Approximately one third of adults experience insomnia or the feeling of having had inadequate sleep at some point, but for some this is a frequent or ongoing issue that can affect both, health and the ability to function properly at work and around people. Different people experience different forms of insomnia, including difficulty sleeping; having a hard time falling asleep; an inability to sleep deeply and soundly; waking frequently throughout the night; falling asleep easily but then waking up again later in the night and having difficulty falling asleep again. Insomnia can also be short-term (temporary), recurring (meaning it comes and goes), or chronic (lasting a long time).
Insufficient sleep can cause headaches, fatigue, sluggishness, irritation and lack of concentration, which can result in reduced quality of life including losing one’s jobs, issues and fights in relationships or even increase the risk of car or motorcycle accidents. Insomnia can also lead to dull and tired skin, premature aging and lack of concentration and memory loss. Other health risks include changes in blood pressure, blood sugar, and weight; increase in fat levels; and decrease in immunity and sexual performance.
Insomnia is most frequently caused by emotions and stress; factors related to the living environment, such as light, sounds, and smells; illnesses, such as sleep apnea; or lifestyle issues, such as unnatural or irregular work shifts. If you experience bouts of insomnia lasting longer than one week, or if insomnia is affecting your work or daily life, it is recommended that you see a doctor for consultation, because if it is left untreated, insomnia can have an even greater impact on your health and quality of life.
If you have made behavior adjustments and are ensuring your intake of food and beverages is conducive to promoting better sleep but you find you are still experiencing insufficient sleep, it is recommended that you consult a doctor. This is because experiencing insufficient or interrupted sleep on a frequent basis may be caused by the imbalance of various hormones in the body, including sex hormones, growth hormone, adrenal hormones such as DHEA, or thyroid hormones. Additionally, inadequate levels of vitamins and minerals in the body can also affect your sleep. Testing for hormone, vitamin, and mineral imbalances can be carried out easily using blood tests and, most importantly, can help to make clear the cause or source of your sleep problems.
Medical consultations can also help to analyze and diagnose any underlying or latent abnormal symptoms or diseases you may not have been aware of. These include snoring, sleep apnea, and depression, any of which may be resulting in unsuccessful management of insomnia issues. If left undiagnosed or untreated, insomnia will result in speedy deterioration of the body, negatively impact your health, and potentially cause a variety of other diseases including high blood pressure, diabetes, heart disease, stroke, and immunodeficiency disorders. Insomnia also causes premature aging, something no one wants to experience.
Insomnia and sleep problems can be recurring and, as such, treatment must focus on the underlying cause, along with practicing behaviors that promote good sleep and adjusting both food and drink intake. Adhering to treatment and behavior adjustments for at least 4-6 weeks should result in patients finding it easier to fall asleep as well as to sleep more soundly and for longer periods of time.
M.D., Faculty of Medicine, College of Medicine, Rangsit University