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Insomnia is a risky business!

Wake me up when it’s over.

In part two of this five part post series we explore the risks factors that come with insomnia.

The risk factors of insomnia include being a female, being pregnant or in the period of menopause, adults above the age of forty, suffering from overactive stress, suffering from depression, work a night shift, travel long distances where there is a time change, or have a family history of insomnia. All of these factors lead a person closer to the development of disturbed sleep patterns.

But do you realise that most of these risk factors are the results of choices we make in our lives? In most cases, people think that they have little to no choice in life, which is simply not true. There are many things we can do to improve our situation, such as taking a little longer when you travel into a different time zone (maybe a rest day before or after your work to unwind a little).

Man suffering from insomnia
Building in a rest day before work when you are travelling can make a world of difference

It is hard to deal with the risk factors of insomnia, but ultimately, it often comes down to our choices. We all go through tough times in life. It can be relationship problems, family problems, or job problems. Not only that, we may be suffering from financial or personal problems where we have trouble balancing not only our financials, but our professional and personal life. All these will beat you up and keep you up at night until the stress or problem dissipates. The right mindset is the cure to emotions-induced insomnia.

Since insomnia has many different causes and risk factors, there are many different things that you can do to prevent yourself from having increased sleepless or restless nights. Most of the time, it’s much easier to recognise the causes than what we need to do to overcome the problem. Life can be difficult, and sometimes it can beat you down to the point where you’re not even sure if you can get back up.

Life can sometimes be an uphill battle.

The very first step in overcoming insomnia is to be fearless.

Do not be scared of any possible outcomes that might or might not happen. Fear only serves to bring about more stress in your life and that doesn’t serve you well. In fact, it only intensifies your inability to sleep. Prevention is better than cure. Always remember to stay calm and look for steps you have take to reduce the stress and pressure triggers that may be causing your insomnia.

The Brain of an Insomniac

The brain of an insomniac is in a constant state of alertness

How the brain works

Researchers around the world are putting their minds together to figure out how the brain of an insomniac works. They continue to look at the features of brainwaves and how our thoughts interact with our brain during the day and night.

During every hour of the day, the mind is able to adapt itself to any new situation. Whether you’re trying to get food, get a drink, get out of the car, walking through a door, or get some rest – the mind will constantly try to find new ways to accomplish these things – survive and thrive! It will go through the cycle of pulling the resources it needs from other parts of the brain and body , while still trying to ensure it has enough energy in reserve to heal and repair during the night. Normally, people with a healthy level of brainwaves and satisfactory cognitive stability during the day are able to shut down parts of the brain’s thought process during the night. These are the ones who go ‘out like a light’. As they fall into a deeper level of consciousness, the brain will begin to slow down and initiate sleep. Your alertness and focus will typically decrease.

Studies reveal that the process of the mind continually changes throughout the day, and sometimes it will cause a spike of anxiety. It is at this point that the brainwaves become erratic and refuse to slow down due to an immense amount of stress being felt. Therefore, the mind will not be able to relax completely at night. Instead, it will go through a period where the brainwaves will move unusually fast, causing more thoughts and consuming more energy in the evening. This is when we lie there and just ‘can’t turn our brain off‘. Everything a person has done during the day will be recalled at night. The body will use twice the amount of energy and resources to process these ‘extra’ thoughts, causing fatigue and then finally, exhausted – falling asleep. If you experience this you probably won’t be able to recall exactly when you went to sleep – but it feels like you were up all night. This will cause you to be lethargic or ‘heavy headed’ the following day.

As for the mind and how the brainwaves respond to the phases of insomnia, there are three different studies to show how the brain reacts during the night. It has proven that the brain’s learning and memory processing functions affect a person’s sleep. The more you learn during the day, the more thoughts and memories will be processed by the brain during the night. Dreams come from one’s thoughts and real-life experiences. The more you experience in life, the more you dream at night. Also there is anecdotal evidence to show that the more fun you have during the day the greater nights sleep you will have. This could be a mixture of exhaustion and serotonin release. The ability to have a larger variety of dreams allows the mind to calm down and form vague images to reinforce your memory. When you fall into deep slumber, you tend to be in a ‘dream state’. Sometimes, you might even have nightmares. But it all boils down to your subconscious thoughts and the kind of experience you have had.

Group of friends having fun on the beach. Summer, fun, people, vacation concept
The more fun you have during the day the greater your nights sleep will be.

Sleep plays a major role in processing and storing memories. The lack of sleep will interfere with your memory in the long term. You will have trouble concentrating, remembering facts, and even minor details. In the next instalment we will cover off on how a lack of sleep affects our memory .

Sleep well and the whole world seems a little better, a little brighter.

Tomorrow – Insomnia and memory loss. Don’t forget to read it.

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Written by Scott Williams

Scott Williams is one of Australia's most respected corporate communicators.

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