Do you feel like you struggle half the night just to get a few hours of shuteye, and then wake up feeling exhausted?
You’re not alone Insomnia is a relatively common sleeping disorder, affecting about one-third of the adult population worldwide. Around 10 to 20 percent of adults with insomnia experience severe sleeplessness. Insomnia is more common in women, but the quality of sleep often decreases as we age, equally in both women and men. Although so-called insomnia cures are promoted widely, there are no guaranteed insomnia cures. There is, however, much that can be done to improve quality and duration of sleep.
Getting enough sleep is as important for your body as eating right, exercising, and practicing good dental hygiene. That’s because lack of sleep not only makes it harder for you to get through the day, it is also linked to all kinds of health problems — from diabetes to increasing blood pressure to weight gain and increased risk for a heart attack. Inadequate sleep even makes it more likely that you’ll catch a cold Can’t figure out why you’re gaining weight— or why it’s so difficult to erase those extra pounds? You might be suffering from sleep deprivation — even if you swear you’re getting enough sleep at night. In fact ,a study presented at this year’s Endocrine Society national meeting suggests that getting just 30 fewer minutes sleep than you should per weekday can increase your risk of obesity and diabetes
Logically, it’s practically impossible to stay committed to a healthy lifestyle if you don’t have the energy for it. “If I’ve gone to bed late or I have a restless night, I’m more likely to turn off my alarm in the morning and skip my workout,” says Paige De Paolis, 24. “It could be me consciously thinking, ‘No way am I going to that exercise class,’ or, unconsciously snoozing to the point that it’s too late to make it to the class.”
Losing out on sleep creates a viscous cycle in your body, making you more prone to various factors contributing to weight gain.
“The more sleep-deprived you are, the higher your levels of the stress hormone cortisol, which increases your appetite,” says Breus. And it’s not like you’re going to be suddenly ravenous for vegetable salads, either. “For me, it takes a bit of willpower to choose the salad over the sandwich,” De Paolis says. “When I’m tired, I go for whatever’s going to be easy and make me feel better in the moment.”
Often, that means reaching for unhealthy foods “When you’re stressed, your body tries to produce serotonin to calm you down. The easiest way to do that is by eating high-fat, high-carb foods that produce a neurochemical reaction,” Breus says.
A lack of sleep also hinders your body’s ability to process the sweet stuff. “When you’re sleep deprived, the mitochondria in your cells that digest fuel start to shut down. Sugar remains in your blood, and you end up with high blood sugar,” says Breus. Losing out on sleep can make fat cells 30 percent less able to deal with insulin, according to study anal in Annals of Internal Medicine.
Luckily, there are easy ways to make sure sleep never gets in between you and your weight again. First, figure out your bedtime. Count seven and a half hours before the time you need to wake up, says Breus. That’s your “lights out” time, which should ensure you’re getting enough sleep to make your body wake itself up at the proper time (maybe even before an alarm goes off). And keep that wake-up time consistent, Kennedy recommends. “Doing that and getting out of bed at the same time sets your body’s clock so you’ll be tired around the same time every night,” she says.
Most important of all, make sleep a priority. “It’s physically unhealthy to lose sleep. And it’s such an easy fix in theory,” says Kennedy. “It requires both a behavioral and conceptual shift. Sleeping isn’t downtime. You’re feeding your body just as you are when you eat.”
During sleep the body produces many important hormones and neurotransmitters, such as human growth hormone (HGH) and serotonin. Researchers are still exploring the long-term health implications of poor sleep, but immune function, memory, mental function and mood can all be affected.
There are three classifications of insomnia:
- Transient or short-term insomnia, which occurs infrequently (generally less than once a week).
2. Intermittent insomnia, which comes and goes, usually without a pattern.
3. Chronic insomnia, which is an ongoing problem that occurs most nights and lasts at least a month.
Causes and Symptoms
Many factors can contribute to insomnia, including stress. Others include:
Numerous emotional factors of insomnia pertain to weight. Stress, anxiety and depression are major risk factors for condition. Obesity, unnecessary weight gain. compulsive dieting and low-body weight are all associated with these emotional factors. Stress can trigger emotional eating (eating in response to emotions rather than physiological hunger), which commonly results in weight gain. People experiencing stress, anxiety or depression over their body weight or struggles with weight-loss efforts are also more prone to insomnia. According to Mental Health America, insomnia is a potential complication of eating disorders including bulimia, anorexia and binge eating disorder.
