulant. Limiting alcohol and eliminating cigarette smoking may improve sleep.
Some lifestyle changes can also help those who have problems getting sleep. Eating food that increase melatonin production such as soy nuts, cottage cheese, chicken, turkey, oats, sweet corn, banana and rice may help. Also, the length of one's sleep should depend on the body's need such that if a person needs only seven hours of sleep, he should not try to sleep more than this.
In some cases exercising and meditation can help. Taking vitamins and minerals such as B6, calcium, magnesium and antioxidants may help. Some insomniacs, on the other hand, resort to herbal remedies as remedy to their problem. But option is the often overlooked natural sleep aid which is heat therapy.
Using heat therapy can become a part of a nighttime routine that might include tea and reading. This routine along with the heat will signal to your brain to allow your body to wind down and relax for the night. A great option for applying heat therapy are Thermal-Aid sectionals.
Manufactured by Pacific Shore Holdings Inc., Thermal-Aid Sectionals can be reused night after night and re-heated easily in the microwave. There are no cords or electricity to worry about which will allow you to fall asleep with the sectional in place. Thermal-Aid is portable and it can be taken with you when you travel making it easier to fall asleep in hotel rooms.
A Thermal-Aid sectional can be used many ways - for aches and pains, insomnia, as well as injuries. Thermal-Aid products are unique in that they can provide both heat and cold therapy.
Treating insomnia is a very personal process. What works for one person may not work for the next. However, it is worth taking the time to try different natural methods that avoid the need for medication.