What causes bad sleep?

What causes bad sleep?

“What causes bad sleep?” is a fundamental question to begin handling the situation, if you’re to do something else than sedate your way out of the waking world.

The lack of sleep makes you tired but might give a wide variety of other symptoms over time. Headaches, dizziness, having a hard time cognitively and with memory. You might get irritable, moody, or have other emotional troubles. It increases appetite and the risk of gaining weight. More interestingly, it might bother what bothered sleep in the first place – amplify that and make it into a positive feedback loop.

Pain, stress, anxiety, and depression are common reasons for getting lousy sleep.

They often get worse when you can’t sleep.

Once that’s started, you’re spiraling downwards…

Sleep is, as you’ll see, a bit complex. Once you get a hunch, it’s not rocket science, but it’s far from obvious if you haven’t tried to get it before.

It’s complex because plenty of things affect it. That’s why you can’t solve everything in one go with one solution that fits everyone.

You’re complex, and misery loves company. There might be a perfect storm keeping things troublesome. There are plenty of tools to affect sleep since so much might bother it. You’ll have to start where you are and fix what’s truly the problem. If there are other comorbidities, physical, psychological, or social issues, those should be treated. The approach here is not really to do something as broad as “fix sleep”. It’s to analyze enough to “fix what bothers sleep,” which kind of LEADS to the same thing – but it’s concrete. We can’t “fix sleep,” but it’s highly possible to get you good enough conditions to get you sleeping. If your bed is full of gravel, you’ll start there with what’s most obvious, and likewise –

If there’s a stress issue since the work situation isn’t manageable – that bothers sleep.

If you’re always arguing with your spouse before bed and going to bed in a horrible mood and too wound up to sleep…

If one’s depressed enough…

If one’s got too much anxiety…

If one’s in too much pain…

If one’s…

Reasonable? I sure hope so. There’s no ONE solution to fixing sleep. There IS a solution for sedating people, which would be various substances, but the troubles that keep them from sleeping vary. That’s why a solution like mine must touch on many subjects. Unless I just tell you to get that grovel out of your bed, but that’s unlikely to be a satisfying solution for most.

Exhaustion syndrome or “burnout” comes from long-term stress and gives various symptoms. Mental troubles, intolerance to stress, sensitivity to stimuli, fatigue, pain, anxiety, and a constant stress response. Trouble sleeping is often a part of how it starts – and something that keeps it around. This requires a holistic approach where you tend to your entire life rather than just sleep.

Depression. The numbers of how common it is varies, but quite common numbers would be around 1/5 men, and 1/3 women get it sometime during their lifetime. My guess is that those numbers have a positive trend. The curve goes up, and we’re going towards more depressed times. If you’ve got it, you’ve got a decent idea about the symptoms, “a lack of everything positive”, in short. Less of most things, like happiness, will to act, appetite, love, initiative, and concentration. Feelings, in general, start to decrease at a certain level, and you’ll have less will to live – AND less ability to sleep decently. I have tended to clients where depression was the main problem, and they’ve slept 12-14 hours per day and spent an additional 3 hours getting up from bed. The baffling part is where they can get from there – to sleeping normally and being quite content with life in a couple of months. That’s from tending to the depressive issues. If depression is the problem – you will have to manage that. What hinders your task is your task. If something bothers sleep FIX THAT. Not “sleep”, in isolation.

Anxiety is another troublesome psychological issue that keeps people from sleeping. The trouble can vary from general anxiety disorder (GAD) and anxiety you’ve “just learned to have in relation to sleep” to panic syndrome and posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD).

GAD is to worry more or less always and about practically everything. Low intensity and over plenty of time.

Learned anxiety about sleep is common when you’ve had troubles sleeping for a while. You’ll start to fear the consequences of not being able to sleep – and through that – the time, place and activity itself.

Panic is a really intensive reaction; a mix of fear and stress. It’s completely natural – but panic attacks often tend to teach people quite bad things. They condition you to respond to what you saw, found, felt or heard [a stimuli] then and there to the reaction panic [response], which then often happen again and again. In between those attacks, you fear having them, you get anxious, and you start avoiding what might give you one.

