How to Beat Those Insomnia Blues

In this article, we’ll take a look at insomnia. What it is and what causes it; as well as what it can cause. We’ll also explore some treatment options.Insomnia

You’ve had a sleep study, but they say you don’t have sleep apnea. And yet, you’re still not sleeping. Laying in bed, the thought keeps rolling over in your head “What’s wrong with me?”

What is Insomnia?

Simply put, insomnia is defined as difficulty falling asleep and remaining asleep. It also includes some form of impairment during the day. And even though it’s the most common sleep disorder, insomnia is also the most underdiagnosed, and undertreated. Actually, according to some statistics, approximately 10% of the general population suffers from chronic insomnia, while 30% do so occasionally.

Actually, according to some statistics, approximately 10% of the general population suffers from chronic insomnia, while 30% do so occasionally. Additionally, there are different degrees of insomnia, from mild to moderate to severe. It can also briefly appear from time to time, or come and stay awhile.

But just what causes insomnia? Let’s take a look.

Risk factors

The typical person with insomnia is an elderly white female. There’s also some evidence that it might run in your family.

Some other factors include:

  • Cancer
  • Chronic pain
  • Depression
  • Medications
  • Menopause
  • Restless Legs Syndrome

Although the #1 cause of insomnia is long term Stress.

However, the most common disorders associated with insomnia are anxiety and depression.

Furthermore, if you have insomnia, you’re more likely to be involved in a fatal car accident . You’re also more likely to miss work. And when you are working, you’ll tend to make more mistakes.

In addition to this, insomnia itself is a risk factor for other diseases. Which in itself can make it difficult to properly diagnose.

Let’s look more closely at that.

Diagnosis

Insomnia can be difficult to properly diagnose. This is because it’s hard to determine if it’s a symptom of another disorder or a disorder all by itself. It’s important to find out what caused what so that proper treatment can be made.

For instance, depression can cause insomnia. However, insomnia can also cause depression. But which came first? If insomnia caused the depression, then treating the depression won’t entirely solve the problem.

Another reason for its difficulty involves something known as sleep state misperception. In other words, you can be in a very light stage of sleep, and feel as though you were lying awake the whole time.

Also, there are beliefs about sleep. In reality, some people need more sleep, some need less. The average is around 8 hours. So, if you believe you need 8 hours, but really only need 7, you could lay awake for an hour wondering why you can’t sleep.

Moreover, a diagnosis is made based mainly on what the patient describes, and includes reports of:

  • Attention, concentration and/or memory problems
  • Daytime Sleepiness
  • Difficulty with social interaction
  • Fatigue
  • Irritability
  • Poor school performance
  • Tension headaches

Your Doctor will make a diagnosis based on your sleep patterns. Also the use of some sleep questionnaires. Such as something called an  Epworth Sleepiness Scale

A sleep study could also be ordered if the cause of your insomnia is unclear. Additionally, your Doctor might order some blood work, if (s)he suspects some other medical condition that might be the underlying cause. Such as thyroid disease or iron deficiency anemia.

Once a diagnosis has been made, it’s time to look at some treatment options. We’ll start with changing the way you think and act.

Self Perpetuating Insomnia

Insomnia can be started by something that causes you concern. but continue long after the initial problem is solved. Here’s how.

Some life event causes some concern. In fact, you lay awake in bed worrying about this. Your concern is now making it difficult to fall asleep. After awhile, the initial cause of worry is taken care of. However, you’ve now been in a pattern of not being able to sleep so long that you now have concerns about your inability to sleep.

So now your worry about not being able to fall asleep is causing difficulty falling asleep. And so the cycle continues, long after the initial event that caused it. To further complicate this, now your lack of sleep can lead to depression.

Next, we’ll take a look at some treatment options.

Cognitive Behavior Therapy

Insomnia responds better to behavioral changes then to the use of medicine. However, a combination of treatments can be even more effective. Let’s start with something called Cognitive Behavior Therapy or CBT. This basically involves changing the way you think and behave. There are different forms of CBT, depending on your specific needs. These include:

  • Biofeedback
  • Improve your sleep space- This includes not having a tv, clock, or other electronic devices in your sleep area.
  • Mindfulness meditation
  • Relaxation training
  • Remaining passively awake-Simply try not to fall asleep It’s basically letting go of the worry that you can’t sleep. As mentioned earlier, it can sometimes be the worry of not being able to sleep that keeps you awake. Let go of that worry.
  • Sleep hygiene-Establishing good sleep habits
  • Sleep restriction-You builds up a ‘sleep debt’ while awake. When that ‘debt’ reaches a certain point, your brain tells you it’s time to go to sleep. However, any nap will ‘pay off’ some of that debt, leaving you more awake at bed time.

Also, keep in mind that body position is really important. For example, laying on your back is actually the best sleep position. This is because it properly aligns your spine and neck. As well as puts the least amount of strain on your body. Again, and I can’t stress this enough, there really should be no t.v. or other electronic devices in your bed room. And if noise is a factor, the use of a fan or other white noise machine can be helpful.

