Okay, be honest: What time do you usually go to bed? How many hours of sleep—without those middle-of-the-night interruptions—do you get daily? When you're always deprived of sleep, you might be experiencing a sleep disorder called insomnia. The National Sleep Foundation (NSF) in the U.S. defines insomnia as "difficulty falling asleep or staying asleep, even when a person has the chance to do so."
Why You Shouldn’t Ignore Insomnia
To find out more about why quality sleep matters and what makes insomnia dangerous, we reached out to Dr. Rolando "Oyie" Balburias, a Certified Functional Medicine Practitioner for Go2Health. Practicing for 21 years and focusing on the Functional Medicine approach for eight years, Dr. Oyie emphasizes how sleep plays a key role in our brain and body functions.
Adults need about seven to nine hours of uninterrupted sleep daily.
In a recent online lecture, he notes that adults need about seven to nine hours of uninterrupted sleep daily. Otherwise, your physical and mental health can be negatively affected. Dr. Oyie says, "Sleep deprivation or even sleep quality compromises affects the metabolism, hormone balance, immune system, cognitive, psychological and even the emotional aspect of our body."
What Are The Symptoms Of Insomnia?
According to the NSF, you have to watch out if you experience the following insomnia symptoms:
- Difficulty sleeping - The NSF mentioned that, "People with insomnia tend to have difficulty falling asleep (onset), staying asleep (maintenance), and/or they wake up too early in the morning."
- Fatigue and low energy - You may feel exhausted even after hitting the sack. You might also feel like you're lacking energy to function.
- Difficulty concentrating and decreased performance at work or in school - Another symptom of insomnia is not being able to focus on daily tasks. You might also make more mistakes and become forgetful or disorganized.
- Mood disturbances - You could be irritable throughout the day or feel like you’re not 100 percent present. You could also feel more anxious, impulsive, aggressive, or depressed even if there seems to be no plausible reason for it.
The thing is, insomnia could happen to everyone at one point. So how do you know if those sleep interruptions should be taken seriously?
It boils down to the type of insomnia you might be experiencing. If it happens after a certain stressful experience or life event, it's usually acute insomnia. Let's say, you get pressured to create a presentation for work and struggle with the concept of speaking in front of your entire department, or you get into a huge argument with your S.O. It's highly likely that you'll experience some sleep deprivation. But if it resolves after your problem goes away, it's probably acute insomnia, which ordinarily doesn't require medical treatment.
On the other hand, if your insomnia symptoms last "at least three nights per week and for at least three months," you could be suffering from chronic insomnia, according to the NFS. The problem might be caused by a major shift in your lifestyle, certain medical conditions, or some medications. In any case, it's ideal to consult a doctor if the sleep deprivation is on that level.
As Dr. Oyie points out, "Insomnia may best be viewed as a symptom rather than as a disease process. Often, it is accompanied by distress or another impairment, and it can have an impact on the quality of life of a person, on several aspects, namely physical health, school learning, work productivity, mental health, family and professional relationships, safety, and even mortality."
"Data on road accidents due to sleepiness of the driver is on the top 10 list of premature causes of deaths among Filipinos."
Another point that the doctor wants to stress: Insomnia can be dangerous, not just to you but to others in the long run. "The worst consequences of sleep deficiency is safety because it is not limited to the person affected—it can result in accidents involving many lives. Data on road accidents due to sleepiness of the driver is on the top 10 list of premature causes of deaths among Filipinos," he adds.
How Are Insomnia Symptoms Treated?
So, once you determine you have insomnia, how do you go about the treatment? Dr. Oyie suggests that "prolonged bouts of sleeplessness of more than four weeks, especially if it is already affecting the quality of life or functionality of an individual, must be evaluated and addressed by a trained medical professional."
The NFS mentions that treatments range from "behavioral therapy to the use of prescription medication or a combination of the two." If you have other physical or psychological conditions that have to be addressed, they should be treated accordingly, too.
We also asked Dr. Oyie if there's a difference on how insomnia happens and how it’s treated for men and for women. The doctor points out that the root cause of the sleep disorder may be different and specific to each gender. The treatment will depend on whatever that root cause is.
Aside from medical intervention, lifestyle changes may be recommended in order to beat insomnia symptoms effectively. For instance, you can try meditation or some exercises. There may be suggested improvements in your diet. You might also need to review your sleep habits and adopt better ones—like no more Facebook scrolling for hours when you go to bed.
Dr. Rolando Balburias, M.D., FPCP, IFMCP is a Certified Functional Medicine Practitioner. He is also Board Certified in General Internal Medicine, European Board Certified in Nutritional Medicine, and European Board Certified in Anti-Ageing Medicine. Find out more about Dr. Oyie and functional medicine at www.go2health.ph. You may also reach out to him through the following channels: email via firstname.lastname@example.org or Facebook.