Tired of counting sheep? Exhausted from feeling exhausted? We take a close look at insomnia and depression.
‘Insomnia’ is a word that we use and hear often. How much do we truly understand about insomnia and the links to depression? What can we do to help?
Insomnia comes from the Latin ‘in’ (no) and ‘somnus’ (sleep).
Insomnia is a pattern of severely reduced sleep or no sleep. It is a subjective diagnosis based upon being dissatisfied with the amount of sleep that we are getting.
Insomnia is often described as not being able to fall asleep, despite being in bed, feeling tired and having the desire to sleep. It is also early wakening, broken sleep, feeling sluggish or not refreshed and difficulty returning to sleep after a period of wakening.
It is estimated that insomnia will affect up to 50% of people at some point in the lifespan. Whilst 30% detail occasional insomnia; some 10% describe chronic insomnia. Up to 85% of sufferers continue to rate their symptoms as disturbing in follow up visits over several years.
You are more likely to experience insomnia if:
- You are female
- If you are in the period known as ‘perimenopause’
- You are separated, divorced or widowed
- You describe your ethnicity as ‘white’
- You have been previously diagnosed with a psychiatric condition (40% of chronic insomnia sufferers have a co-occurring psychiatric condition)
Despite the common nature of insomnia; problems with sleep are still misunderstood, under recognized, have little effective treatment planning and are often ignored or under diagnosed.
And it’s not just at night.
Chronic insomnia can have profound effects during the day. Confusion, exhaustion, memory loss, trouble concentrating, difficulty finding the right words – they can all be troublesome in long term insomnia. In fact, sufferers are likely to see a negative impact at home, at work and in activities. Research shows that they are also more likely to visit the emergency room more frequently, visit primary physicians and been involved in serious or fatal accidents.
Depression, Substance Abuse and Zzzzzz’s
Depression, anxiety, substance abuse disorder, immune dysfunction and even completed suicide rates are significantly higher in those who report chronic insomnia.
Many sufferers report using substances to self medicate a poor sleep cycle. In addition to medication prescribed by their Doctor; sufferers are more likely to self increase the dosage or use alcohol or street drugs to aid or promote sleep. The cocktail of prescription medications used at an increased dose or in combination with other substances can be lethal. Many high profile and celebrity deaths by overdose have been reported in recent years. Indeed, the mixture of painkillers, sleeping medication and alcohol has taken some of our brightest stars.
Addiction can be a major contributing factor in insomnia. Sleep patterns are disrupted in active addiction. In periods of detox, it is once again sleep that can become difficult and again, in early recovery, the body takes a considerable amount of time to regain the ability to sleep soundly and peacefully. Perseverance and patience is required to allow the body to recover and rebuild the ability to drift off.
It’s a vicious circle. Worrying causes worry.
Many reports of insomnia are in relation to the worry or anxiety of not being able to sleep, or not falling asleep easily or in relation to the quality of sleep. The worry in turns leads to an anxiety response from the body, which tells the body to be alert. All of which contributes to the fear of nighttime which can be all too real for sufferers.
Does a pill cure all?
There are many instances when medication and medically managed treatment are not only desirable but essential. However, there are also many other very successful interventions to manage sleep and insomnia without reaching for sleeping aids.
It goes without saying, that you should always consult your General Practitioner for any sleep disturbance that has lasted longer than a month. It also goes without saying that any attempt to self medicate is dangerous and can be deadly. Medication that has not been prescribed for you, should not be used. Medication that has been prescribed for you should always be used in the prescribed manner. Using more or combining medications is exceptionally dangerous.
Benzodiazepines are a type of medication that are prescribed for the short term relief of sleep issues, anxiety and panic related to sleeping issues. They are a class of medication that is tightly controlled and prescribed for limited use. Benzodiazepines are addictive in a relatively short time frame. If you find yourself needing to use more to get the same effect (tolerance) or using more than you intended to or have difficulty stopping using benzodiazepines or have symptoms of withdrawing or felt overly sleepy or difficult to rouse, you should seek advice immediately.
The Wave’s Guide to first line treatment for sleeping well
Sleeping is essential to feeling well, without adequate sleep we really do have difficulty doing the things that we need to tackle on a daily basis.
Lavender Oil and lavender spray are nature’s sleep gift. We use L’occitane’s ‘Lavender Pillow Mist’ (available at l’occitane.com) on freshly laundered cotton sheets. Good sleep is well prepared and making sure that your bed is both fresh and inviting really does make a difference.
If you are taking care of someone suffering from illness, or depression; taking care of these small details is a wonderful gift. Sometimes, when we are in a low mood, routine daily tasks, like making the bed are extra tough and deplete energy levels. Except help when it is offered – wellness works best when it is found in relationships.
A cuddle is great! Showing someone that you care and offering the gift of touch (always appropriate and always with permission) is an absolute stress reliever.
Massage works wonders. Of course, if you are lucky enough to have a service to call at home or in a hotel, it can help you drift off into a restful place. At home, take time to connect with a loved one; touch and warmth of being massaged by a partner can help with relaxing through connection. Be certain that massage does not have to lead to sex. Be clear if that is not what you need or desire.
Turn off devices for at least one hour before bedtime. Using your bed as a home office, or even to catch up with social media can disrupt our natural sleep clues.
Close the curtains. Using blackout curtains and dark rooms can help our bodies produce the hormones that create a sleepy feeling.
Yoga and Meditation. There are many types of yoga. The Wave uses specific types of yoga for different types of day. Our in house team choose the most relaxing meditation and yoga rituals to promote a relaxing, calm environment that is great before bedtime.
Warm baths, warm drinks and no caffeine for 3 hours prior to sleeping. Check out your night time tea, even a small amount of caffeine can produce stimulant effects. Yogi brand teas are our favorite at The Wave, both ‘Relax’ and ‘Bedtime’ are tasty and work. Do take care that you are not combining herbal supplements with prescription or over the counter medications.
Don’t suffer in silence
If you are suffering from insomnia or depression, the key to getting well is to get help.
Depression related to sleep disorders or as a stand alone concern can be debilitating. We advise taking medical advice as soon as practical and working with your mental health team to find solutions that work for you.
You can reach a clinical specialist on +60 32 727 1799 to discuss insomnia, depression, substance use disorder or other mental health issues.