Next, we’ll take a look at some of the more common medications your Doctor might prescribe.

Medications

conventional

The 3 main medications are:

  • Allergies make it hard to breathe, which can be at least some of the cause of your insomnia. So if you have allergies, your Doctor might prescribe something like Diphenhydramine (Benadryl), or an over the counter med such as Doxylamine (Unisom).
  • Sedatives-Zolpidem (Ambien). Temazepam Lorazepam (Ativan)
  • Antidepressants-Trazadone. Mirtazapine (Remeron)

Alternative

There are some herbal supplements that have shown positive results. They include Melatonin, Valerian Root, and Chamomile.

And while medicine just relieves your symptoms, Cognitive Behavior Therapy will actually get at the cause of your sleeplessness. However, it will take time and effort on your part to get results.

As you can see, there are many good treatment options available. Talk with your Doctor, as you probably would benefit most from using a combination of treatments together.

Conclusion

We’ve looked at insomnia, and discovered some of the reasons it can be hard to properly diagnose. If you suffer from insomnia, I hope this article helps you understand it a little better. Also, if you know anyone suffering from this debilitating disorder, please share this article with them.

Till next time…Blessings.

 

and

Is There Bias in the Diagnosis of Sleep Disorders in Women?

Are Women Really Treated Fairly In Healthcare?

In our western culture, we tend to treat the disease, not the person; and this can lead to a lot of misdiagnoses. Whereas eastern medicine focuses on the person.

It happens like this: Gender Bias

In a western hospital, 10 different people could receive the same treatment for the same disease. While in an eastern hospital, 10 different people could receive 10 different treatments for the same disease.

 

Then there’s the gender bias that’s apparent, especially in sleep medicine. As noted in my article ‘Are you Safe From Heart Disease?’ , I described how men and women can receive different treatment for chest pain.

The guy might go through a whole series of tests, and be prescribed an appropriate heart medicine. The gal, on the other hand, might get a psychological evaluation and be prescribed an anti-anxiety medication.

So really, women might receive different treatment; but it’s because of a false perception. And this only makes things worse.

Still, both genders receive the same treatment for sleep apnea. This is because the same standards are used to diagnose both; although women experience some symptoms differently than men.

Confusing?

Let’s take a closer look at some things.

Gender Bias

Women are more likely to describe their sleep disorder symptoms as insomnia, and less likely to be aware of sleep apnea symptoms than men. Women also experience stress more profoundly than men, and depression in women is twice that of men.

Sleep disordered symptoms increase with age but are greater in women. And menopause and pregnancy also increase the risk of sleep apnea (OSA). However, women tend to have less severe OSA, with shorter pauses in breathing.

And while women tend to be more obese and have smaller airways, their airways are more stable than men’s.

But does all this mean women are less vulnerable to sleep apnea?

Some studies show women with less severe sleep apnea are just as vulnerable as men with more severe apnea. Although other studies show the opposite.

Then there are studies that show women have better sleep quality than men, but they have more sleep-related complaints. Another study showed women had a poorer quality of sleep than men.

And while those results may be inconclusive; the one thing that is consistent is, OSA symptoms tend to be less in women.

O.K., so maybe it’s no big deal then.

But women are also under diagnosed more than men. Or is this just be because women describe their symptoms differently, and have more mild symptoms than their male counterpart? Not to mention gender bias.

And in my last article titled ‘Reducing Stress Improves Women’s Health’, we saw how women experience stress more profoundly than men. This alone has a huge effect on women’s sleep and their health.

The real question is, do more men than women have sleep apnea just because we use the same criteria for both genders? And if so, should we use gender specific standards for diagnosing and treating sleep apnea?

 

Same Disease Different Treatments

At this point in time, there’s only one standard for measuring the severity of sleep apnea in both genders.

And while  some studies show that women with milder sleep apnea (OSA) can be just as much at risk as men with more severe OSA, the same standards apply to both. However, there are CPAP machines that do have different settings for women and men.

But again, is this difference significant enough to be a cause of undertreatment in women, especially with sleep apnea? And if so, this should be alarming, knowing that women can be more vulnerable to this disease.

Clearly, more research is needed. And while I didn’t really answer any questions, I hope I got you thinking about this potentially critical area of sleep medicine.

Conclusion

On the one hand, there’s a tendency to treat the disease, not the person. And yet, there’s a gender bias that results in treating women differently. Unfortunately, this difference is based on somewhat false assumptions and not reality.

As a result, women receive different treatment when they should be getting similar treatment. And they receive similar treatment when they should be getting different treatment.

But again, are women with mild sleep apnea just as much at risk for heart disease as men with more severe OSA? Which would mean, the only reason sleep apnea is greater in men than in women is because we use the same standards for both.