Weight-related illnesses and medical factors also contribute to insomnia. According to the Mayo Clinic, diet pills and other weight-loss products that contain stimulants–such as caffeine, guarana or ephedrine–frequently disturb sleep. People with hyperthyroidism (overactive thyroid) may experience difficulty sleeping and weight loss. Indigestion and sleep apnea–a sleep disorder associated with obesity–also dampen sleep. Overweight or underweight people who take antidepressants, heart disease medication or medications used to treat high blood pressure (hypertension) may also experience insomnia.
Eating too much at night can lead to increased body weight and wake the body internally, which can reduce a person’s ability to sleep. Inactivity–a common factor of excess weight gain–can cause lethargy. Inactivity and lethargy are associated with insomnia, particularly among elderly adults. People with eating disorders or on low-calorie diets may consume excessive amounts of caffeine in the form of coffee, energy drinks, diet soft drinks or supplements to attain energy without excessive amounts of calories. Excessive caffeine consumption can also trigger insomnia.
Excessive exercise and exercising late at night can also disturb sleep. In addition, the National Sleep Foundation (NSF) suggests that people who are exhausted during the day due to over-exercise, under-eating, overeating, stress or other factors may require daytime naps. People who take two or more naps daily have a higher incidence of insomnia.
Insomnia can lead to an array of serious complications. According to the NSF, when left untreated, insomnia can increase a person’s risk for unhealthy weight gain, illness and death. People who suffer from insomnia also exhibit poorer overall health, greater absenteeism from work and a higher risk for depression. Because obesity and dangerously low body weight increase a person’s risk for physical and emotional complications on their own, insomnia may add greater strain and increased risk for these conditions. Most deaths associated with eating disorders and obesity are caused by health-related complications of the disorders.
When a condition such as hyperthyroidism, obesity or anorexia causes insomnia, treating the underlying problem is a key to improving sleep. Overweight people who learn to manage weight and underweight people who increase their weight to a healthier range may find their sleep troubles end. According to the NSF, behavioral therapy is often part of effective insomnia treatment, because much of the condition correlates to a person’s behaviors. Even after a person’s weight has improved, previous lifestyle behaviors such as eating late at night, adhering to an erratic bedtime and waking schedule or failure to partake in relaxing activities may perpetuate insomnia. In some cases, doctor-prescribed medications or alternate therapies, such as hypnosis, may prove helpful.
There are many reasons why people have a difficult time staying asleep. The good news is that common problems with sleep are often easily addressed without the use of medication or pharmaceutical sleep aids. There are no guaranteed natural cures for insomnia, but there are effective steps you can take, including natural sleep aids. Ask yourself these questions (and try the simple sleep aid recommendations) if you find yourself waking frequently in the night:
- Are you physically uncomfortable? A too soft or too firm mattress, an uncomfortable pillow, or an older, worn-out bed can all impede a good night’s sleep. Check your mattress for signs of wear at least twice a year, and consider new pillows. You may also want to see an osteopathic physician who specializes in osteopathic manipulative therapy. A session or two of this safe and effective sleep aid treatment can be life-changing.
- Is your bedroom noisy? Consider a “white noise” generator to fight insomnia. This is an inexpensive but effective device for making soothing sounds to mask jangling ones.
- Is your mind overactive? If you can’t sleep because of thoughts whirling through your head, try the relaxing breathe, which can help you put aside the thoughts that are keeping you awake. A few stretches can help encourage sleep, too.
- Are you frequently getting up to urinate and then not able to get back to sleep? Eliminate caffeine and alcohol, especially before bedtime: both can increase nighttime urination and therefore sleep disturbances.
- Are you using tech devices prior to sleep? This has become one of the most common sleep disturbing habits in our society today. Using smartphones, tablets, and computers prior to sleep can lower levels of melatonin and shorten REM cycles. Turning off technology one to two hours prior to sleep can significantly improve quality of sleep
If you experiment with all these possibilities and still wake in the early morning hours, try getting up and reading or doing some light stretching – anything other than watching the clock and worrying about the sleep you’re losing. Taking your mind off the problem can help to relax you and may help you to fall back asleep.
