Insomnia is one of the most commonly heard medical complaints by doctors worldwide. Insomnia is a higher ranked sleep disorder that causes millions of people to despair night after night.
The number one cause of insomnia is sleep anxiety, while the second most common cause is hyperarousal. Both sleep anxiety and hyperarousal can lead to chronic insomnia if they are left untreated.
What Exactly is Sleep Anxiety?
At one point or another, millions of people have suffered from sleep anxiety. Put simply, sleep anxiety is when you find yourself so worried about not being able to sleep – that you can’t.
It is a self-fulfilling prophecy. You find yourself lying awake watching the clock, witnessing the minutes slowly dragging. All the hours of sleep you yearned for grind interminably by.
Unfortunately, the more you worry about not getting enough sleep the more anxious you become. Anxiety builds up in your system and you are less and less likely to fall asleep.
For many people this is just a short phase that passes quickly by. This is particularly true if your sleep anxiety is caused by something that is bothering you – perhaps a major presentation or exam you have to do, perhaps a test you have to take the next day, or maybe you have to wake up at a certain time and you are afraid you won't hear the alarm.
There are a huge variety of reasons why falling asleep can cause you anxiety. Unfortunately, for some people this condition can become chronic, and eventually it becomes necessary to visit a doctor for advice to overcome sleep anxiety.
Treatment For Chronic Sleep Anxiety
Usually the most common methods of treatment for those with chronic sleep anxiety will be medication or therapy, or perhaps a combination of both. The most commonly prescribed medications are sleep aids, but oftentimes these will not work because the root cause of insomnia is anxiety.
In these cases doctors can prescribe an anti-anxiety medication. Where the sleep anxiety has been caused by emotional factors or psychological reasons, a doctor may refer the patient for some sessions with a therapist who will be able to help the patient with the underlying causes of their insomnia.
Insomnia Caused by Hyperarousal
Hyperarousal can be defined as the state of being aroused, on guard, being overly alert and perceptive. The person who is suffering from hyperarousal is actually in the middle of the ‘fight-or-flight’ reflex that occurs when the brain sends out signals of impending danger or feels threatened. It puts the body on guard – ready to run away or stand and fight. Either way the heart beats faster, the eyes dilate, breathing is shallower and you become very alert.
This state of arousal means that a person cannot sleep. The brain will not allow someone to relax until the sense of danger has passed. While the brain perceives a real threat it will stand its ground.
Hyperarousal is one of many symptoms that people suffering Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder, Acute Stress Disorder, or high levels of stress may experience. The brain sends messages to the sympathetic and parasympathetic nervous system and causes the two to become unbalanced – this in turn causes of insomnia.
Treatment Options for Insomnia Caused by Hyperarousal
The insomnia caused by the real or perceived hyperarousal state found among those with stress related conditions will be treated in combination with other treatments for the stress disorder.
This can include medications for anxiety, a variety of sleep medications, and talking therapy. In cases of hyperarousal it is important to see a doctor who can medically assist with these anxious feelings in order to enable the person to be able to sleep.
Of course, sometimes medication will not be required. The brain is complex, and can decide on its own that the threat has passed. It will then release hormones and other mechanisms into the body and other parts of the brain which will rebalance the sympathetic and parasympathetic nervous system and cure the insomnia.
The Physical and Mental Effects of Insomnia
Unfortunately, if a person suffers from insomnia it can affect their day life as well as the quality of their night time sleep. Sleeplessness is a cause of poor work performance and irritability. If insomnia is left untreated then a lack of sleep can lead to medical and mental illnesses.
The body requires sleep in order to function correctly. Sleep allows the body and brain to focus itself on repairing, recouping, and building up immunity to infections and illnesses.
Without sleep, a person can become more susceptible to getting sick both physically and mentally. It is therefore vital that anyone who is experiencing chronic insomnia caused by either sleep anxiety or hyperarousal speaks to their doctor and takes proper medical advice.