Symptoms of Insomnia
A sign that someone is experiencing the initial symptoms of insomnia occurs when a sufferer feels excessively fatigued, especially after a night of sleep when one should feel rested. Although requirements for sleep vary—the elderly generally sleep less—individuals should always awake refreshed and ready to face the day.
Symptoms of insomnia result from the inability to initiate the sleep process (sleep-onset insomnia) or from the inability to stay asleep (delayed sleep-phase syndrome). Symptoms are brought on by the sleep-depriving effects of insomnia—rooted in anxiety, stress or the disorder itself. Long-term symptoms of insomnia can be severe and affect one’s ability to function at his or her normal level.
Another symptom of insomnia is the impairment of one’s attention and working memory. These symptoms can lead to poor work performance and lapses in memory—especially during lectures and note taking. Recalling material needed to perform work tasks becomes a struggle, yet another symptom of insomnia. This is very troubling to college students, especially first-years who generally need to become accustomed to the added stress and pressures of university life.
To counteract the symptoms of insomnia, the stimulant caffeine may be consumed, further hindering sleep. Insomnia also impairs one’s ability to function and motor skills. These symptoms are especially dangerous to those whose work requires extensive driving. It’s been estimated by the American Academy of Sleep Medicine that one in every five serious motor accidents are the result of driver fatigue. Further estimates conclude that 80,000 people fall asleep behind the wheel everyday; estimates range on the number of accidents caused by driver fatigue, from 100,000 to 250,000 incidents per year in America. Researchers in New Zealand and Australia have likened driving sleep deprived to drunk driving. They estimate that people who drive after being awake for 17 to 19 hours drive worse than those with a blood alcohol level of .05. Those who’ve been awake for 21 hours drive as poor as someone with a blood alcohol level of .08—the legal limit in the United States.
Weight fluctuations are another symptom of insomnia. Being deprived of sleep causes hormonal imbalance. Studies have shown that hormones involved in glucose metabolism and appetite are being disrupted. Overweight individuals are more likely to display the symptoms of insomnia through sleep apnea. This is attributable to the added discomfort obesity places on individuals trying to sleep, as well as the inability to breathe easily—a defining characteristic of sleep apnea.
Naturopathic Tip: To help yourself get a better night’s sleep, try cutting out caffeine-containing food and beverages after 2 pm, incorporating stress-reducing activities into your daily routine and limiting alcohol consumption as these factors can all contribute to disrupted sleep.