Today it seems as if everybody wants a quick fix. People in the modern world don’t like having to slow down for bumps in the road, whatever form they take, and they tend to quickly find workarounds when one is needed. There generally isn’t anything wrong with a quick fix that takes care of an immediate need so long as one doesn’t expect the temporary solution to be permanently effective. However, drugs should never be sought as a quick fix, because drugs are complex chemicals that interact with the human body to change perception and behavior.
What Insomnia Feels Like
The experience of insomnia is, to a large degree, universal. Everyone has been there, as tired as they can be and more than ready to lie down and sleep, until their head touches the pillow. First one thought and then another cross your mind: things to remember, things to forget, projects to get supplies for, birthdays you don’t want to forget. You have important things to do the next day, you have critical projects to complete, and you need the energizing effect of a good night’s rest. Alas! How do you turn your brain off so you can sleep? Some people wrestle with sleep right up to the moment that their alarm starts to chime.
The Causes of Insomnia
There are as many reasons why people have trouble falling and staying asleep at night as there are people tossing and turning. People today have the same 24 hours each day as their ancestors did, but they have so many more things to worry about in the modern age of information. Today there are more demands upon people’s attention than a few generations ago, more distractions, and more interruptions. The average attention span of the average American today is much shorter than it was in generations past. Daytime stress leads to nighttime insomnia. People fall into imagining the catastrophes that could happen, and at night they think only of what might go wrong. No wonder they can’t sleep. Every person has particular thoughts that play out on sleepless nights against the backdrop of their mind.
Insomnia is Chronic
By definition, insomnia is a chronic malady, which means that it is one that never really goes away, but instead, one that hangs on and on. This type of insomnia leads to a level of sleep deprivation that sucks all the joy out of life. It is more difficult to be positive and to enjoy what life brings when one is chronically sleepy. It is difficult to sparkle when you feel dull, difficult to smile when all you want to do is go someplace quiet and take a nap. People with insomnia often notice that they are groggy and unfocused for most of the daylight hours and then become more awake once the sun goes down. Some refer to this as having their days and nights mixed up. The longer someone has insomnia, the worse their sleep deprivation becomes.
Insomnia is Individual
Reports from individuals who have experienced sleep deprivation indicate that the cumulative deprivation feels predictably the same from person to person depending how long they’ve been suffering from a lack of adequate sleep. People’s experiences with insomnia tend to vary in one of two ways. The first group of people are the ones who have trouble falling asleep. This group includes those who do initially fall asleep only to awaken after fifteen or twenty minutes, wide awake. Such a person will no doubt find themselves feeling refreshed from their nap, but they will be sleep deprived on the morrow if they are unsuccessful in falling back asleep.
Sleep Deprivation is Cumulative
The second group of individuals reports that they are unable to stay asleep all night long no matter how hard they try. These individuals may sleep for several hours, but once they awaken, they are awake for the day no matter how early it might be. A person feels droopy and gritty-eyed after the loss of one night’s sleep. The cumulative effects of many nights of lost sleep have the potential to be damaging to one’s health in more ways than one.
Sleep Deprivation Causes People to Mistakes
Do you know what the Exxon Valdez accident, the Chernobyl nuclear reactor meltdown, and the Challenger explosion all have in common? Each one of these devastating accidents was directly attributable to an individual suffering from sleep deprivation. The lack of sufficient sleep impairs a person’s critical thinking skills, their recall, and the speed of their responses.
Lack of Sleep Inhibits Creativity
One of the worst side-effects of chronic sleep deprivation is the inhibitory effect it has on one’s creativity. Creativity is the true name of a person’s problem solving capacity. If a person loses enough sleep he literally becomes less able to creatively solve problems as they arise. Is it any surprise that every year there are more than 100,000 automobile accidents that are directly attributed to motorists who fell asleep while driving.
Sleep Loss Affects Your Health
It’s a simple fact that people who fail to get enough natural sleep on a regular basis are more apt to have health problems than are individuals who regularly sleep well at night. When people are sleep deprived they are more likely to have cardiovascular issues, such as hypertension, heart disease, and heart attacks. They are also more vulnerable to stroke, diabetes, and dementia
Lack of Sleep Affects How You Feel on Multiple Levels
It comes as no surprise to learn that individuals who are perpetually sleep deprived are more prone to mental disorders such as depression and anxiety. The tired mind is more willing to seize and worry about negative thoughts than one that is well rested. In addition to these psychological disorders, people lacking sleep often experience all-over body inflammation. This, in turn, is positively correlated with the incidence of certain cancers.
The Importance of Sleep
A great deal of activity takes place while you are sleeping. Think of it as plugging yourself in for maintenance and a charge. It is while you are asleep that your body’s cells regenerate themselves. It is while you are asleep that your pituitary gland secretes its hormones, when your memories of the day and all you have recently learned are cemented. It is the time set aside for your bones and muscles and bodily systems to rest and repair themselves. When a person is sensitive to the needs of their physical body they develop a sense of their need for sleep, and know when they need to get more of it. Women, in particular, have noted that they seem to age more rapidly when they fail to get the sleep they need.