If that’s the case, then women should qualify for treatment with milder sleep apnea than men.

Maybe it’s time to re-think treatment options.

 

 

Reducing Stress Improves Women’s Health

stress and women's health

What do obesity, high blood pressure, diabetes, poor sleep quality, and depression all have in common?

Let’s find out!!

But first of all, I’m a guy, so not an expert on women’s stress by any means. And even after 30 years of marriage (to the same women!!), you gals are still a bit of a mystery to me.

However, there are some excellent studies out there, and maybe even guys could benefit from reading this…

 

Stress could literally be killing you

Some days, this stress is almost too much to handle. Talking with someone helps. But that someone isn’t always there.

Then there’s prayer, ’cause you know God always hears you.

But what if you don’t have someone, or you don’t believe in God? Or maybe you’re angry at God for the situation you’re in?

What do you do when there’s no place to turn?

How do you change this? How do you get rid of this stress that so weighs you down?

Stress attacks your body in numerous ways. Let’s take a look at them:

How Your Body Responds To Stress

When a stressful event occurs, the body goes into overdrive and stimulates hormones that help prepare your body for action. This is known as the fight or flight response and is critical for your survival at that moment.

What happens is this…

A hormone called Cortisol is at work helping you function throughout the day. This little guy regulates glucose storage, blood pressure, and can even enhance your immune system.

Then, when something happens that causes stress, your body goes into overdrive;  increasing your heart rate and slowing down glucose absorption. Both of these result in increased energy, giving you the stamina to push through this situation.

Your body settles down after the stressful event passes, and life returns to normal, right?

But what if that stressful situation doesn’t end, but goes on…and on…and on? What if this stress is the new normal?

This is where things go from good to bad. Let’s take a closer look at this.

 

The Effect of Stress on Your Body

We’ll look specifically at 3 areas of the body that are damaged by long-term stress.

YOUR HEART

First of all, Cortisol increases your heart rate by narrowing your arteries.  But if these arteries remain narrow for too long, they become damaged and stiff; Making it easier for plaque to form, among other things.

And narrowed arteries increase your blood pressure, which over time, leads to heart disease.

YOUR BRAIN

Clinical studies have shown that long-term stress literally changes the structure of your brain. Specifically, the area involved in learning and memory literally shrinks; which also leads to depression.

And these ‘alterations’ are more pronounced in menopausal women.

The good news is there are medications that can be used to counter these changes so that you can lead a more normal life.

YOUR BODY

Your body produces insulin, which is what’s used to carry sugar out of your system. But sugar gives you energy (at least short term), so when you go into fight or flight mode, cortisol tells insulin to back off and let that sugar roam.

This is only meant as a temporary deal, however. If you remain stressed for days, months, or years, this can cause insulin resistance; and now you’re Diabetic.

 As if that’s not bad enough, your sleep is also interrupted. And without good quality sleep, your health will suffer.

Here’s how.

 

Effects of Lack of Sleep

Sleep rejuvenates your body and re-boots your mind. So over time, lack of sleep can fog your thinking, and cause mood swings.

However, it does much more than that.

Lack of sleep also:

  • Suppresses your immune system, making you more vulnerable to disease.
  • Creates a chemical imbalance leading to obesity.
  • Can be a cause of depression. (Which can cause you to eat more).

 

Gender Differences

Men and women both experience and respond to stress differently.

And studies show that women are more sensitive/susceptible to stressors. For example, when both men and women face similar stressors, women are more affected.

This doesn’t mean women are weaker than men; it actually means that women are more in tune with their emotions.

Actually, you gals tend to deal with stress in a more healthy way than us guys. Your coping style tends to be more emotion-focused; so you’ll want to connect with another person.

Where us guys tend to turn to other things, like alcohol or unhealthy foods, and maybe other self-destructive ways. And perhaps men are just not in tune? Do us guys really experience stress as much as you women, but just go into denial mode?

So what can you do?

There are medications that will alleviate your symptoms. But there are some excellent natural therapy options available as well, like:

  • Meditation
  • Prayer–Some clinical studies found a direct correlation between prayer and reduced stress.
  • Yoga.
  • Massage.
  • Just going for a walk.

And of course for you women, just connecting with another person, even your favorite pet, helps.

Here’s a simple little exercise you can also try.  Rate your stress on a scale from 0-10, with 10 being worst possible. What number would you give it?

Then, what would it take to reduce that by one number? Say you’re at an 8. What would it take to reduce it to a 7?

 

Conclusion

While a certain level of stress is not only good but beneficial; in the long term, it becomes very damaging to you both mentally and physically.

So if you’re depressed, overweight, Diabetic, have high blood pressure, and you’re not sleeping well, all is not lost. There are many treatment options, both conventional and alternative, to help you deal with stress.

If you have some healthy constructive way you deal with stress and would like to share it; or if you would like more information, please leave a comment. I’d love to hear from you.

Till next time…Blessings.