The Effects of Insomnia
By Yuan Cheng
Insomnia includes difficulty falling and staying asleep
It has many detrimental effects on health
Insomnia is the cause of sleepless nights for many as they counted sheep and meditated and took deep breaths, trying to fall asleep. It has been the subject of countless psychological horror films, and many celebrities (even the Queen of Christmas, Mariah Carey) have opened up about their experiences with sleeplessness. Lasting from anywhere between weeks to years, insomnia plagues 70 million people annually—and that’s only in the U.S. Around 50% of adults experience its symptoms, and about 10-15% suffer from chronic insomnia.
Though some of the below categories overlap, they effectively capture the multi-faceted traits of insomnia.
Acute insomnia lasts for a few days or weeks, and can be attributed to feelings of anxiety or a traumatic event around that time frame. Being in a different environment (jetlag, light and noise sensitivity, etc) and resulting adjustment issues can also lead to short term insomnia.
Chronic insomnia, on the other hand, is classified thusly because of its length: 3+ nights a week for 3+ months. Stress, trauma, and bad habits are usually its cause.
Primary insomnia is a type of insomnia that has no connections to other medical issues and can be caused by genetics (as insomnia can be hereditary) and environment shifts, but secondary insomnia does (both to mental and physical conditions such as cancer, substance use, depression, etc).
Sleep-onset insomnia prevents one from falling asleep, and sleep-maintenance insomnia from staying asleep. Mixed insomnia is, as its name suggests, a combination of both sleep-onset insomnia and sleep-maintenance insomnia.
Paradoxical insomnia prevents one from feeling rested after getting a reasonable amount of sleep.
Here are some important indicators of insomnia:
Waking up at the wrong times (in the middle of the night, too early)
Sleeping too late
Exhausted even after sleeping
Distracted or sad/stressed during the day
Sleep insomnia can cause a myriad of side effects and illnesses, as good sleep is fundamental for health and immunity. Not getting enough sleep can result in the slowing of one’s reflexes, inability to pay attention, mood swings, memory loss, obesity, high blood pressure, asthma, cancer, and much more.
If you or a loved one is experiencing insomnia, consider first ameliorating its symptoms by setting better habits (such as setting alarms for when to go to sleep) or changing the sleep environment as too much light or noise can cause insomnia. If symptoms are severe, consider seeing a doctor, who would be able to provide medical assistance.
An irregular eating schedule can cause difficulty in falling asleep, such as eating late at night close to one’s bedtime.