Chronic insomnia is not just a nighttime thing. The sleep loss from worry and anxiety about sleep usually leads to problems functioning during the day. We are more sedentary, we avoid social situations, we may consume high amounts of caffeine, etc. Studies have shown that we consume higher calorie foods without even realizing it. Essentially, we cope.
Coping is a natural human response. We have to work, take care of dependents, and get through our day. But with sleep loss, our normal daily tasks can feel daunting, so we cope. Unfortunately, the common coping strategies for sleep loss tend to perpetuate the very sleep loss we are trying to avoid. Less active days, both physically and socially, can lead to more stress and tension at night. It can increase chances of depression and obesity, two conditions that are highly associated with poor sleep. Depressed people often experience early morning awakenings, while obesity dramatically increases chances of snoring and sleep apnea, a serious health problem. Extra morning caffeine and sugar can spike cortisol and insulin levels, leading to an afternoon energy crash. Caffeine in the late afternoon can make getting to sleep more difficult because caffeine is a long acting stimulant.
Following a day of coping strategies for sleep loss, the approaching evening can bring on two of the most popular coping strategies: alcohol and sleeping pills. While alcohol is a strong CNS depressant and can make us relaxed and even sleepy, it has well-documented adverse effects on our sleep and our health in general. In regards to sleep, alcohol is metabolized while we sleep, essentially turning into a sugar. Sugar is a stimulant, the last thing your sleeping brain needs in the middle of the night. It is also a diuretic, and it’s sedating effects worsen snoring and sleep apnea.
Sleeping pills come in many forms, with different half lives. Some are designed for putting you to sleep, some for keeping you asleep. All FDA-approved sleeping medications are safe when used as directed. Sleeping pills, however, are often not used as directed. They are designed to be used for short periods of time, such as during a time of acute stress. They should not be used with alcohol, or with sedating medications. And most are not designed to be taken in the middle of the night as this can lead to morning grogginess. In the elderly, sleeping medications can lead to increased risk of falling during the night and in the morning because our metabolism rate slows as we age.
So is there a way to effectively cope with sleep loss, whether from insomnia or just plain old “didn’t get enough sleep “?
Yes. Sleep training with the SleepQ app in the late afternoon or early evening for an hour or two following any rough night of sleep can restore confidence in your ability to get to sleep and/or back to sleep, which in turn reduces worry about sleep. SleepQ eliminates the need for all those coping strategies that feed our insomnia. It is non-drug, convenient and affordable…just a quick visit to the App Store and you can put that insomnia to rest!