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The Dangers of Insomnia

The dangers of too little sleep are numerous and all are well documented. The causes are equally many with more and more issues being added to the list day by day. Most are due to our modern 24/7 lifestyle and the way we hunger for more and more technology. Our mobile phones, tablets, PC's televisions, in fact everything that we own that requires electricity to make it work creates Electrical Magnetic Fields (EMF's) which are harmful and disruptive to our brain functions, creating free radicals and oxidisation within our bodies that require us to manufacture anti-oxidants to combat this relentless onslaught.

Our own bodies struggle to keep up with this demand for anti-oxidants and so we need to use effective supplements to assist us.

​Could EMF's be affecting your sleep?​

Janey Lee Grace talks to biologist Roger Coghill on the natural remedies for insomnia. So it is clear that we have to minimise the risks of EMF's as much as possible and make sure that we change our lifestyle to help guard us from the menacing daily interferences to our sleep.

Before I list just a sample of the many side effects and dangers we subject ourselves to if we don't get enough sleep, I think it might be useful to answer the question of why we need sleep. Sleep is is the
state our body enters (or tries to) when we need to rejuvenate, re-energise and repair the damage done to almost every cell that has been put under duress during the waking hours. Rest alone will try to accomplish re-energisation and it is fair to say that our bodies are capable of carrying out "running repairs" to damage and injury whilst we are on the move, but the serious repair and rejuvenation work is done when we are sleeping. More importantly, this work is done when we are in a particular phase of sleep - Therapeutic sleep.

All of us may suffer varying stages of insomnia from time to time and most of us feel really tired and exhausted but just can't switch off. What ever the cause of our insomnia, if we let it go unchecked, then we face another culprit of our sleep deprivation - Habit. 

If broken or disturbed sleep goes on for to long, it becomes habitual and even harder to break the cycle. Later in this article I will discuss the methods of preparing for good sleep and how we need to find a way of breaking the insomnia habit.

Common dangers

There are serious health risks associated with chronic insomnia. According to the NHS, insomnia can increase your risk for mental health problems as well as overall health concerns.

1. Increased risk for medical conditions.
These include: 

  • stroke 
  • asthma attacks 
  • seizures 
  • weak immune system 
  • sensitivity to pain 
  • inflammation 
  • obesity 
  • diabetes 
  • mellitus 
  • high blood pressure 
  • heart disease

2. Increased risk for mental health disorders 
These include: 

  • depression 
  • anxiety 
  • confusion and frustration

3. Increased risk for accidents.
Insomnia can affect your:

  • performance at work or school 
  • sex drive 
  • memory 
  • judgement 

The immediate concern is daytime sleepiness. A lack of energy can cause feelings of anxiety, depression, or irritation. Not only can it affect your performance at work or school, but too little sleep may also increase your risk for car accidents.

4. Shortened life expectancy
Having insomnia can shorten your life expectancy. An analysis of 16 studies that covered over 1 million participants and 112,566 deaths looked at the correlation between sleep duration and mortality. They found that sleeping less increased risk for death by 12 percent, compared to those who slept seven to eight hours per night. A more recent study looked at the effects of persistent insomnia and mortality over 38 years. They found that those with persistent insomnia had a 97 percent increased risk of death.

What causes insomnia?

There is primary insomnia, which has no underlying cause, and secondary insomnia, which is attributable to an underlying cause. Chronic insomnia usually has a cause, such as:

  • stress 
  • jet lag 
  • poor sleep habits
  • eating too late in the evening 
  • not sleeping on a regular schedule, due to work or travel 
Medical causes for insomnia include:
  • mental health disorders 
  • medications, such as antidepressants or pain medications 
  • conditions such as cancer, heart disease, and asthma 
  • chronic pain 
  • restless leg syndrome 
  • obstructive sleep apnea

What lifestyle factors increase your risk for insomnia?

There are many reasons you may have trouble sleeping. Many of them are linked to your daily habits, lifestyle, and personal circumstances. These include:an irregular sleep schedule sleeping during the day a job that involves working at night lack of exercise using electronic devices like laptops and cell phones in bed having a sleep environment with too much noise or light a recent death of a loved one a recent job loss various other sources of stress excitement about an upcoming event recent travel between different time zones (jet lag) Finally, the use of certain substances seems to have a negative effect on sleep. These include: caffeine, nicotine, alcohol, drugs, cold medicines, diet pills, certain types of prescription medications.

Managing insomnia; What changes can you make?

Thereare many strategies for treating insomnia. Before you talk to your doctor about medications, try making lifestyle changes. Medications provide effective short-term results, but long-term use is associated with mortality.

