According to statistics, insomnia has been classified by the World Health Organization as a lifestyle disease that constitutes around 90% of all sleep disorders. It is an extremely serious issue that causes a number of consequences that are harmful to our body, such as problems with concentration.
A handful of statistics about insomnia
Research studies have proven that every fourth person in the UK is sleep deprived, and every second person above the age of 40 suffers from serious sleep problems that require help from specialists. This issue usually occurs in women and intensifies in the course of hormonal changes during perimenopause. In addition, there are patients under 25 years of age that struggle with insomnia, and 20% of them suffer from chronic sleep problems.
What is insomnia?
So far, we have not been able to define clearly the concept of insomnia. However, we know that it corresponds to problems with falling asleep, difficulty in maintaining sleep (regularly waking up at night or early in the morning), premature morning wake up and a feeling of fatigue after waking up. This also leads to being in a bad mood during the day
Causes of insomnia
Diagnosing insomnia is not an easy task as it is an individual and subjective impression. It may be identified based on an interview or observation of the patient, and not on specific tests. Therefore, it is possible to indicate only potential grounds, some of which being consequences of an unhealthy lifestyle (i.e. late meals or alcohol abuse) and distorted sleep habits (delaying the moment of going to bed or getting up).
Risk factors increasing the likelihood of the occurrence of insomnia are:
- age (older people tend to suffer from insomnia more frequently due to a decrease in melatonin secretion),
- gender (as already mentioned women are more often affected by the problem),
- permanent stress,
- shift work,
- family issues.
The effects of short and long-term insomnia
Short-term insomnia may result in:
- problems with concentration, i.e. the ability (in a conscious or a spontaneous way) to focus attention and maintain it on a specific object, thought or task. The inability to concentrate fully is usually the result of the lack of the NREM sleep stage (non-rapid eye movement) during which our brain produces electrical delta waves. During this stage, some of the cognitive functions of the brain are consolidated and strengthened. Frequent insufficient sleep (less than 7 hours) usually results in decreased effects of the occurrence of delta waves, which affects our everyday concentration skills. In order to improve our focus, it is recommended to engage in physical activity, drink at least two liters of still water a day and add to our daily diet products rich in magnesium, potassium, iron and vitamins B, C, D and E such as e.g. walnuts or bitter chocolate;
- headaches and decreased reaction time, as well as
- sleepiness during the day.
The effects of long-term insomnia are typically:
- increased blood pressure which in turn may lead to the development of cardiovascular diseases;
- impaired glucose metabolism which poses a higher risk of developing diabetes; and
- weight gain.
How long should we sleep?
The first three hours of sleep are the most important. Then, it gradually becomes more and more shallow. The sleep between 10 p.m. and 4 a.m. is the most valuable for our body. This is the time when our brain cells regenerate and the information gathered during the whole day is organized, which improves memory process. During nighttime rest our body is also cleansed from unnecessary metabolic products and toxins, and the hormone production processes vital for our proper functioning (i.e. progesterone and testosterone) intensify. Skin tissue is also regenerated at this time.