One of the most commonly complained about medical conditions that doctors hear from their patients is the condition of insomnia. Insomnia is one of the higher ranked sleep disorders and the number one cause of insomnia is sleep anxiety. Hyperarousal is the second leading cause of insomnia and both can lead to chronic insomnia if left untreated.
What is Sleep Anxiety
Many people have at some point or another suffered an acute condition of sleep anxiety. Sleep anxiety is when you find yourself so anxious that you will not be able to sleep that you enable a self-fulfilling prophecy. You lay awake watching the clock, watching the minutes and hours of sleep you wished you were getting tick quickly by. The more you worry about not getting enough sleep the more anxious you become. The more anxiety you have in your system the least likely you are to be able to fall asleep.
For some this is just a short phase that ends pretty quickly. The sleep anxiety is caused by a major presentation or test you have to take the next day, or you have to wake up at a certain time and you are afraid you won’t hear the alarm, or a variety of reasons why falling asleep causes you anxiety. For others this becomes chronic and necessitates a trip to the doctor for help to overcome sleep anxiety.
Treatment for Chronic Sleep Anxiety
Some of the most common treatment methods for those with chronic sleep anxiety include medications or therapy; or a combination of the two. The most commonly prescribed medications would of course be sleep aids; however, for some these do not work because the persons actual root cause of insomnia is anxiety. For this reason the doctor would likely prescribe an anti-anxiety medication such as Xanax or Klonipin. If the sleep anxiety is something that may be caused by emotional factors or psychological reasons, some sessions with a therapist may be able to help someone dealing with insomnia caused by sleep anxiety.
Insomnia Caused by Hyperarousal
Hyperarousal is the state of being aroused, on guard, being overly alert and perceptive. The person suffering from hyperarousal is in a version of the fight-or-flight response where their brain sends out signals of impending danger and the need to be on guard.
This state of arousal causes the person to not be able to sleep due to the real or perceived notion that something bad is going to happen. Hyperarousal is just one of the hallmark symptoms that those with Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder, Acute Stress Disorder, or those with a high level of stress in their life experience. The brain sends signals to the sympathetic and parasympathetic nervous system and causes the two to become unbalances and thus causes insomnia.
Treatment Options for Insomnia Caused by Hyperarousal
As mentioned before, hyperarousal is a common symptom for those with stress related conditions. The insomnia caused by this real or perceived hyperarousal state will be treated in combination with other treatments for the stress disorder. This will include anxiety medications, sleep aids, and talk therapy.
For those suffering from hyperarousal induced insomnia the treatment types may vary. Some are in the fight-or-flight instinctive response for no justifiable reason. For whatever reason, the brain has decided that the body is in danger and has released triggers in the body to be alert, perceptive and ready for action. In these cases it is important to see a medical professional that can help ward off these anxious feelings and allow the person to be able to sleep.
Sometimes medication is not needed, the brain, being ever so complex, may decide on its own that the threat has passed and will release hormones and other mechanisms into the body and other parts of the brain to balance the sympathetic and parasympathetic nervous system and cure the insomnia as well.
The Physical and Mental Effects of Insomnia
When a person suffers from insomnia it effects not only their night time hours but their daytime hours as well. Sleeplessness causes poor work performance, irritability, and when left untreated a person can have medical and mental illnesses arise due to lack of sleep.
The body needs sleep in order to function properly. When we sleep our body and brain is able to focus on repairing, recouping, and building up immunities. Without sleep a person is more susceptible to get sick both physically and mentally. It is important for those who are experiencing chronic insomnia caused by either sleep anxiety or hyperarousal to seek medical attention.
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