Sleep is for the weak, or so they say.
In this modern age of technology, many are no stranger to sleepless nights. This is not a new phenomenon, however it has been affected by technology changing the way we approach bedtime. With readily available internet and entertainment by the way of reruns and on-demand services, it’s easy to let sleep pass you by,
Increased caffeine consumption during the day and evenings, worsening mental health, poor diets and stress also contribute to lack of sleep.
In more severe cases, chronic insomnia can develop.
Why is sleep important?
In order to function properly, we all need to have good quality sleep. Even though we aren’t doing much, the body is going through some complex processes while we are resting. One example is memory consolidation. If one doesn’t have adequate sleep, they’re often groggy and retain less information than someone who is well rested.
What is insomnia?
Insomnia is characterised as the inability to fall or remain asleep for a lengthy period of time. It is a sleep disorder that leads to disruption in the patient’s daily life. It can be caused by stress, anxiety, other medical conditions, pain, poor diet, environmental factors and age.
According to BUPA, there are two types: primary and secondary insomnia. Primary insomnia has no apparent cause whereas secondary is linked to another medical condition.
Using stimulants to combat tiredness
Stimulants are widely used in the developed world today. They increase awareness and activity/energy levels in the body.
The most commonly used legal stimulants is caffeine. Starbucks has become a global chain and scores of people can be seen clutching cans of Red Bull over the course of the work week.
Although, stimulants are good for providing a boost, long term use can lead to sleeping problems.
Caffeine is a stimulant that we typically drink to help us feel alert and stay awake. Studies have indicated that caffeine plays a role in insomnia, particularly in individuals who suffer from anxiety. This leads to a negative cycle in which in order to combat the lack of alertness, people drink more coffee which in turn makes the problem worse.
How do we treat lack of sleep?
In the past, sleeping pills were routinely prescribed, but nowadays, insomnia is seen as more of a psychological issue. This means that medication is usually the last resort.
The first step is taking measures to improve sleep quality. This typically includes increasing exercise levels, stress reducing activities and restricting intake of caffeinated drinks close to bedtime.
The next step is therapy – cognitive behavioural therapy, relaxation therapy and also sleep restriction therapy.
If all else fails, medication can be taken. However, there is the risk of building up tolerance. If a patient continues to take a drug it will became less effective overtime, requiring the to take more and so on. They can also impair important activities such as driving and operating heavy machinery.
Overall, it is important for individuals to ensure that they’re getting enough sleep in order to maintain a good quality of life.
Caffeine consumption, insomnia, and sleep duration: Results from a nationally representative sample
Chaudhary, Ninad S.; Grandner, Michael A.; Jackson, Nicholas J.; Chakravorty, Subhajit
American Psychological Association – http://www.apa.org/topics/sleep/why.aspx