Insomnia: When Your Body Is Talking To You
Insomnia is a common phenomenon. It has many faces , but they all have one thing in common: The increasing impairment in your everyday life bothers and burdens you in the long term, which is why you should get to the bottom of the cause of your insomnia. However, insomnia must be clearly differentiated from a chronic sleep disorder, which is an illness.
Insomnia is a condition that prevents you from getting a good night’s sleep . Frequently affected are people whose internal clock is disturbed, for example by shift work or frequent travel (jet lag). There are up to 80 different forms, the most important of which are insomnia, hypersomnia, parasomnia and narcolepsy .
Your body is subject to a predetermined rhythm of around 24 hours , which consists of sleeping and waking. Technically, this is also referred to as the circadian rhythm . Without sleep, everyone’s eyes will close sooner or later, survival would be unthinkable. A large part of your body processes is based precisely on this rhythm. Nerve cells in the brain, which are in connection with your optic nerves and thus register light-dark changes, trigger a series of subsequent reactions. One of the most important is the stimulation of the hormone production of melatoninfrom your pineal gland (epiphysis). Melatonin is considered your night hormone and makes you tired. When you are lying down, your body temperature drops a little. Your body takes on different activities during sleep than during the day. There are highly organized processes. It usually takes between 5 to 30 minutes to fall asleep before your brain then releases substances in a matter of seconds that switch off your consciousness: you are asleep.
Two basic structures make up sleep: a distinction is made between a so-called NREM (non-rapid eye movement) and a REM (rapid eye movement) phase. The NREM sleep makes up about 80% of this, the REM phases make up the smaller share of 20%. These occur every 90 minutes, increasing in length towards the end of the night.
NREM consists of light and deep sleep phases . Your body releases growth hormones and ensures a sufficient immune defense. If you are one of those people who like to sleepwalk, this happens exactly during the NREM sleep phase.
In REM sleep, on the other hand, you are very close to a waking state . Your body is active: blood pressure, pulse and breathing show short-term fluctuations and your eyes move quickly under the lids. In the first half of the night you process your daily events. New connections in the brain are closed and unimportant information deleted, so that the memory is empty again for the following day. The second half of the night is often filled with unreal dreams , and training in unused areas of the brain is also discussed.
Which regeneration processes take place at night and why are they so important for a healthy body?
Each of the phases already described is important for sufficient regeneration from everyday life. There are important clean-up and repair tasks, without which your mental and physical well-being and your daily performance cannot be guaranteed. Scientists speak of an optimal sleep duration of seven to nine hours, Sleeping less than six hours makes most adults irritable, moody, and unbalanced. In babies, the need for sleep is much higher at up to 17 hours a day. Young people who are in a growth phase also need more sleep for around eight to ten hours. The individual need for sleep may be very different, but the most important thing is a restful sleep!
At night, your nerve cells regenerate by freeing themselves from the ballast of everyday life, sorting things out and then closing new synapses and consolidating old information. The research to understand the exact processes involved is very timely.
Triggered by melatonin, the conductivity of your skin decreases because the skin resistance increases. The growth hormones now ensure that your skin cells divide more quickly, the top horny layer is shed and your skin literally renews itself during sleep.
Your immune system is not resting either. The macrophages ensure a strict immune defense and the elimination of exogenous cells such as bacteria. There is therefore a close correlation between sleep and the immune system. It is no coincidence that leaden tiredness comes about when you have caught an infection, for example. Sleep helps you get healthy!
Passive mechanisms regulate your blood pressure down, which lowers at 3 a.m. with only about 50 beats per minute. The body temperature drops by around 0.4 degrees Celsius, your pulse drops, your breathing becomes shallower. Already towards later evening the production of gastric acid decreases and at midnight it dries up completely. Your muscle tension is reduced so that the muscles can relax completely. In this way, your body tries to guarantee you a restful sleep and runs at full speed itself.
What happens if you don’t get enough sleep?
Your body sends you various signals when it does not feel fully regenerated. This happens quite quickly after a few days of less restful sleep.
