Why Don’t We Sleep Enough?

14 July, 2011


dont sleep

why don't we sleep enough

“Not being able to sleep is terrible. You have the misery of having partied all night… without the satisfaction.”  Lynn Johnston

There are many reasons why we don’t get enough sleep.  In these days of global economic uncertainty, you may be at risk of losing your job, or already be out of work and concerned about how you are going to pay the bills.

You may be stressed for some other reason: perhaps a loved one is sick or a relationship is going wrong.  You may be living on a flight path or above a restaurant with the constant odor of chip fat in your nostrils.  You may have a new baby or a partner who snores.

Whatever the reason, it seems clear the pressures of modern life have caused a reduction in the average amount of sleep people take.

Our ancestors got up when the sun rose above the fields and went to sleep when it got dark.  Modern technology has created a 24 hour world in which electric light, television, all-night shopping, the internet, social networking, the pressure to be super-productive at work and to wind down at night over a few cocktails have all contributed to an environment in which sleep is harder to regulate.

Insomnia is nearly always a symptom of another problem.  It may be caused by something as simple as drinking too much coffee or alcohol, or something more complex such as a medical condition.

If you think that you may have a medical condition which prevents you from sleeping (sometimes known as secondary insomnia), you should consult your doctor.  Such issues may be persistent and difficult to overcome without medical treatment.  They may include include:

  1. Medical conditions such as indigestion, heartburn, acid reflux, asthma, allergies, Parkinson’s disease, cancer, rheumatoid arthritis, hyperthyroidism or chronic pain.  Menopause and hot flashes can also cause sleep problems
  2. Psychological problems such as chronic stress, clinical depression, bipolar disorder, anxiety, dementia and post traumatic stress disorder
  3. Medications which interfere with sleep, including pain relievers that contain caffeine, diuretics, medications for high blood pressure.
  4. Sleep disorders, including sleep apnea, restless leg syndrome, parasomnias (which include such disruptive sleep events as nightmares, sleepwalking and night terrors, violent behavior while sleeping and narcolepsy

For many, however, the underlying causes of insomnia are less complex and often self-evident.  This form of insomnia (known as primary insomnia) typically only lasts for a short while, often less than a month.

Primary insomnia is not a symptom or side effect of another medical condition and can often be easily treated by changing ones sleeping environment or lifestyle habits.

Causes probably include one of the following:

  1. An un-healthy or noisy sleep environment and poor sleep hygeine
  2. Lifestyle issues such as emotional upset, stress, shift work or travel-related jet lag

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