Often, when you can’t sleep or don’t feel you’re getting good quality sleep, then you’re largely told it’s your fault.
Okay, so that’s quite a harsh way of putting it – but think about it. You’re told that you have to ensure your room isn’t too cold. That you have to practice good sleep hygiene, going to bed and getting up at the same time on weekends as you would during the week. You’re told that you have to ensure there’s no light in your room, or…
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All of it amounts to the same thing: you’re causing your sleep problems, what you’re doing is responsible. It’s tough to take, especially if you have followed all of the above and you’re still spending your days yawning or your nights tossing and turning. Sleep is such a basic, fundamental thing – how have you managed to be bad at it? Why is none of the advice working?
You might be struggling for answers because… you’re not doing anything wrong. Your sleep hygiene might be impeccable. You might be doing all the things that you should be doing, in the right order, night after night – but you’re still not sleeping as you should be.
That’s not to discount the general insomnia advice you will see floating around. For a lot of people, the cause of their problem is nothing more than bad habits and problematic decisions. It could be drinking too much coffee during the day or just not having the right mattress to sleep on – simple problems with easy remedies. In these cases, the fix is relatively simple; all it takes is switching to non-caffeinated beverages or considering interesting advice from Mattress-Guides.net on next steps to take with your bedding arrangements. Sometimes, that is all it takes. On the other occasions (or if those steps haven’t worked), something else might be responsible: your health.
There are certain health conditions that can force insomnia to cross from a regular annoyance and into a chronic problem. Now, this isn’t going to be one of those infamous internet articles where you look up something benign and are immediately told your death is imminent. They’re no fun for anyone. All of the conditions below are lifestyle damaging, but they’re not going to kill you.
The problem with these conditions is that they tend to be hidden beneath the surface. If the general symptoms are “tired” or “prone to headaches” when you look up a condition, it’s impossible to see a difference between that and normal life. And, to be frank, chronic insomnia might indeed be idiopathic. However, if there is something nestling under the surface, then it’s worth knowing about – at the very least, so you can get a good night’s sleep for once…
(As with all medical advice online, if any of these conditions really chime for you, then see a doctor. This is meant as a guide, not a diagnostic tool – be smart, everyone.)
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There’s a tendency in the lay population to think that hormones are some mystical problem that besets women on a cyclical basis. It extends as far as well-traveled tennis players; the idea that hormones are a female problem. Well, nope. There’s a whole bunch of hormones for both genders and, to an extent, they control our lives. They range from estrogen through to testosterone and even adrenaline – in fact, there’s tens of them. Together, they make up the endocrine system.
The difficult thing about hormones is that they tend to work in balance with one another. It’s not so much about their individual level in and of themselves, but their levels relative to one another. If one of those levels is not playing ball with the rest of the group, then you can have a problem.
Some of the most common hormone disorders include:
- Underactive or overactive thyroid (hypothyroidism or hyperthyroidism).
- Cushing’s Syndrome – an overload of the stress hormone, cortisol.
All of the above will cause problems with sleep patterns.
Thankfully, these conditions are easily diagnosed and well-managed with treatment – so don’t be afraid to speak to your doctor about them.
Gastrointestinal Reflux Disease
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Often abbreviated to GERD, this ailment is surprisingly common in people of all ages. It’s caused by an overproduction of stomach acid, leading to a burning feeling in the chest and back as well as other gastrointestinal symptoms. One of the most recognized symptoms is heartburn, which can lead to an overreliance on lozenges – without any idea of how the problem is disrupting your sleep.
The way GERD affects sleep is through a mixture of discomfort and general restlessness due to incomplete digestion. One of the best ways to combat it is to raise your head position when you sleep; use a pillow beneath your upper back and let gravity help you keep the stomach acid where it belongs.
One note of caution: prescription-strength antacids called PPIs (protein pump inhibitors) are often prescribed for GERD. Evidence is suggesting these can actually make things worse, so do try simple methods like raising your head position before you resort to them.
There are a vast array of anxiety disorders, from Obsessive Compulsive Disorder through to PTSD. Or perhaps you have a mixture of them all in one, with the all-encompassing General Anxiety Disorder.
If you find yourself panicked or worrying on a daily basis, then it might be a sign of such an illness. Often, it’s just dismissed as ‘the way we are’ – so we think no more of it. But in reality, being highly stressed and anxious could be a sign of a physiological illness.
It’s worth running through the GAD-7; a standard, medically-sound test that is used as a diagnostic tool for anxiety disorders. This should give you some idea on whether your anxiety is within normal limits, or if it might be time to speak to your doctor about your treatment options.
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If you do find you have a concern, then the way it has been impacting your sleep could be total. When you are panicked or anxious, your adrenaline is firing on a constant “fight or flight” mode. This results in hypervigilance, which in turn makes it difficult to get to sleep at night. Even if you score low on the GAD-7, if any of the above sounds familiar, it’s always worth a brief chat with a doctor to see if there’s anything they can help with.