These are not guaranteed natural cures for insomnia, but each may provide relief:
- Establish a consistent bedtime routine. Take a warm bath, go for a relaxing stroll, or practice meditation/relaxation exercises as part of your regular nighttime routine.
- Try to go to bed at the same time every night, and get up at the same time each morning, including on weekends.
- Get plenty of exercise during the day. Studies have shown people who are physically active sleep better than those who are sedentary. The more energy you expend during the day (preferable earlier in the day) the sleepier you will feel at bedtime.
- Reduce your intake of caffeine and alcohol, particularly in the evening.
- Avoid large meals late in the evening.
- Learn and use a relaxation technique regularly. Breathing exercises, meditation, and yoga are good examples.
- Use “white noise” devices to block out surrounding environmental noise.
- Don’t obsess about not sleeping. Not surprisingly, studies have shown that individuals who worry about falling asleep have greater trouble dropping off. It may help to remind yourself that while sleeplessness is troublesome, it isn’t life-threatening.
- Exposure to extreme temperature fluctuations or environmental noise
- Disruption in sleep/wake patterns due to jet lag, work schedules, or other reasons
- Side effects of medications
- A change in the surrounding environment
- Premenstrual syndrome, menstruation, pregnancy or menopause
For those suffering from chronic insomnia, the causes are usually more complex and result from a combination of factors, which can include:
- Depression (the most common cause)
- Chronic pain
- Kidney disease
- Restless leg syndrome
- Heart failure
- Parkinson’s disease
- Sleep apnea
In addition, there may be some behavioral reasons for chronic insomnia:
- Anxiety about not being able to sleep
- Drinking alcohol before bedtime
- Consuming excessive amounts of caffeine
- Smoking cigarettes before bedtime
- Excessive napping in the afternoon or evening
- Continually disrupted sleep/wake schedule possibly from work schedules or nighttime activities
Recommended Lifestyle Changes for Insomnia Treatment
The following are some of the best possible insomnia remedies:
- Establish a consistent bedtime routine.This is one of the most important factors in insomnia treatment and maintaining good sleeping habits. Routines may include taking a warm bath or a relaxing walk in the evening, or practicing meditation/relaxation exercises as part of your regular nighttime routine.
- Try to go to bed at the same time every night,and get up at the same time each morning. This includes weekends.
- Get plenty of exercise during the day.Studies have shown that people who are physically active sleep better than those who are sedentary. The more energy you expend during the day, the sleepier you will feel at bedtime. Just be sure not to engage in vigorous exercise too close to bedtime as that can make it more difficult to fall asleep.
- Reduce your intake of caffeine,particularly in the evening.
- Avoid stimulants like caffeine and limit alcohol.Both, even when consumed early in the day, can affect sleep and inhibit insomnia treatment.
- Use your bed only for sleeping and sex.Don’t use it to do work or watch TV.
- Avoid large meals late in the evening.
- If you can’t fall asleep within half an hour of going to bed, get up and reador do something calming until you feel sleepy.
- Learn and use a relaxation technique regularly.Breathing exercises, meditation and yoga are not insomnia cures, but do lead to a state conducive to sleep.
- Use “white noise” devicesto block out surrounding environmental noise.
- Take a hot bath before bedtime.Try a few drops of relaxing oil of lavender in the water.
- Short naps are good.Try to get into the habit of napping for insomnia treatment: ten to twenty minutes in the afternoon, preferably lying down in a darkened room.
- Spend some time outdoorsas often as you can to get exposure to bright, natural light. If you are concerned about harmful effects of solar radiation, do it before ten in the morning or after three in the afternoon or use sunscreen.
- Try to give yourself some time– up to an hour – in dim light before you go to sleep at night. Lower the lighting in your house and bedroom and if other members of the household object, wear sunglasses.
- Don’t obsess about not sleeping.Not surprisingly, studies have shown that individuals who worry about falling asleep have greater trouble dropping off. It may help to remind yourself that while sleeplessness is troublesome, it isn’t life-threatening and there are insomnia remedies.