Lifestyle changesTips
  • Establish a regular sleep schedule.
  • Sleep and wake up at the same time. 
  • Relax and wind down before going to bed, like by reading a book or meditating. 
  • Create a comfortable sleep environment. 
  • Avoid drinking alcohol or caffeine in the evening hours. 
  • Be finished with any heavy meals or strenuous physical activity at least two hours before your bedtime.
  • Get out of bed if you are having trouble falling asleep. 
  • Do something else until you actually feel sleepy.
  • Avoid taking naps in the later hours of the afternoon and evening.
Melatonin supplements

Thisover-the-counter hormone can help regulate sleep by telling your body that it's time for bed. Higher melatonin levels make you feel sleepier, but too much can disrupt your sleep cycle and cause headaches, nausea, and irritability. Adults can take between 1 and 5 milligrams, an hour before bed. Talk to your doctor about dosage before taking melatonin, especially for children.

You can also try a combination of the therapies listed above. ForeverSun Herbal Health recommends using cognitive behavioural therapy (CBT) to help develop good sleep habits.

Sleep medication

Talk to your doctor about sleep medications if lifestyle changes aren't working. Your doctor will look for underlying causes and may prescribe sleep medication. They'll also tell you how long you should take it. It's not recommended to take sleeping pills on a long-term basis. 

When should you see a doctor?

Although it's common to have insomnia from time to time, you should schedule an appointment with your doctor if the lack of sleep is negatively affecting your life. As part of the diagnostic process, your doctor will likely perform a physical exam and ask you about your symptoms. They will also want to know about any medications you take and your overall medical history. This is to see if there's an underlying cause for your insomnia. If there is, your doctor will treat that condition first.

What is good sleep?

Two phases of sleep have been described. With normal or good sleep, we move from one phase to the other and back again in cycles lasting between 90 and 120 minutes. These phases are known as:

a. Rapid Eye Movement (REM) sleep
During this phase, the brain is very active and our eyes move quickly from side to side (hence the name). Dreams occur during REM sleep and when sleeping well, we wake in the morning coming out of REM sleep which is why we remember our last dream of the night

b. Non-REM sleep.
Duringthis phase of sleep, our brain is quieter, but our bodies move around the bed more. This is when we experience 'deep sleep'. Interestingly, sleep-walking takes place during non-REM sleep.
With good sleep we will have short periods lasting for a minute or so during which we are awake. These episodes are normal and take place several times a night. They are part of the way our sleep moves through the REM and non-REM phases.

How much sleep do we need?
It is said that the average person needs seven-and-a-half hours sleep a night. However, averages
conceal large differences and in truth, the amount of sleep each person requires varies considerably.Age and personality play a fundamental part. Whilst most of us feel we need 7 to 8 hours sleep a night, there are some well-known examples of people who can get by with only 4 hours.

Generally, we need less sleep the older we get. Newborn babies seem to sleep for most of the day and a young child may require about 10 hours. Thereafter, some form of regression appears to take place, as teenagers seem to spend a great deal of time sleeping and experience great difficulty getting out of bed in the morning. However, this changes and as we pass into the 5th decade of our lives, we seem to require less and less sleep.In addition to all this, our normal sleeping pattern changes through our adult years. For instance, an older person will sleep very deeply for the first 3 to 4 hours but wake more easily during the second half of the night.

Bad sleep
Research tells us that over 25% of people in the UK feel that they sleep badly and look for more sleep or better quality sleep. When you sleep badly, the normal cycles of REM and non-REM sleep are disrupted – sleep is shallower, lighter and not as restful. The causes of bad sleep can be divided into two main categories – sleep problems and sleep disorders.

Sleap facts

We spend one third of our life sleeping In an average lifetime, we will spend around 6 years of it dreaming – more than 2,000 days 25% of people in the UK feel that they can't sleep well or are said to suffer from disturbed sleep Napoleon, Florence Nightingale and Margaret Thatcher are all said to have needed only four hours sleep a night The current world record for the longest period without sleep is 11 days set by Randy Gardner in 1965.

Everybody dreams. EVERYBODY! Simply because you do not remember a dream does not mean that you do not dream. We dream an average of one to two hours every night – and often have 4 to 7 dreams per night. Five minutes after the end of a dream, half the content is forgotten. After ten minutes, 90% is lost Studies have shown that our brain waves are more active when we are dreaming than when we are awake.Toddlers do not dream about themselves. They do not appear in their own dreams until the age of 3 or 4 years.
The amount of sleep an animal needs varies extremely widely – from 18 hours in a python to 3.3 hours for the African elephant and 1.9 hours for the giraffe. Cats are said to sleep for 12.1 hours on average, but this figure is hotly disputed by a number of cat lovers.



 

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