Your defenses decrease due to the lack of rest at night, so that more infections can occur. This can manifest itself in a simple cold. The antibody count usually rises at night and solidifies your memory in the brain for the immune defense. The consequences of insomnia are a lack of so-called killer cells, which can be associated with an increased risk of cancer . It was found that the immune response after a vaccination with a corresponding amount of sleep produces comparatively more antibodies than with a lack of sleep.
The metabolism also suffers from insufficient regeneration: the risk of overweight, obesity and diabetes increases. A lack of sleep disrupts your insulin balance. People who only sleep four to five hours are much more likely to become resistant to insulin and develop type 2 diabetes. In addition, an increased hunger and a reduced desire for movement and activity are noticeable under a disturbed sleep pattern . Lack of sleep even affects what we get hungry for: if we sleep little, the desire for high-fat and sweet foods increases.
In the long run, your cardiovascular system is also stressed. The stress hormone cortisol is found in larger amounts than usual in the body, which increases your blood pressure and heart rate. The cortisol increases the sensitivity of the receptors that are crucial for stress. As a result, there is in turn an increased risk of atherosclerosis, heart attack and stroke.
Finally, the muscles and your brain do not remain uninvolved if you suffer from permanent insomnia. The growth hormones that are important for muscles and connective tissue are missing.
What can be the causes of insomnia?
In order to get to the bottom of your insomnia, there are a variety of causes to consider. Your lifestyle habits play a very important role . Do you have a fixed day-night rhythm or do you have certain rituals before going to bed? Everyday stimulants such as alcohol, smoking and caffeine are also possible sleep disturbances. The beer or wine before bed may be tempting and deceptively tiring, but it does not bring about a healthier sleep. With caffeine, the simple rule of thumb applies, no coffee or black / green tea after 4 p.m., otherwise the caffeine may keep you awake.
Medicines and sleeping pills can also have a side effect on your sleep. In particular, drugs that affect your circulation (e.g. blood pressure medication), pain relievers, hormones, antidepressants and even sleep aids such as benzodiazepines can disrupt our sleep.
Finally, a wide variety of diseases take up a large field in the possible causes of a sleep disorder. Respiratory, gastrointestinal and cardiovascular diseases, reflux and chronic pain, but also severe stress, depression, burnout, tinnitus, anxiety disorders and other emotional stress are starting points.
The causes should be considered and questioned within a broad framework of physical, psychological and environmental factors. The best way to do this is to contact a doctor you trust.
When should you see a doctor?
Officially, one speaks of a sleep disorder if you have not had a restful sleep for at least three nights for at least a month . Frequent daytime sleepiness could be an indication of this.
It is advisable to consult a doctor if you sleep poorly for a long time (3-4 weeks) and are therefore stressed in everyday life due to tiredness and a lack of concentration . Also in the case of acute sleep problems without a trigger such as stress or infections, a visit to the doctor can be useful.
By taking an extensive anamnesis about the duration and type of your symptoms and your current living conditions, you can usually work out possible causes together. If necessary, further diagnostics are carried out, for example in the form of a blood count or a sleep analysis .
Bellyache and Insomnia- What Can I Do?
Insomnia can have many different causes. From more harmless causes such as cough or stress, digestive disruptive factors can also impair your sleep.
Bellyache as the cause
The stomach is a reliable barometer for your general well-being , your body center, so to speak. The digestion is based on your daily biorhythm. Fast food and stress are registered immediately, even if you sometimes don’t even notice it yourself. Your brain and your stomach are in direct contact with each other via the nervous system, more precisely via the 10th cranial nerve.
Possible reasons for your stomach ache include:
- Fatty food: Meals that are too large or too late before going to sleep
- Pain and pressure in the abdomen: Constipation and flatulence occur more frequently at night, as the pressure in the abdomen can change when lying down. You are also relaxed and more aware of what is going on in your stomach. Adhesions in the abdomen due to an intestinal obstruction or previous operations are possible.
- Diarrhea: Frequently cramp-like abdominal pain, which can indicate an acute gastrointestinal infection, one-sided eating habits or food intolerance .
