Insomnia: Give It A Rest

Insomnia, which is most often defined by a person’s acute difficulty with sleep, is the most common of all sleep disorders. In fact, it affects about one-third of adults in the United States, with a significant increase as people age.

There are varying degrees of insomnia caused by many different conditions, such as underlying physical or medical problems, stress, depression, tragedy or trauma, other mental disorders, environmental conditions, medication side effects, or lifestyle. Insomnia as a result of any of these causes has one main commonality: it hinders daily functioning and affects one’s health in the long run.

What Does Insomnia Look Like?

People with insomnia often have frequent awakenings in the middle of the night, early awakenings in the mornings, insufficient sleep, daytime exhaustion, lack of concentration, irritability, nervousness, depression, and/or forgetfulness. This level of sleep deprivation has major impacts on cognitive functioning, causing daily tasks to become draining.

Addressing Insomnia

Chronic insomnia occurs at least 3 nights a week for 3 months or longer (with nightmares weaved in). This is often believed to be a behavioral pattern, which means it could be addressed with cognitive behavior therapy–talk therapy that makes you aware of inaccurate or negative thinking.

The elimination of negative self talk is primary in this technique, and individuals are taught to discriminate between one’s own thoughts and the actual events that occurred in reality. The thought is, the most direct route to changing dysfunctional emotions and behaviors is to modify the inaccurate and faulty thinking.

Biofeedback and neurofeedback can also be applied in order to create a restful night’s sleep. Biofeedback is a process that enables an individual to learn how to change physiological activity for the purposes of improving health and performance. Neurofeedback is a form of biofeedback in which individuals respond to their own brain waves or other electrical activity of the nervous system.

Addressing Insomnia at Home

While it’s best to get professional help on something so hindering to everyday life, there are some smaller ways you can help yourself get some shut-eye. At the least, you can eliminate things that may be adding to the problem.

One thing to consider is the noise or lack thereof in your bedroom. Some people can’t sleep with any sound whatsoever. For those of you who are the same way, eliminate all sound. That means no TV, no fans, nothing. For others, however, sound is a necessity. Many people require a soft “white noise” in the background to help lull them into a calming sleep. Ceiling or portable fans, white noise machines, or the sound of rain or thunder are popular ones. Be careful not to allow disturbances within the sound, such as a faulty fan that has sporadic clicks or creeks. This can be distracting and counterproductive.  

If your mind won’t stop reeling, try some basic breathing exercises. At the center of yoga practice is breathing, which is a coping mechanism for surviving each difficult pose. Breathing through the movements can be the same as breathing through difficult moments–in this case, the moments when you’re overthinking and trying to sleep.

Digital devices are one of the most common distractors from sleep today. It’s difficult to not look at those alerts or notifications, even at 10 o’clock at night. Many people use their phones for their alarm in the mornings, but you can still do this while turning your phone on airplane mode during the night. This eliminates alerts and distractions while still allowing you to have your necessary alarm.

Doing mindful and calming meditation, while listening to serene music or sounds as the day winds down, can get you a step closer to the sleep you need. However, for those with severe insomnia, health professionals like those at The Brain Performance Center can step in and identify the core of the problem. In turn, they can give you the right treatment for you to overcome those sleepless nights.

Sleep is Crucial for Brain Health

sleeping-1353562_640We’ve all heard those people who brag about only needed 4 to 5 hours of sleep each night. They think that they’re somehow invincible; believing they require less sleep than other people do. Others are acutely aware of how badly they feel overall from lack of sleep. The reality is that you need a minimum of 7 hours of sleep each night to sustain the optimal functioning of your brain, overall health, well-being and daytime performance.

Here’s the facts:

Lack of sleep or waking up several times during the night may be bad for the brain and may increase the risk of Alzheimer’s disease, several new studies suggest. While a sound night’s sleep has long been advised for a sound body, the new research adds to a growing body of evidence linking sleep to brain health.

The Cleveland Clinic’s Dr. Douglas Moul said Sleep is a time for brain maintenance and repair,” he said. “Studies have demonstrated that brain maintenance and repair time is more prominent during sleep.”

Studies have shown how the brain cleans itself while we sleep. The 2013 science study funded by The National Institute of Health revealed that the glymphatic system is highly active during sleep, clearing away toxins responsible for Alzheimer’s Disease and other neurological disorders.

Sleep loss dumbs you down. Sleep plays a critical role in thinking and learning. Lack of sleep hurts these cognitive processes in many ways. First, it impairs attention, alertness, concentration, reasoning, and problem solving. This makes it more difficult to learn efficiently.

Sleeplessness can lead to depression. Over time, lack of sleep and sleep disorders can contribute to the symptoms of depression. In a 2005 Sleep in America poll, people who were diagnosed with depression or anxiety were more likely to sleep less than six hours at night.

Sleep-focused interventions can improve treatment outcomes for veterans with PTSD and TBI. Sleep difficulty is a primary symptom of both PTSD and TBI and has been found to affect the severity of both conditions. TBI patients can suffer from permanent sleep problems regardless of the severity of their initial injury. Approximately 40 to 65 percent of individuals have insomnia after mild TBI, while patients with sleep difficulties are at a higher risk of developing PTSD.

Sleep disorders and chronic sleep loss can affect one’s overall health scoreAccording to WebMD, sleep disorders and chronic sleep loss can put you at risk for heart disease, heart attack, heart failure, irregular heartbeat, high blood pressure, stroke, diabetes and more.

As the old Irish proverb says: A good laugh and a long sleep are the best cures in the doctor’s book.
At the Brain Performance Center we take a more direct approach to getting a good night sleep.  We use cognitive behavioral therapy  to overcome the underlying cause of the sleep problem.