Insomnia: how it impacts our health
Sleep is very important for health . Sleeping the right hours, added to a restorative rest, generates both physical and psychological benefits. However, prolonged sleep deprivation has adverse effects that soon become evident.
In this article we’ll see what insomnia is and how we can combat it through healthy habits to apply on a daily basis.
What is insomnia?
The problem of insomnia consists of having difficulty falling asleep, staying asleep or a combination of both . As a consequence, the person sleeps little or not at all during the night and probably feels tired at dawn, which causes a low performance in the activities of the day because he or she is sleepy, lacks energy and is irritable.
Insomnia can be acute or chronic. Acute insomnia is characterized by its short duration (days or weeks), which is generated by problems of everyday life, whether it is work stress, family or personal conflicts, the change of schedule when traveling, etc.
On the other hand, chronic insomnia lasts for more than a month and is caused by an illness that the person suffers from, a side effect of some medication, as well as other substances: caffeine, nicotine, alcoholic beverages, drugs, etc.
A public health problem
Currently, about 40% of the population in Mexico suffers from insomnia, according to Dr. Marisela Durán Gutiérrez, in charge of the Sleep Clinic at the Hospital Civil de Guadalajara.
Furthermore, it highlights the importance of attending to the condition, since it can seriously affect it by causing road accidents due to drowsiness and a decrease in the speed of reaction ; low work or school performance due to problems with attention, concentration and memory; emotional imbalance: stress, anxiety, depression, irritability.
On the other hand, insomnia is associated with an increased chance of obesity, diabetes, metabolic syndrome and high blood pressure, among other diseases caused by decreased defenses.
It should be noted that people who sleep less than five hours a night are four times more likely to develop type 2 diabetes mellitus, and 45% more likely to suffer a heart attack , according to Alejandro Jimenez Genchi, coordinator of the Sleep Clinic at the National Institute of Psychiatry.
How to fight it?
To avoid insomnia becoming a problem as much as possible, it is useful to follow the recommendations below.
1. Modify your sleeping habits
You can start by going to bed early at a set time to get used to it. It is recommended that you get seven or eight hours of sleep, so it is also important to set a regular time to wake up.
Keep an eye on the weekends and avoid excessive travel because of the mismatch . Once in bed, try not to be distracted by the television or mobile phone, as these can keep you awake and delay sleep.
2. Avoid high consumption of coffee, tobacco and alcohol
Caffeine is a strong stimulant that can alter sleep, you can find it in coffee, tea, soft drinks, among others.
As far as tobacco is concerned, people who smoke take longer to fall asleep and wake up more frequently, compared to those who do not smoke, due to a small withdrawal syndrome, while, as far as alcohol is concerned, its presence in the blood alters the sleep cycle and causes an intermittent or too early awakening , according to Melgosa (2008).
Sedentarism, for obvious reasons, provides little physical fatigue. Intense or regular exercise, besides helping to reduce stress, will provide you with well-being and a deep and continuous sleep; it also raises the daytime body temperature and lowers the nighttime one, which induces sleep.
However, it is advisable to do the activity hours before bedtime , rather than immediately before, as it does not immediately induce sleep.
4. Try to have an early dinner
The digestive activity of eating late can cause difficulty in sleeping, so it is advisable to eat a small meal early, about two hours before going to bed. On the other hand, strong or spicy foods intercept the sleep process. If you find it difficult to choose a suitable low-carb dinner, you can ask a nutrition professional for advice .
5. Try not to sleep
Yeah, you read right, try not to sleep. Because the more you try to fall asleep, the more effort and perseverance you have, the harder it is to do so.
Sleep is something natural that you cannot catch or generate on your own. It’s similar if you try to make yourself hungry or thirsty, it just doesn’t work that way. Sleep should come naturally, so if you have tried by all means to fall asleep without success , better do the opposite, try not to sleep. For example by reading a good book until you finally fall asleep without waiting for it.
6. Seek professional help
Finally, if insomnia persists because of a particular situation you are going through, it will always be an option to ask for help. The psychologist will evaluate your difficulty and will be able to tell you if it will be enough to solve it with psychotherapy , or if medical support will be needed.
Sleep is not a luxury, there is even a correlation between good sleep and longevity, according to a report published in Psychosomatic Medicine (Dew et al., 2003), so it is very important to address this need that generates us insomnia, modify our sleep habits, as well as lifestyle. Because sleep is the cheapest way to take a step forward to a full and healthy life .
- Dew, M. A. et al. (2003). Healthy older adults’ sleep predicts all-cause mortality at 4 to 19 years of follow-up. Psychosomatic Medicine, 65:63-73.
- Loera, M. (2018). In Mexico, 40 percent of the population suffers from insomnia. Retrieved January 4, 2019, from University of Guadalajara: http://www.udg.mx/es/noticia/mexico-40-por-ciento-poblacion-sufre-insomnio-0.
- Mejia, X. (January 5, 2018). Alert increase in cases of insomnia; specialist says it is epidemic. Excelsior. Recovered from https://www.excelsior.com.mx/nacional/2018/01/05/1211675
- Melgosa, J. (2008). How to have a healthy mind. Madrid: Safeliz.