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The Brain Issue: You don’t snooze, you lose
November 5, 2019
Every night, she would lay there, eyes shut, waiting for sleep to come. It never did.
She wondered, is this normal? She assumed it was.
In middle school when her therapist told her she had insomnia, she realized that it wasn’t.
Anna Carmody, senior, has been struggling with sleep since elementary school. According to the National Sleep Foundation, insomnia is difficulty falling asleep or staying asleep, even when a person has the chance to. There are two kinds of insomnia: acute insomnia and chronic insomnia. Acute insomnia is brief and occurs over a span of one or two nights, for example, before a big event or a project is due. Chronic insomnia occurs repeatedly over a long period of time.
“Sleep is so important,” Dr. Carrie Medelman, AP psychology teacher, said. “It is one of the things that we overlook so much. Good sleep and strong sleep are important to your basic being.”
According to Dr. Basima Williams, functional medicine physician, insomnia is a direct consequence of lifestyle choices that you make. She says there are some genetic predispositions for insomnia, but the majority of the causes are based on environment.
“There are some people who tend to be in fight or flight all of the time,” Williams said. “Their endorphins are always being released and they have a hard time metabolizing them. Too much stress, waiting until the last minute to do paperwork and basically anything that could put you in fight or flight will keep you from sleeping.”
There are negative side effects of insomnia, according to the National Sleep Foundation. Because insomnia leads to sleep deprivation, it can cause fatigue, irritability, obesity and as well as other mental illnesses.
“Anxiety and depression can cause insomnia, and insomnia can cause anxiety and depression,” Williams said. “It goes both ways.”
There are different methods to help treat insomnia and assist people in falling asleep, according to Williams. Insomnia impacts people of all ages, genders and backgrounds, so treatment looks different for everyone.
“If I am really stressed, I like to meditate to clear my head,” Carmody said. “Putting technology down, as cheesy as it sounds, really helps. Phones are a stressor nowadays. I like to read before I sleep, or take a bath. Anything that you can ease yourself with and put yourself in a better mindset are all things that help you be ready to go to sleep.”
Williams agrees with Carmody, saying the light from cell phones and technology can throw off your sleep cycle and lower melatonin levels, which makes it difficult to fall asleep. She said it tricks your brain into believing it is daytime. She also emphasized the importance of maintaining a well-balanced diet, avoiding caffeine in the afternoon, meditation, Epsom salt baths and drinking chamomile tea before bed.
“People are supposed to get sleep so they can rejuvenate themselves and their minds can be better equipped for the next day,” Carmody said. “This year it has definitely gotten a lot better.”
Medelman suggests distracting yourself from stressors to help fall asleep. Williams recommends high schoolers maintain an organized lifestyle in order to get the best sleep possible.
“Plan your day,” Williams said. “Wake up at the same time every day, go to bed at the same time every day, have a to-do list every day so you are not stressed out over a paper that you should have been working on two days ago, because that will keep you awake.”