Insomnia and Sleep Disorders

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What is Insomnia?

Insomnia is a common sleep disorder characterized by symptoms involving sleep such as trouble falling asleep, trouble staying asleep, or trouble getting a good quality sleep even if you're sleeping for the recommended amount of time. It is estimated that up to 50% of the adult population are affected every year by sleep disturbances.

In severe cases, insomnia can make it difficult to function during the day. If this occurs, it is important to identify the cause of a sleep disorder and how it can be treated. If a sleep disorder is suspected, there may be a referral to a sleep clinic for special testing, and a prescription of medication.

What Is a Healthy Sleep Pattern?

Sleep is a complex process that affects our entire body, and needs differ from person to person. The average person sleeps about 7 hours a night around the age of 40, and about 6.5 hours a night between the ages of 55 and 60. A healthy 80 year-old will usually sleep about 6 hours a night. When asleep, the human body cycles through a series of sleep stages, from light sleep (stages 1 and 2) to deep sleep (stage 3) and then rapid eye movement (REM) sleep. Successfully cycling through all these sleep stages multiple times each night allows for optimal restoration of both the mind and body. A healthy sleep consists of falling asleep within 30 minutes, having sleep that is relatively uninterrupted, sleeping the number of hours recommended (different for everyone), and maintaining a consistent sleep schedule corresponding to natural circadian rhythms. 

Why Do You Need sleep?

Sleep is a necessity that benefits physical, mental, and emotional health. Some major benefits of sleep include:

Muscle health: While sleeping, the brain triggers a rush of hormones that promote tissue growth to repairs the blood vessels and muscles and heals wounds. 

Cardiovascular health: Sleep-deprived individuals are at greater risk of developing high cholesterol, which in turn can trigger a heart attack or a stroke. 

Brain health: The brain needs time during sleep to deploy its inbuilt cleaning system, the glymphatic system. The glymphatic system is a waste clearance pathway in the brain dedicated to drain away soluble waste proteins and metabolic products.

Liver health: Experts believe that any disruptions to the circadian clock can influence on liver functions. Sleep deprivation alters liver metabolism and fat content, therefore affecting the liver's ability to produce glucose and process insulin. This can increase the risk of metabolic diseases such as hepatic steatosis (fatty liver) and type 2 diabetes.

Energy levels: Sleep specialists believe that deep sleep is the main time when your body renews and repairs itself. This stage of sleep appears to be the one that plays the greatest role in energy, enhancing your ability to make ATP, the body's energy molecule.

Weight maintenance: Sleep deprivation disrupts the balance between hormones responsible for suppressing and stimulating your appetite called leptin and ghrelin. Often people who don’t sleep well will have more cravings and eat more calories due to the hormone disruptions.

Hormone levels: Sleep helps to regulate many hormones specifically melatonin (which helps promote sleep), growth hormone (supports bone and muscle development as well as metabolism), cortisol (part of the body’s stress response system) and leptin and ghrelin (helps with controlling appetite).

What Are the Symptoms of Insomnia?

Insomnia symptoms may include:

  • Difficulty falling asleep at night
  • Waking up during the night
  • Waking up too early
  • Not feeling well-rested after a night's sleep
  • Daytime tiredness or sleepiness
  • Irritability
  • Depression or anxiety
  • Difficulty paying attention, focusing on tasks, or remembering things
  • Increased errors or accidents
  • Ongoing worries about sleep

What are the Types of insomnia?

  • Acute insomnia lasts from one night to a few weeks. 
  • Chronic insomnia consists of at least three nights a week with disturbed sleep lasting for three months or longer. 
  • Primary insomnia means your sleep disorder isn’t linked to any other health condition or problem.
  • Secondary insomnia is connected to another health condition (like asthma, depression, arthritis, cancer, or heartburn); pain (a pain condition making it difficult to sleep); medication (medication that disrupts sleep); or substance use (like alcohol or drugs).

What Are the Causes of insomnia?

Insomnia can be complicated, especially considering all the factors to mental and physical health that can play a role. The following are known causes of insomnia:

  • Stress 
  • Things around you like noise, light, or temperature
  • Irregular sleep schedule
  • Poor sleeping habits
  • Changes to your sleep schedule, like jet lag or a new shift at work
  • Genetics
  • Mental health
  • Medications for colds, allergies, depression, high blood pressure, asthma
  • Pain or discomfort at night
  • Caffeine, tobacco, or substance use (drugs and alcohol)
  • Hyperthyroidism
  • Hormone imbalances
  • Other sleep disorders, like sleep apnea or restless legs syndrome (RLS)
  • Pregnancy
  • Alzheimer's disease, and other types of dementia
  • ADHD

How Is Insomnia Treated?

Conventional medicine treats insomnia using medication. If insomnia continues or seems more complicated, a patient may be sent to a sleep clinic. There are lifestyle changes that can help, such as quiet time without screens before bed, and making sure the bedroom is dark. Ananta Health works with the body to reduce physical and emotional stress, so that the root cause of the insomnia can be addressed. This process starts by assessing the patients’ history and testing with the BioScan SRT. It is important to screen for physical causes or contributors to stress such as candida, parasitesLyme disease, post-viral syndromefood sensitivities and allergies or poor diet, and environmental sensitivities need to be determined. Treatment will often include diet recommendations, lifestyle changes and supplements and herbs according to each patient’s needs. 

Can Acupuncture Help Treat Insomnia and Sleep Disorders?

Acupuncture has a great effect on helping sleep disorders and insomnia. It can regulate cortisol in the body thereby encouraging a normal sleep cycle. Acupuncture can also help relieve pain, regulate hormones, and calm anxiety and depression.