College / Lifestyle / Wellness

Understanding Insomnia

This article is part of VocaLady Magazine’s ongoing series on mental health for Mental Health Awareness Month which takes place in May. 

Insomnia is very common, especially if you’re a college student. However, even though it is very common, many people don’t understand how it works or even what it is.

 

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So what exactly is insomnia?

The formal definition of insomnia is a problem with sleeping or staying asleep which is considered chronic if problems occur multiple times a week.

Many people have dealt with short intervals of insomnia or acute insomnia. This is normally tied to a person’s habits and lifestyle rather than inherent chemical imbalances in the brain. However, be careful because these habits can slowly lead to chronic insomnia.

Transitioning from acute to chronic insomnia is not difficult. It only takes three or more instances of sleepless nights.  As a  college student, I’ve pulled a lot of all-nighters, had poor eating habits, and constantly worried. All of these occurrences went unchecked for long periods of time. I made the mistake of not acknowledging my symptoms and now it takes planning and determination to sleep.  This is why it is very important to understand the root of your insomnia early on rather than wait for it to get worse.

What can cause insomnia?

-Body pain (lower/upper back pain, aches, sore muscles, arthritis)

-Allergies

-Asthma

-Anxiety

-Tension

-Feeling overwhelmed

-Nervousness

-Overstimulation

-Working at home

-Taking too many naps

-Sleeping in too often

-Unpredictable work hours

-Consuming heavy meals before bed

-Consuming stimulants like caffeine or nicotine before bed

-Chemical imbalance in the brain

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Symptoms of insomnia include :

-Trouble falling asleep

-Trouble staying asleep

-Inconsistent energy levels

-Problems concentrating

-Rise in irritability and/or aggression

The symptoms  may not seem so bad for a couple a days but lack of sleep can severely damage your body in the long run. They’re not joking when they say “beauty sleep”. However, looks aside, insomnia can also interfere with your everyday life and relationships. Bad sleep patterns mean fluctuating energy levels. No energy in the day means you’re not giving 100% of your true potential. Not being able to concentrate and engage in school can  cause you to fall behind and schoolwork piles up if you’re not careful. If you’re irritable at work, that’s just asking for trouble, especially if you work in customer service.

So how do you treat insomnia?

Technically, you can’t treat insomnia but you can make it better. If you think you have acute insomnia, the best way to solve it is by changing your habits and lifestyle. Out of the list of causes, pinpoint what you do most and work on breaking the habit. Don’t scroll through your phone right before bed, don’t eat heavy meals before sleeping, and try to get used to waking up at a fixed time rather than sleeping in for too long. If you think your insomnia is connected to anxiety, body pain, or any sort of mental illness, consult your physician or psychologist.

Insomnia is no joke and should be talked about seriously. Here are some links you can refer to get more information:

https://sleepfoundation.org/insomnia/content/what-causes-insomnia

http://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/insomnia/basics/definition/con-20024293

 

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