Insomnia

Can’t you always sleep? Then you are not alone: ​​almost one in three Dutch people have sleeping problems. So millions of eyes are staring at the ceiling every night. How come you sleep badly? And what impact does that have on your body? We tell you all about insomnia.

What is insomnia?

Insomnia, insomnia, and insomnia are names for the same phenomenon. You have insomnia when your sleep is disturbed, while you have enough opportunity to sleep. There are two variants: acute or chronic insomnia.

Acute insomnia

Acute insomnia is normal and often lasts several days or weeks. This is also known as adaptive insomnia because it is generally caused by sudden changes in your life and things such as high workload, tense family relationships, or a traumatic experience.

Chronic insomnia

This is less common and lasts a month or more. This variant is often caused by underlying problems such as medical conditions, medication use, or the transition.

When do I have insomnia?

You will be diagnosed with ‘insomnia’ if your sleeping problems have a negative effect on your daily functioning. Usually, you have one or more of the following three problems with insomnia:

  • You only fall asleep after you have been awake for more than an hour.
  • You wake up frequently at night and have trouble falling asleep again.
  • You wake up very early in the morning and then no longer fall asleep.

Keeping a sleep diary can help to identify your sleep problems. In it, you keep track of, for example, what time you go to bed, what time you wake up, and whether you lie awake at night. You can also systematically write down how rested you feel when you get up in the morning and whether there are any important events that affect your stress level during the day. Do you suspect you have insomnia? Then it is advisable to consult your doctor.

What are the causes of insomnia?

Why can’t you sleep? There are various reasons for this. We list the common ones for you.

Psychological problems

Psychological problems and insomnia can interact. For example, depression can make you sleep poorly, but insomnia can also promote depression.

Stress

In response to stress, your body produces stress hormones to bring your mind and body to a state of utmost preparedness. The stress response is intended to be short-lived. After that, your body needs to recover. During prolonged periods of stress, the body cannot recover, and you may feel rushed and develop sleep problems.

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Medical conditions that cause pain

A medical condition that causes neurological problems or a lot of pain can keep you awake at night. For example, sleep disorders are more common in people with Parkinson’s disease, multiple system atrophy, or, for example, osteoarthritis.

Medicines

Medications such as antidepressants, beta-blockers, water tablets, and corticosteroids can contribute to sleep problems. Over-the-counter products, such as cough medicines or caffeine painkillers, can also make you sleep poorly. Always read the package leaflet carefully before use or consult your doctor for advice.

Sleep apnea

Do you wake up regularly at night, have a headache in the morning, and don’t feel rested? Then it is important to check whether you have sleep apnea: then you stop breathing briefly while sleeping. Read more about sleep apnea here.

Restless Legs Syndrome

The Restless Legs Syndrome (RLS), or ‘restless leg syndrome,’ means that you feel the unpleasant urge to move your legs when you are resting. These symptoms get worse in the evenings, which can cause you to have sleepless nights.

Transition

During the transition, you can sleep worse because your hormone balance is temporarily upset. Hot flashes and night sweats can also keep you awake.

Disrupted sleep rhythm

If your natural sleep-wake rhythm is disrupted, you may experience sleep problems. This is the case, for example, with jet lag. Your natural rhythm can also get upset if your working hours do not match your biological clock.

Higher age

As your brain ages, the areas that regulate sleep slowly deteriorate, and less and less of the sleep hormone melatonin is produced. This can cause your sleep to become fragmented. The amount of REM sleep can also decrease, while it is essential to maintain your memory and cognitive abilities.

What does insomnia do to your body?

After a single short night, those triple espressos will drag you through. But long-term insomnia can have a significant impact on your body. If you consistently sleep less than your body needs, the following complaints can arise:

  • Fatigue
  • Confusion
  • Decreased reaction speed and an increased risk of road accidents
  • Negative mood and irritability
  • Impaired motor functions
  • Disturbed metabolism
  • Increased inflammatory levels in the blood
  • A weakened immune system
  • Impaired cognitive skills
  • The decline in short-term memory and working memory
  • Involuntary ‘microsleep’, during which you fall asleep between one and ten seconds

In the long run, sleep deprivation can also increase your risk of:

  • Cognitive disorders
  • Mood disorders such as depression
  • Insulin resistance and diabetes
  • Heart and vascular disease
  • Arthritis
  • Accelerated skin aging
  • Being overweight

So it is not wise to do nothing if you sleep badly. Consult your doctor if you think that you consistently sleep too little. He can investigate why you can no longer sleep and what you can do best.

Insomnia tips

Do you want to know what you can do against insomnia? We have a few tips for you:

  • Do not drink coffee, black tea, or other caffeinated drinks before bed.
  • Do not drink alcohol. This may make you fall asleep faster, but alcohol can make you sleep lighter, and after you wake up at night, it can be more difficult to fall asleep again.
  • Watch what you eat before bed. Eating carbohydrates and sugars just before bed can make it difficult to get to sleep.
  • Avoid displays. Displays provide blue light, which the body associates with daylight. This can make falling asleep more difficult.
  • Provide the right temperature in your bedroom. A room that is too warm can cause restless sleep.
  • Keep a steady rhythm: go to bed at a fixed time and get up at a fixed time, including weekends.
  • Stop two hours before bedtime with activities that are mentally or physically demanding, such as studying, gaming, or exercising.
  • Try to do relaxing activities that will calm you and your body down. Think, for example of meditating, walking, or listening to quiet music.
  • Sleep separately from your partner. Maybe his or her presence plays a role in your sleep problems.