PTSD is a consequence of experiencing something traumatic enough, perhaps just once. An experience of death, rape, war, robbery, violence, or similar can lead to PTSD. It’ll lead to remembering or practically reliving the traumatic thing repeatedly. Memories and thoughts throughout the day – and perhaps even nightmares about it. It leads to avoidance of what might make you think of what once happened. That might be avoiding everything from thoughts, emotions, and places to people and activities. This leads to constant anxiety and an underlying stress response that’s almost always there.

CBT is the “golden standard” of tending to troubles regarding anxiety. ACT seems promising, and pharmaceuticals are a lovely COMPLEMENT to those. It’s to mitigate the symptoms, but it won’t treat anything. With today’s standard medications, the objective seems to be to just temporarily ease the horror for the moment, which usually makes it worse over time. Being exposed to whatever gives you anxiety in a thought-through way, however, gives you a chance to relearn and get rid of or lessen the negative feelings.

Pain can make it hard to fall asleep because things hurt. When they hurt, your brain wants you to do something about it immediately. Pain isn’t just an emotion or feeling – it’s a warning and an alert for you to change something. Things aren’t alright.

The same goes for when you’ve managed to fall asleep – and want to stay asleep. But since you’re moving – and waking up from doing so – that’s not working out very well. It could also keep us from having a life that gives us good conditions to sleep well. Sleeping well requires an active life; with that active life, you’ll be stimulated enough to build sleep pressure and become tired, so you need to sleep. You won’t need to sleep if you’re completely passive during the day. A decent parallel would be to nap in the evening. Most people ruin their night’s sleep if they do.

Stress, in some way, seems to be the biggest reason people get trouble sleeping. It’s impossible to hurry rest, so it’s impossible to rest when you’re hurried. Stress is the opposite of relaxation and, thereby, sleep.

This is likely a sign of something, even though it’s completely natural to experience once in a while. If you’re worried about something once in a while that’s life. But if that’s the new normal, you’re doing things wrong in some way.

Stress is another word for being physiologically up and going at a higher level. So in a lot of cases, sleep is a problem because you constantly increase your activity level. Too much stress always keeps you as alert as your brain possibly can muster… until you crash and burn. Then you’ll sleep for a while but generally keep the same stress levels. Then you’re back at it. Not uncommonly in the middle of the night, when you’ve released just enough sleep pressure.

Being stressed enough to become exhausted is tiresome. But you’re likely still stressed. That’s based on something. Stress increases the activity level, and you’re less likely to fall asleep in a good way. When you do fall asleep, you might sleep worse. If you’re tired enough, you might be prone to napping, which would mainly bother your sleep pressure but also your circadian rhythm in the long run. Things you’re stressed about could be a part of the anxiety you could get concerning sleep. If you’re stressed from work, how would you perform there if you’re not sleeping well enough?

Depression depresses us during the day, which could decrease the amount of sleep pressure you’re building. That could bother the circadian rhythm, and you’ll get to bed later and later. Bothering your routines and not doing things as you should according to the natural light and your rhythm isn’t beneficial. Depression also puts you in a worse emotional state. You could ruminate and brood or just feel bad – which could be stressful, or you could get nightmares and those could keep you from sleeping well. Once you’ve fallen asleep – you wake up terrified.

Anxiety often accompanies depression. Anxiety is fear. That’s stressful. It needs to be because something is dangerous. That’s what worries and scares you. You can’t sleep when you’re in danger!

Pain is a warning that gets you stressed and emotional. You’ll become more active as soon as you feel the pain. Perhaps always. Hopefully, there are some pain-free positions. If so, you’ll just hurt when you lie down the wrong way or move without having a clue as you sleep.

Annoyingly, sleep is practically affected by all other aspects of life. If all of those aspects of life are combined into three categories, it’s way more tangible, and it gets easier to get perspective and understand why something you’re doing might affect your sleep. Those three are Sleep Pressure, Circadian Rhythm, and Activity Level. They are all equally important, so just neglecting one of them is enough to make you stare at the ceiling all night long.

Annoyingly, sleep is practically affected by all other aspects of life. If all of those aspects of life are combined into three categories, it’s way more tangible, and it gets easier to get perspective and understand why something you’re doing might affect your sleep. Those three are Sleep Pressure, Circadian Rhythm, and Activity Level. They are all equally important, so just neglecting one of them is enough to make you stare at the ceiling all night long.

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