It’s Devin Burke, your coaching guide to a peaceful night’s rest. And today we’re going to talk specifically about what is insomnia, and ways to deal with it; so let’s get in and dive in.
First, let’s start with a definition. So repeated difficulty with sleep initiation, duration, consolidation, or quality that occurs despite adequate time and opportunity for sleep, and results in some form of daytime impairment. Now that is a mouthful. That’s the definition from the American Academy of Sleep Medicine. And I’ll just condense that down for you. Essentially, it’s an inadequate ability to generate sleep, despite allowing oneself the adequate opportunity to do so, that’s affecting your day essentially.
So really there’s a couple different types of insomnia. We’re going to be talking about the different types, but before we get into that, this is a huge issue. If you’re watching this and you think you have insomnia, you’re not alone. About one in nine people meet the clinical criteria for insomnia, which translates to more than 40 million in the US. And since the coronavirus, I would say that that number has skyrocketed. I don’t know the current statistics on that, but I know for a fact that more people than ever, because of the work that I do, are experiencing insomnia. A lot of times, and we’re going to talk about this in today’s video, what causes insomnia, but stress and anxiety is one of the biggest root causes for insomnia to happen. And because of coronavirus and everything that’s going on in the world, there’s been a lot more stress and anxiety that people are experiencing.
It’s twice as common actually in women than men, which is interesting. And I don’t know why that is. It could be related to pre, post and menopausal insomnia. It also could be just because women are a little bit more emotional, they feel stress a little bit more than men. At least they’re open to sharing that they’re experiencing stress so that could be a reason, but I’m not really quite sure why that is. Those are just two of my ideas.
And so there’s two different types of insomnia. The first type is what we call onset insomnia, and this is difficulty initiating sleep. Trouble falling asleep, that’s considered onset insomnia, trouble staying asleep is considered maintenance insomnia. Now in some cases you may have both, or you might have onset that becomes maintenance or you have maintenance that becomes onset. It’s very common to flip back and forth between these two different types.
And there’s really three subcategories of insomnia. There’s transient insomnia, acute insomnia, and chronic insomnia. First and foremost, transient insomnia. It lasts for a few days or weeks. It can be caused from a job interview or worrying about a presentation, or maybe you have an upcoming wedding. It can be caused from stress or from sickness or from jet lag. This is very common and most people at some point in their life experience transient insomnia.
Again, lasts for a couple of days, up to a week, which if now, if you don’t properly understand how to solve this or you get stuck in this sort of paradox, which we’ll talk about also in this training, this is when it can become acute or short-term insomnia, which can last for several weeks. And then it eventually can translate into what we call chronic insomnia, which is really defined as having trouble initiating sleep or staying asleep at least three times a week for longer than three months. And again, it’s affecting your daytime waking hours.
And so chronic insomnia is very common. And again, it’s one of those things that I think people don’t really even know that they have chronic insomnia. And it’s also one of those things that if you go on the internet and you start Googling chronic insomnia, you might find that there’s not a cure for chronic insomnia and that you’re going to be inflicted with this for the rest of your life, which isn’t true whatsoever.
Unfortunately, there’s not a lot of good solutions available for people that are experiencing chronic insomnia. Sleeping pills is probably the most common solution, and doctors prescribe sleeping pills. Sleeping pills. There’s a time and place. They’re meant to be short-term, but unfortunately what happens is people end up using them long-term, they become addictive, they’re dangerous, they’re habit-forming, and they can be a slippery slope. When you’re trying to understand how to really cure your chronic insomnia or overcome your chronic insomnia, it’s important to understand how you got there in the first place so let’s talk about the common culprits.
Again, like I mentioned, there’s the three different types of insomnia, transient, acute, and chronic. And transient can become acute, which then can become chronic. And what I found is the most common culprit is actually what we would call learned insomnia. This can start from a stressful event, like maybe a wedding or an illness or a loss of a job or a loss of a loved one, and there’s some heightened level of stress and anxiety. And then what happens is, as a result of that hyper arousal state in the body, the sympathetic nervous system responds, the fight-or-flight response, gets overactive and it causes you not to be able to sleep.
Now where people get stuck is what they do to try to fix or solve it. And this can happen to anyone really. You have a couple nights of bad sleep and then maybe that translates into a couple of weeks of bad sleep. And then you go to the doctor, you get a prescription for Ambien or some of these other drugs that are very popular. You try them, they work a little bit, they’re sedating you, they’re not giving you real sleep. And then what happens is, eventually they stop working or you rely on them, and then you have this psychological sort of attachment to you need something in order to sleep, which isn’t true. Sleep is a natural biological process that happens when we allow it to happen, just like our heartbeats and just like our lungs inhale and exhale, we don’t really need to think about it.
And so what can happen is, one can get caught in this paradox of trying to force or control it, and it becomes this, the harder you try to force or control or fix sleep, actually the worse it becomes because that becomes stressful and then anxiety and stress attaches itself to sleep. And unfortunately, sleep and stress are bidirectionally linked, maybe fortunately, or maybe unfortunately. Which means the less you sleep, the more stressed your body is. The more stressed your body is, the less you sleep. And on and on this can go until you get the proper support and tools to get out of that paradox.
But the most common culprit really is stress and anxiety and also poor sleep hygiene, so just bad habits. Doing things that can get in the way of good quality sleep, like inconsistent sleep schedules, like eating too close to bedtime, drinking a lot of caffeine too late in the day. Those types of things also can trigger it. What I found most of the cases, at least the people that I speak to at Sleep Science Academy and our coaches help and support, is people that are stressed, they’re highly stressed and their body’s in a stressed state.
Stress leads to, again, an overactive sympathetic nervous system. And we have these two systems in our body and the rest and digest and the fight-or-flight. And what can happen is people’s, I call it the stress switch, gets left in the On position and your body starts to dump cortisol, which then causes a racing mind, which then creates this hyperarousal state, this beating of your heart maybe, this feeling of anxiety. And that’s very common for people that are experiencing insomnia, any type of insomnia, to have these physical sensations of anxiety or dread. And so really one of the main things that we need to do to restore natural sleep is help the body get into a relaxed state, while we deal with all the mind stuff that can keep us stuck in the that paradox that I spoke about.
And to put it more clearly, the sleep paradox is one of these things that people find themselves in because they’re trying to figure it out. They’re trying to force or control or fix. And what that does is that keeps the body in this hyper aroused stressed state, which then leads to poor sleep, which then leads to more stressed body, and on and on it goes. So how do you get out of this paradox is you understand first and foremost the thoughts and beliefs that are creating the stress about sleep, about what will happen if you don’t fix it or solve it, about the things that it’s created in your life. There’s all these psychological attachments that happen as a result of not being able to sleep well for several months. And all that needs to be dealt with before you start to retrain the physiology to relax again, to then restore natural sleep.
And at Sleep Science Academy that’s literally what we do. So if this video made sense to you, if you feel like you have insomnia and you’re looking for support, please reach out to us.