Anxiety disorders, depression and somatic diseases are no longer the main cause of insomnia, and today it is mainly caused by an unfavorable change in lifestyle and circadian rhythm disturbances – says prof. Adam Wishniak, a sleep specialist.
30% of Europeans in Europe suffer from sleep problems. Society, often young people complain about it. Insomnia has become a civilized disease, just like depression. Recently, the pandemic and lockdown have contributed to this. Today, however, the causes of insomnia are different.
Even 5-10 years ago, the main causes of insomnia were anxiety disorders, depression, and physical ailments. Today, the most important thing is to change the way of life ”- says Prof. K. Adam Wiczniak of the 3rd Center for Psychiatry and the Center for Sleep Medicine at the Institute of Psychiatry and Neurology in Warsaw.
She explains to us that we spend more and more time during the day indoors, where less sunlight reaches us. On the other hand, in the evening we have a lot of light, because we use artificial lighting and electronic devices. “This excess of light disrupts our circadian rhythm. We also go to bed and wake up at different times. And what is very important – we lack physical activity. All this makes sleep short, shallow and intermittent.
We forget that good sleep is our basic need and the basis of our physical and mental health. “When we sleep as much as the body needs, we are rested, full of energy for life,” the specialist reminds. During the pandemic, many people felt afraid of getting sick, both themselves and their loved ones, and losing a sense of security (physical and economic) was also a serious problem.
In addition, because of telecommuting, there is no need to commute to work, many people can freely control their morning sleep hours. Many Poles didn’t bother to go out at least once a day for 30-60 minutes. They spent their days in front of computer screens. However, in the 20 percent of the population, the epidemic has improved sleep. And this applies to people who were happy to work remotely, because they can work in a private, safe environment, ”- notes Professor K. Adam Wishniak. Their mental state has improved.
According to the specialist, in order to sleep better, you need to strengthen the mechanisms that regulate sleep. It is necessary to change the lifestyle – regular physical exercise, fixed sleep times and the introduction of the principles of healthy sleep (sleep hygiene). “You can also use preparations that promote sleep regulation, such as melatonin or other melatonin drugs in case of sleep rhythm disorders, or drugs used for mental disorders (such as antidepressants) in case of poor emotional state. However, as we live more intensely, we must take care with the circadian rhythm of sleep ”- noted the specialist of the Institute of Psychiatry and Neuroscience.
He warns that some sleep medications can be addictive, especially when misused. He explains that addiction is of psychological and biological origin. “They are biologically addictive to prescription drugs (mainly anxiolytics and sleeping pills). Unfortunately, these drugs are willingly taken chronically in Poland. On the other hand, in psychological dependence, the patient becomes convinced that he sleeps well only because he takes the pill. That is why it is worth remembering that we owe a good sleep not to the fact that we take medications, but to the fact that we take care of physical exertion, a healthy lifestyle, relaxation before bedtime, etc. And if this does not help – by influencing the mechanisms that regulate sleep “- claims the expert.
What do you have to remember to sleep? This sleep is best when it is quiet, dark and cool. “As for the darkness, I have one caveat: it is desirable at night, but in the last hour of sleep it is better when the room becomes brighter. So when we have thick curtains, it would be good if someone from the family opened them early, ”- he advises.
A lamp that simulates dawn may be useful, as it illuminates our readiness for activity. “Waking up from the dark is unpleasant for most people. Therefore, in the autumn and winter months, it often seems to us that sleep does not give us rest. The reason for this is the lack of the effect of dawn. Adam Wishniak.
Light therapy, also known as the “light pill,” can help. “It can be used in the morning, immediately after waking up, for a period of 2 to 6 weeks. Then you need to return to healthy sleep habits, ”the specialist believes.
He adds that the most important thing is to avoid feelings before bedtime, as well as pay attention to physical exercises (preferably five times a week for 30-60 minutes) and spend a relatively short amount of time sleeping at night (for most people it is 7-7.5 hours). In addition, maintain a consistent wake-up time in the morning and avoid strong light sources before bed and at night. Electronic devices should be turned off 60 minutes before bed. A daytime nap is fine, but only for people who sleep well at night.
If you have persistent sleep problems, see your doctor. a. Adam Wiczniak believes that insomnia can be treated by family physicians, mental health clinics, or sleep medicine centers of a neuropsychiatric nature. “Because it is important to remember that if someone is chronically unable to relax at bedtime, they likely have mental health difficulties and should seek the care of a psychiatrist or psychiatrist,” she adds.
PAP – Science in Poland, Zbigniew Wojtasiński
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