About 20% of the population cannot sleep straight through the night
Yes, it’s four in the morning. Yes, I’ve been up late and can’t seem to fall asleep. No, this isn’t the first time this has happened to me.
In fact, as I read a while ago in bed, this is not the first time this has happened to me, nor to millions of people. According to the US National Health Survey17.8% of Americans suffer from immediate sleep problems. And if we listen to GallupThese numbers rise to 28%. What is happening here?
Wasted hours. In Spain the situation is not much better. According to the Spanish Federation of Sleep Medicine Societies (FEMES)About seven million Spaniards suffer from chronic and prolonged insomnia, and in fact, nearly six million take sleeping pills every night. In less than a century, the average Spaniard “stopped sleeping” two hours a day.
And As stated in EFEAccording to Carlos Egea, president of FEMES, “Sleep is not the same as fat, the body does not store it, it accumulates day after day.” That is, day after day, we expose our body to unnecessary risks to our mental and cardiovascular health. In addition, lack of sleep is linked to metabolic diseases, with an increased susceptibility to Alzheimer’s disease and all types of immune problems.
Four in the morning. Well, insomnia is a problem, but when we think about it we tend to only think of insomniacs: people who have difficulty falling asleep. The truth is that there are many other types of insomnia: waking up in the middle of the night and spending long hours with your eyes wide open is one of them.
In fact, this makes sense. We already know that biphasic sleep (a sleep pattern in which the clocks are divided into two blocks separated by a period of wakefulness) was normal for most of human history. For historical, cultural and technological reasons (the nights were long and we did not have efficient lighting systems), but also for biological reasons.
Above all, because sleep cycles (physiologically) do not last eight hours. In fact, each night has between four and six sleep cycles (a series of stages that occur and repeat throughout our daily sleep). We’re talking about a succession of one REM phase and three non-REM phases, each deeper than the last.
Even if we put the six cycles next to each other, there is usually a period between the cycles when sleep becomes very light. If we wake up there and have insomnia issues (whether due to circadian rhythms modulating melatonin or some other reason)… the outcome will be problematic.
Why do we wake up? That’s the main question, isn’t it? If we could stop waking up, the ability of insomnia to ruin our lives would be much less. OK then, According to the Cleveland ClinicThere are four main reasons why people wake up hours early: two of them are sleep disorders and underlying emotional disorders (stress, depression, anxiety…). Problems for which it is recommended to go to a specialist.
But the other two reasons are the environment in which we sleep (external noise, light, temperature changes) and visiting the bathroom. That is, things, although we may not believe them, are “easier to control” than we think.
Can we do something? This means that in at least half of the most common cases, we can reduce sleep disruption by… Proper sleep hygiene. Things like keeping regular schedules, eliminating naps, avoiding screens in the last hours of the day, speeding up physical activity and not leaving it until the end of the day, and abstaining from alcohol, tobacco, or caffeine before going to bed.
But above all, we can remember that sleep problems are often an “indicator” of something else. If problems persist, it is recommended that you go to a specialist.
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Image | Greta Bartolini
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