Are you one of the more than 10 million Filipinos who will have trouble sleeping tonight?
"Insomnia is defined as having dissatisfaction with sleep quantity or quality," Dr. Thad Hinunangan, a resident at the Philippine General Hospital, explains. "The sleep disturbance may cause clinically significant impairment in an individual’s important areas of functioning like work, school, or social interactions."
In a 2014 report from Health Grades Inc., it says that there are over 10,146,081 Filipino adults with insomnia. There is also a notable increase of people with the sleep disorder in the country as the growth of Business Process Outsourcing (BPO) companies and workplaces with graveyard shifts rise, according to the International Labor Organization (ILO).
Dr. Hinunangan lists down the signs that confirm it's insomnia that's keeping you up all night:
- It occurs at least three nights per week
- It is present for at least three months
- It occurs despite plenty of opportunity to sleep
If you've been experiencing these symptoms for a while now, the next step is to identify what's making you such a restless, sleepless mess.
Anxiety and depression can trigger insomnia. The National Sleep Foundation in the U.S. says that psychological struggles stirred up by stress—e.g. a bad breakup, death of a loved one, money problems, etc.—are big-time disruptors of sleep. These can be exacerbated if you already feel emotional discomforts such as tension, weariness, pressure, constant worrying.
The Foundation adds having insomnia can "worsen depression," changing one's mood and precipitating shifts in hormones that lead to sudden irritation and restlessness.
Moreover, anxiety leads to two kinds of insomnia—onset insomnia and maintenance insomnia. The former is simply having trouble fallling asleep, while the latter is characterized by an inability to return to sleep after waking up in the middle the night. If this happens more often, you start to dread the thought of sleeping, which can be panic-inducing and produce stressful thoughts and fear.
Children's book author Excel Dyquiangco relates how he experiences insomnia due to overthinking. "I love to review how my day went," he shares. "I'm the type who reviews how I should have responded or said in a particular situation."
He also experiences insomnia when he gets agitated due to either too much activity or relaxation. In order for him to get a proper night's rest, he needs to tread that middle-ground betweeen these two polar opposite states of mind.
Insomnia can occur not just because you have an underlying psychiatric or medical problem. The sleep disorder can also be caused by an unhealthy lifestyle and faulty sleep patterns.
Workers who have irregular working hours often have disrupted sleeping patterns. Even people who work at home and stay up until the wee hours suffer from these as well. Erratic shifts in schedules, plus having gadgets and the lights turned on, tend to make an individual more alert. Thus, the mind won't think it's time to sleep.
"I have my phone beside me, which I know is a bad habit," Dyquiangco says. "Knowing I can always access the internet makes me always want to check and see if I have new messages to read."
As much as you would like to sleep soundly in your comfortable bed and fresh sheets, you can't run from the fact that your surroundings can affect your sleep too. The weather—either too cold or too hot—affects how comfortable your sleep will be. The amount of noise and the light are also crucial.
Dr. Hinunangan underscores that medical conditions like asthma, hyperthyroidism, kidney disease, cancer, acid reflux, and allergies can also cause insomnia. Also, your medications (contraceptives, high blood pressure medications, slimming pills, and antidepressants) can be linked to having insomnia as these can interfere with your regular sleeping patterns.
But not all those who have unpredictable schedules or emotional issues experience insomnia attacks.
For Anthony de Leon, senior project manager and law student, his shifting schedules do not really change his sleeping pattern. As far as he knows, he can still have a decent sleep while balancing his school, changing work schedules, and personal life.
Regular walking or jogging to work and school, he says, helps him to relax.
"I think iyong pag-walk and pag-jog helps in mental strength. Feeling ko di naman gaanong ka-active ang lifestyle ko, medyo average lang naman ako." He adds praying, listening to music, and watching funny videos also help to relieve stress.
Having insomnia does not just keep you from having that satisfying sleep. Lack of sleep can actually increase your risk of developing cardiovascular problems, obesity, and diabetes. That is why it is vital to seek medical help when you know its insomnia that's killing your sleep.
While you can't beat anxiety and depression overnight, the good thing is that it can be treated. Dr. Hinunangan advises insomniacs to seek medical help as soon as possible to address the issue.
"Seeking professional help is most ideal," he says. "The causes of insomnia can range from situational, medical, or psychiatric, and a licensed psychiatrist can probe into these causes and address them."
Talking to a medical professional when you are dealing with emotional issues such as anxiety and depression will you evaluate your next step, he adds.
More importantly, you have to help yourself, too. Start by changing your habits. Avoid having a heavy meal, with caffeine and alcohol on the side, before sleeping. Thinking of your bedroom strictly as an area for rest and relaxation rather than a workplace is important in defining its real purpose.
Put away all your gadgets that will tempt you to stay up all night. Binge-watching your favorite television series won't help as well. Instead, make a regular sleep schedule and turn off your bedroom lights an hour before hitting the sack.
Before going to sleep, ditch all those negative, self-defeating thoughts. Think of the bed as a place for sleep and sex and not a space of worry and restlessness.
As Dr. Hinunangan concludes: "Sleep can be your best friend. However, it can also be
your worst enemy when you neglect it."