Lack of Sleep is Considered a Form of Torture in War
Failure to get enough sleep is no trivial matter, and some would go so far as to say that, taken to extremes, it is a matter of life or death. In fact, sleep is so vital to a person’s wellbeing that one of the ways that wartime enemy combatants torture their victims is by forcing them to stay awake past what they are able to endure. If deprived of sleep long enough, all human beings would eventually go mad. Life cannot sustain itself without sleep. Without sleep, everything suffers: one’s physical health, emotional health, and mental health. The perceptions one holds of reality are altered and one’s decision making faculty cannot be trusted beyond a certain point.
Don’t Reach for the Pill
Everyone has the occasional sleepless night. That isn’t insomnia, it is just something everyone accepts as part of life. However, as busy as most people are these days with their families, careers, and commitments, they tend to feel that they cannot afford what they feel is the high cost of chronic sleeplessness. Therefore, they do what any good 21st century American is apt to do: they reach for a sleeping pill when their thoughts race at night. If reaching for medication were chosen as the last resort instead of the first, most people would find that they are perfectly capable of solving their problems sleeping all by themselves.
Drugs Have Unanticipated and Unwanted Side Effects
However, in attempting to solve one’s sleeping disorder with medication the sleepless one runs the risk of getting mired in problems worse than insomnia. What could be worse than insomnia? Problems such as addiction, morning grogginess, memory loss, and time lost from work. Then there are the well-known but strange behaviors that occur when taking at least one popular prescription sleeping aid, such as running around naked in public, waking up in the beds of strangers, or with tattoos you don’t recall getting, and a host of other outlandish and uncharacteristic behavior happily performed under the uninhibiting influence of prescription sleep aids.
Medicated Sleep has Fewer REM Cycles
Rapid Eye Movement (REM) sleep is one of the most important parts of the complete five stage sleep cycle. It is during this time that people are believed to dream while their brains “tidy up” the memories and activities of the day before. Sleep studies show that people who take sleeping pills to knock themselves out at night do not experience the same quality of sleep as people with healthy sleep patterns. They have fewer periods of REM sleep. In artificial sleep they are unconscious, but without the dreams and organizational activity that typically takes place during REM sleep, its contribution to one’s well-being is limited.
Deal with Your Stress and the Insomnia Might Just Go Away
Drugs are not the answer when you are trying to cope with the wakefulness of stress induced insomnia. There are many, many options to explore, any number of which are apt to set you on a straight sleeping path without ever having to resort to the use of drugs. For example, you can establish a lifestyle that supports healthy sleep habits. Identify the issues that keep you up at night and start taking steps to fix them. Don’t you like your job? Start looking for a new one. Can’t pay your bills? Get a second job delivering pizzas. There is always a solution to be found if one is willing to look for it.
Use Sleeplessness as a Life Management Tool
Once you fix the underlying stress that is the root cause of your insomnia, the chances are that you’ll find yourself sleeping better almost at once. In fact, by paying close attention to what keeps you awake at night you are able to determine what needs to change in your life. By paying close attention and by taking steps to apply an appropriate remedy when a problem is identified, it becomes possible to live a healthy and happy life.
Tips to Help You Sleep at Night
Make sure that both your bed and your bedroom are comfortable. Sleep alone, if that is what is required to sleep well. Reserve your bedroom for sleeping, sex, and dressing. Lower the temperature when you go to bed at night as most people find they sleep better in a cool room. Go to bed at the same time each night and get up at the same time every morning. Avoid caffeine in the later part of the day if not altogether. There are a number of caffeine-free herbal teas that can be drunk before bedtime to promote sleepiness without the threat of morning grogginess.
Taking It One Step Further
Be kind to yourself, and give yourself an evening routine that allows you to wind down in a predictable manner. Do not watch television in your bedroom, or use your cell phone or tablet. The blue light from these devices is known to stimulate people to wakefulness in the evening, and it is difficult for one’s brain to move toward sleep mode when they’re busy following a plot that includes murder and mayhem. Those are not restful images to put into your mind to prepare it for a peaceful night’s rest.
Drugs never solved a person’s problems, they aren’t capable of that. All that drugs can do is to ease one’s symptoms, and they don’t always do that well … far too often, drugs bring their own complications into play. If in doubt, simply unmute any one of the dozens of pharmaceutical commercials that play to America’s living rooms each night and listen to the rapid-fire delivery of the side-effects at the end, one of which is death! Drugs are rarely the sought-after solution that people hoped they would be. In the final analysis, they are far more about creating profit for pharmaceutical companies than they are about improving the quality of any one person’s life.