How to Cope with Sleeplessness

The Most Common Causes of Sleeplessness

Name three reasons you miss sleep. Pick your favorites from this checklist:

1) too much to do
2) got to bed late
3) ate too much dinner
4) awakened in the night thinking about work and couldn’t go back to sleep
5) noises outside
6) had to set the alarm early to prepare for something

…does this sound familiar?

Worry is one of the big reported causes of sleeplessness. Many people prefer to call it “thinking”. Worry falls into three timeframes:

1)  either people lie awake unable to fall asleep

2)  or they fall asleep but awaken in the night because of a noise or to take
     a bio break, then can’t resume sleep; or

3)  they awaken too early in the morning and can’t fall back asleep.
     Less frequent is having two or three of these conditions (except
     under extreme stress).

Typically, worry would not be characterized as a sleep disorder, but rather a sleep disruption.

Sleep disorders, per se¸ usually have a medical or physiological reason. To get a handle on sleep disorders, think of them as falling into two categories: internally stimulated or externally stimulated. Internally provoked causes sleeplessness cover everything from run-away thinking to a full bladder.

Externally provoked wakefulness during sleep times covers things like loud noises, interruptions, bright lights, etc.

You immediately see from this simple breakdown there are a few things about getting a good night’s sleep that are fairly easy to control under most circumstances. For the most part, stimuli causing wakefulness that you can prevent or control without medication would fall under experiential insomnia, not sleep disorders.

Internally triggered sleeplessness, however, is more complex than pulling dark shades or plugging in your white noise machine. Internal causes are further broken down into voluntary and involuntary, for lack of better terms. For example, we could make a case that worrying all night is voluntary. Of course, you feel like it isn’t, especially at the time. But you could choose to think about butterflies and balmy lake breezes rather than how you are going to get 17 non-productive people in the department you just took over to start performing up to par. Neurological disorders, on the other hand, would clearly be involuntary—and a disorder, not merely insomnia.

For a clearer breakdown of internal causes of sleep disruption, think of them as non-physically triggered and physically triggered. Among physical triggers are sleep-robbing medications, menopause and other hormonal swings (such as pregnancy), injuries, illness, etc. Sleep terrors, sleep walking and REM sleep behavior disorder can be among the most serious disorders, because a person moving while sleeping can be a danger to both themselves and to others.

These latter conditions fall under the domain of sleep disorders. In other words, lying awake at night thinking about work is uncomfortable, but it is not a sleep disorder. Insomnia is a nuisance, but it is not a sleep disorder—it is a problem. Sleep apnea is a disorder.

Sleeplessness itself is most-commonly associated with tension, anxiety, depression, and worries about work or finances. Even a less-than-favorable sex life can lead to night-time restlessness.

Indigestion from overeating, or eating foods less compatible with one’s biological type shortly before going to sleep can trigger discomfort and eventual wakefulness. Certain substances, like alcohol for example, have a rebound effect of first sedating, then stimulating.

Whether insomnia is invited over after a nasty bit of cheese steak or by a genetic predisposition, it is important to pay attention to it, ascertain the cause or causes in your case and make every resolve to get uninterrupted, quality sleep. Daytime tiredness can cause injuries, accidents and even death, in addition to the dangers posed by what may occur during physiological sleep disorders themselves.

Treatments are accessible and in most cases fairly inexpensive. The problem is, whether you have too much wine before going to bed or awaken with night terrors, either way, your life and the lives of those you love are at risk.

Get some sleep!

If you feel you have a sleep disorder, then consult with a physician. If you suffer from too much worry, then I highly recommend a program called “Totally Tranquil” from Holothink. It helps to bring your brain into a more calm state that enables relaxation. You can try a Free Totally Tranquil Demo CD from Holothink.

Holothink has also released a set of programs that can help with a variety of sleep related issues called Digital Sandman – if you need a quick refresher nap, need help relaxing into sleep, or you want help staying asleep, they have the bases covered for you with programs that address each. To learn more visit Digital Sandman here.