The brain won’t shut down. There is that meeting tomorrow, worrying about how that new furnace is going to be paid for, or the argument we had with a friend or co-worker. There are hundreds of thing in our day-to-day existence that can cause us to occasionally have a sleepless night. But when that insomnia becomes a regular pattern, it is time to look at some deeper causes, because chronic loss of sleep has some very bad physical and mental results.
Mental Effects of Insomnia
Chronic insomnia has several mental/emotional side effects.
- Our thinking and problem-solving skills are reduced. This can cause difficulties at work and also in our personal. Poor decisions or acting impulsively are linked to lack of sleep
- We become easily upset, angry and frustrated – not a good thing in any situation.
- We are easily distracted and unable to focus on tasks.
Physical Effects of Insomnia
One of the most visible physical effects is weight gain. There are two causes for this:
- When we are feeling chronically tired, we tend to reach for snack foods as we work, thinking that they will give us some energy. So, we reach for foods that are high in fat and sugar content, because they are available in the snack machine or at home, and require no preparation time.
- We have an imbalance of hormones – the hormone that gives us the “full” feeling (leptin) is reduced and that which tells the brain we are hungry (grehlin) is increased. So, we eat more.
What to Do?
Some periods of insomnia are temporary. For example, a new mother’s sleep is disrupted for a few months after that new baby comes. For most there is an end in sight, so this is not worrisome. Big projects sometimes require late nights and early morning, but so long as they are just occasional, no action needs to be taken.
Busy Brain Syndrome
If you can’t shut down your brain, then take some action to do it. Shut down screens 30 minutes before bedtime; read instead. Or take a walk. A glass of wine can help too. Another great tool is to keep a pad and pen next to your bed. If you are ruminating about all that you have to do, turn on the light and write it all down. This has the psychological effect of getting it out of your mind and onto something else.
Change Your Environment
It may be too warm or cold in your bedroom. Experiment with temperatures.
Your pillow may need to be replaced – it can be a culprit. One solution is to invest in a wardrobe of pillows to compliment specific sleep positions throughout the night and improve overall comfort and support for different sleeping positions like side, back, or the dreaded stomach.
Consider a mattress change. How old is your mattress anyway? There are so many new materials and firmness variations. As you age, the needs for firmness/softness will change. Visit your local mattress store and try some out. You may find that just changing out that old mattress is the total solution. It could be just that easy.
Getting a good night’s sleep is not an option. While we all have that occasional bout with insomnia, we cannot afford prolonged periods of it. Try these one or all the options and see if you can’t fix that problem or at the very least improve your quality of sleep – your well-being really depends on it.