- Urge to the toilet: Especially older men have a constant urge to urinate due to an enlarged prostate , which then presses on the urethra. A visit to the urologist is recommended. In women with a frequent urge to urinate and additional pain, a bladder infection or irritable bladder can not be ruled out.
- Fever with aching limbs, for example from gastrointestinal flu.
- Heartburn: If you have reflux, you sleep poorly, especially in the early hours of the morning. When you are lying down, some of the acid flows back into your esophagus, and you feel a painful burning sensation. The result is often a sore throat and a husky voice in the morning.
Other abdominal problems that don’t make you sleep well can include cramps, menstrual pain, colic, or appendicitis . However, in these cases, decreased sleep is likely to play a smaller role, which is why it is best to see a doctor if you have unexplained cramps or if you suspect one of the possible causes mentioned.
In general, what can you do to sleep better and give your body the rest it needs?
If the cause of your insomnia is known, therapy can be started right there. Treatment options for reflux range from a healthy diet, stress reduction, renouncing stimulants, exercise and a normal weight. If you are constipated, you should drink enough during the day (1.5-2 liters) and get enough fiber from your food. If your stomach feels bloated, chamomile / fennel tea and a hot water bottle will help as an antispasmodic . Abdominal pain can be regulated somewhat with a light diet and sufficient fluids, but you won’t feel better soon if you don’t shy away from a visit to the doctor.
Stress can also keep you up at night: this is how you combat stress-related sleep disorders.
Basic measures for a better sleep:
Your sleep hygiene is a first important factor: Avoiding late meals and exercise just before going to sleep will contribute to a healthy sleep. It is best to ventilate your bedroom sufficiently and make sure that your sleeping environment is undisturbed. The optimum bedroom temperature is about 18 ° C .
A healthy lifestyle with a balanced diet and plenty of exercise are prerequisites for good sleep. If you do sport , it is better to do this in the afternoon than in the evening. Your body then needs about 2-3 hours to descend, so an evening walk makes more sense if you want to move a little again.
The well-known warm milk with honey contains melatonin and the amino acid tryptophan, which is required for the formation of your night hormone, but scientists believe that the sleep-promoting effect is more of a psychological effect . The milk still makes you feel full, warms and thus promotes the activity of the parasympathetic nervous system, which makes you sleepy.
Alcohol disturbs the depth of sleep. In the long run, this can result in a lasting disruption .
A warm shower before going to bed is tiring, whereas a cold bath stimulates the circulation and drives away tiredness.
Television keeps you awake just as much as the smartphone or the computer – the release of melatonin is inhibited. Despite the blue filter, it is advisable to switch to reading literature (novels, newspapers, etc.). Reading promotes switching off from everyday life by focusing on reading, whereby very emotional novels are rather unsuitable.
Counting sheep, which is already established in childhood, is a monotonous and low-irritation activity and is therefore tiring. This distracts you from everyday stress and other problems. However, it doesn’t have to be sheep, instead the idea of a beautiful landscape has the same effect and you slowly come to rest.
Relaxation exercises such as breathing exercises, autogenic training and progressive muscle relaxation can be an opportunity for one or the other to switch off from everyday life. If you suffer from winter depression or jet lag, light therapy may be an option for you.
Fixed habits are very helpful when falling asleep: whether warm milk or a walk – these rituals promote the quality of your sleep. By always following the same sequence, your body automatically switches to “autopilot” after a while and relaxes more quickly. On the other hand, convulsive attempts to fall asleep are not very effective because your thoughts are focused on the fact that you cannot fall asleep. It is better to interrupt the thoughts surrounding the insomnia by standing up again briefly and distracting yourself, e.g. B. with a little light movement.
I can’t sleep and my stomach is feeling bad! What can be the reason?
Man sleeps a third of his life . This shows how important sleep should be to us. You sleep so that your body can recover sufficiently. There are many reasons for deviations from sleep patterns and sleep disorders. If you have digestive causes of a lack of sleep, which manifests itself in the form of stomach ache, you can first try the suggested home remedies. These are in no way a substitute for drug treatment; you should speak to a doctor or pharmacist about this.