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Insomnia: Causes, Cures, & Why You Should Care

Causes of insomnia

What is Sleep Debt?

How Insomnia Affects You

Holistic Cures for Insomnia


What is Insomnia? What Are its Causes?

Insomnia is a sleep disorder that is characterized by difficulty falling and/or staying asleep.
People with insomnia have one or more of the following symptoms:

  • Difficulty falling asleep
  • Waking up often during the night and having trouble going back to sleep
  • Waking up too early in the morning
  • Feeling tired upon waking
  • “Sleep Debt”
Many of our clients complain of insomnia of one form or another. Some brush it off, while others recognize that something is very wrong. Most people regard insomnia as a symptom of stress, worries, nagging problems, and so on. This is occasionally the case if there is an underlying medical condition or emergency. Insomnia may be a symptom of underlying disorders. For example, restless legs syndrome—a neurological condition in which a person has an uncomfortable sensation of needing to move his or her legs—can lead to insomnia. Sleep apnea is another sleep disorder linked to insomnia. With sleep apnea, a person’s airway becomes partially or completely obstructed during sleep, leading to pauses in breathing and a drop in oxygen levels. This causes a person to wake up briefly but repeatedly throughout the night. People with sleep apnea frequently report feeling sleepy during the daytime.

Apart from these unusual exceptions, insomnia is far more often a
cause of stress, anxiety or nagging problems than a symptom of them.

Lifestyle Causes of Insomnia

Here’s a partial list of the many causes of insomnia:

  • You work at home in the evenings. This can make it hard to unwind, and it can also make you feel preoccupied when it comes time to sleep. The light from your computer could also make your brain more alert.
  • You take naps (even if they are short) in the afternoon. Short naps can be helpful for some people, but for others they make it difficult to fall asleep at night.
  • You sometimes sleep in later to make up for lost sleep. This can confuse your body’s clock and make it difficult to fall asleep again the following night.
  • You are a shift worker (meaning that you work irregular hours). Non-traditional hours can confuse your body’s clock, especially if you are trying to sleep during the day, or if your schedule changes periodically.
  • You consume caffeine within 6 hours of bedtime. Note that caffeine is found not only in coffee and tea, but also in most carbonated soda drinks and in nasal decongestants, among other products.
  • You smoke or otherwise consume tobacco within four hours of bedtime. Tobacco in any form is a stimulant that actively interferes with sleep.
  • You consume alcohol within a few hours of bedtime. Alcohol is a sedative, so you may have no problem falling asleep. However, you are likely to enjoy poor-quality sleep; awaken during the night when the alcohol effects wear off, feeling dehydrated and nervous; and feel sluggish (or worse) the next day.
  • The last cause is little known but very common. In your brain is a pineal gland, an ancient structure that evolved to monitor the blue and white light entering your eyes. These are the color of the daytime sky and sun. After dark, the pineal gland evolved to do it’s only job: to secrete a hormone called melatonin. This magic juice is what enables you to enjoy restorative and uninterrupted sleep. Color screens (TV, computers, tablets, and smartphones) emit a huge amount of blue and white light. If you look at such screens within 2 to 3 hours of bedtime, the result is that your brain is tricked into behaving as though it were still daytime. The pineal gland secretes no melatonin, so you experience insomnia. It will likely take 100,000 years or more for human brains to adapt to artificial lighting, especially light with large blue and white components. If there are street lights shining in your window, you have the same problem, because most street lights are of the mercury vapor type, and they emit bright white light, unlike traditional incandescent light bulbs, which emit a warm, red-orange-yellow glow, not unlike the campfires that humans have been using for cooking and warmth for many millennia before going to bed.
  • Heavy meals close to bedtime can disrupt your sleep. The best practice is to eat lightly before bedtime. When you eat too much in the evening, it can cause discomfort and make it hard for your body to settle and relax. Spicy foods can also cause heartburn and interfere with your sleep.
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Sleep Debt — Nature’s Loan Shark

The term, “sleep debt” was a first coined by William C. Dement, MD, PhD, the world’s pioneer in the scientific study of sleep and sleep disorders. He used the term, “sleep debt” because accumulated lost sleep is like a monetary debt: It never goes away until it is paid back. It is cumulative, like a credit card balance. Sleep debt grows larger every time you get insufficient sleep, and lasts until you have paid your brain pack for all the sleep you borrowed. According to Dement, “If you miss 3 hours one night, you must sleep 11 hours the next night (3 plus your normal 8) in order to feel alert throughout the day.” If you get insufficient sleep every weekday, you would have to sleep until 5:00 pm on Saturday to pay back your debt. Of course, this almost never happens. But the debt remains, and can be paid back only in small amounts over a number of days. Even worse, if you continue to get less sleep than you need, you won’t just feel sleepy during the day — you’ll feel even sleepier as the debts grows larger.

Many people claim that they suffer no ill-effects from sleeping, say, 5 or 6 hours a night. However, when such people are asked to perform careful tests of alertness and sharpness of thinking, they consistently score lower than those who have sleep for 8 hours every night.

In addition, there is a proven, very dangerous interaction between sleep debt and drinking even small amounts of alcohol. Many state accident investigators have re-examined automotive deaths that were attributed to alcohol. It turns out that a little alcohol has virtually no effects on driving ability among people who get at least 8 hours of sleep every night. The same small amount of alcohol is disastrous when consumed by those who have accumulated sleep debt.

When called to testify before a committee of Congress, Dement said, “Gentlemen, our national sleep debt is a greater threat to our country than the national monetary debt.” That statement got the attention of busy senators who were on their way to other meetings, then turned around and took their seats again.

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How Insomnia Affects You

Insomnia damages lives and relationships in dozens of ways. Some of the more common and most damaging ways are:

  • Irritability during waking hours
  • Increased stress and impatience with one’s partner, leading to many arguments over insignificant issues
  • frequent arguments with your partner, family members, and workmates
  • Impaired thinking and decision-making
  • Impaired memory
  • Sadness, often perceived as depression
  • Moods swings, often misdiagnosed as bipolar disorder
  • Significantly greater likelihood of being involved in an auto accident
  • Lack of motivation
  • Tension and anxiety
  • Getting caught up in thoughts about past events
  • Excessive worrying about future events
  • Feeling overwhelmed by responsibilities
  • A general feeling of your mind racing or overstimulated

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Cures for Insomnia

At Delray Holistic Therapy, we have treated hundreds of people suffering with insomnia, using many different approaches. Success rates are close to 100 percent. Once we learn the factors that are robbing you of vitally important restorative sleep, solutions will emerge clearly. This is a life-changer!

The possible solution(s) for better sleep are many, and different for each individual. In general, they are quite easily accomplished by making small changes in what you do or don't of during the day, and especially during the evening. The good news is at you can easily make a few small changes, and at Delray Holistic Therapy, you’re likely to need just one or two sessions to make these changes effective and enduring. Once you begin benefiting from sufficient, high-quality sleep, there’s virtually no aspect of your life that will not improve noticeably, usually after just 5 to 10 days.

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