Are you experiencing sleep problems more than a few nights a month? When was the last time you complained "I can't sleep?" Of course, occasional sleepless nights happen to everyone, but how do you know when sleeplessness is more than just a result of life's daily stresses or the extra shot of espresso you had in your last cup of coffee?
The seriousness of a sleeping issue is related to the length of time you have been experiencing sleep deprivation and its effects. Short-term sleeplessness that is caused by a temporary circumstance, such as having a cold or overeating, falls into the transient sleep loss category and typically has minimal health risks. Transient sleep loss lasts anywhere from one night up to four weeks in duration
Yet, if you are in the middle of a major life-change, like losing a job or a loved one, you may be spending most nights staring at the ceiling or pacing the floor. Sleep loss of this kind, which lasts from four weeks to six months, can be considered intermittent.
However, if your sleep problems don't seem to relate directly to any physical or emotional stresses or events, and you can't sleep for at least three nights a weeks for a period of six months or more, you are experiencing a serious chronic or long-term sleep problem.
Causes of Poor Sleep
There are many things that cause transient or intermittent sleep loss. Some of the reasons you can't sleep are common, even obvious, others are less apparent. Here are a few of the most frequent reasons for that "I can't sleep" feeling.
While most of the above reasons generally result in only a transient or intermittent loss of sleep, you may find your sleep problems become a regular occurrence if you don't make an effort to make changes.
Yet, if you've made adjustments in the behaviors and situations that typically cause sleep deprivation and you are still having sleep issues, you may have a chronic sleep disorder or other underlying health condition. It is important to make an appointment with your doctor, as soon as possible, to get a proper diagnosis and treatment plan.
The Bottom Line
Whether you simply can't sleep on the occasional restless night, or struggle with sleep loss on a daily basis, sleep deprivation can have serious consequences, both physically and mentally.
The importance of sleep is huge (and often underestimated) and you may well be surprised at just how extensively sleep deprivation can affect your quality of life. The good news is that there are a wide variety of ways to address sleep conditions, which your doctor will review with you.
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