The phenomenon we define as insomnia is not only the fact that we cannot fall asleep, but it is rather a specific inability to get enough sleep, the quantity and quality of which allows the body to fully regenerate and feel completely rested the next day. The length of sleep itself, which is a genetic trait, does not determine problems with sleep, even if it lasts for example only 5 hours.
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What do you need sleep for?
Insomnia, otherwise known as insomnia, occurs when sleep disturbances are so severe that they threaten normal functioning during the day. It affects all areas of our lives and activities. Insufficient sleep or poor quality sleep results in impaired attention and concentration, irritability and poor mood. To see the negative effects of insomnia on personal and social life, it is enough to look at statistics – people who do not get enough sleep cause twice as many accidents at work and in traffic.
Sleep is necessary for regeneration of forces, balancing heart rhythm and blood pressure, dealing with stress, regulating biochemical economy, cell renewal, consolidation of the acquired knowledge and skills. All kinds of sleep problems definitely have a negative impact on our physical and mental health, contribute to metabolic disorders, weakened immunity, deterioration of all mental functions, lower mood and mood, and even increase the risk of heart disease and hypertension, diabetes and obesity.
Sleep disorders – the most common types of insomnia
Probably the most common type of sleep problems are difficulties with falling asleep. We deal with them when, despite persistent efforts, rolling around in bed, looking for the most comfortable position and counting rams, sleep does not come for a couple of hours. Interestingly, this type of problem often affects relatively young, professionally active people.
The second type is premature waking. This usually happens in the case of increased sensitivity to light, because dawn causes inhibition of melatonin secretion, i.e. the sleep hormone. It is worth knowing that if we drink a larger drink to get a good night’s sleep, we will fall asleep faster, but the sleep itself will be shallower and shorter.
Another type of sleep disorders is frequent waking up at night. It may be caused by a disease, but also by a too large meal in the evening, too many liquids drunk, snoring and nocturnal apnea.
Another type of disorder we deal with in the case of chronic fatigue syndrome. Then, despite an adequate amount of sleep, we get up as tired as we lay down, and the body, which has not managed to regenerate itself, functions as it would after a night’s sleep.
Sleep problems can be caused by certain diseases, such as depression, degenerative changes in the spine, infections, Parkinson’s disease, but in the vast majority they are due to a lack of attention to proper hygiene to ensure adequate quality of sleep.
Insomnia in adults
Until recently, insomnia was diagnosed primarily in older people, which to some extent is due to the physiological process of deterioration of sleep quality, in connection with reduced melatonin secretion. But for some time now, such difficulties have been affecting younger and younger people, even children. Problems with falling asleep, interrupted sleep or sleep that does not give rest, waking up too early, are becoming the share of up to 40% of the population.
Several factors have an impact on this. The intensity of professional work and the stress accompanying it, unhygienic lifestyle, irregular nutrition and lack of physical activity have a direct impact on the quantity and quality of our sleep. A frequent phenomenon is increased emotional tension occurring until late in the evening, which makes it impossible to relax and calm down, necessary to fall asleep. And even if we do manage to fall asleep, the feelings we experience return, either in the form of nightmares or waking up in the middle of the night and not being able to fall asleep again. Certainly neither watching TV before bedtime nor dozing in front of a computer for several hours helpsto get a good night’s sleep.
Sleep disorders in children
This phenomenon is particularly dangerous in relation to children, because in their case a sufficiently long and good quality sleep is absolutely necessary for proper development, both physical, intellectual and emotional. Sleep deprivation can cause, among other things, slower growth and metabolic abnormalities, which promotes diabetes, obesity and lipid disorders.
Sleep problems are most common in young children. According to estimates, this affects about 20 to 30% of children aged 1 to 6 years. Medicine defines such a phenomenon as behavioral insomnia, because it results from the lack of appropriate behaviors that make up the so-called sleep ritual. Going to bed late or not having a fixed time, activity lasting until the last moment, combined with the intensification of emotional stimuli, the absence of a moment of calming and relaxation immediately before bedtime, are the main reasons for the inability of a toddler to fall asleep.
Difficulties with falling asleep or waking up during the night resulting from stress, problems at school or family problems are a separate issue. In these cases, a psychologist should be consulted.
How can I sleep better?
The most important thing for both adults and children is proper sleep hygiene. A healthy lifestyle combined with physical activity, observing fixed hours of going to bed and getting up, ensuring comfortable conditions in the sleeping room, avoiding strong emotional stimuli, calming and relaxing just before going to bed, giving up heavy evening meals, are the necessary conditions for good sleep. Adults should also remember to eliminate from the evening menu stimulants such as alcohol, nicotine, coffee, strong tea, and even drinks with a stimulating effect, such as cola.
If necessary, we can help ourselves with mild herbal preparations such as melatonin, melissa or lupulin (extract from hop cones). You can also use hop cones in a calming evening bath and give your baby a glass of warm milk or chamomile infusion.