The tales of the importance and benefits of sleep are narrated to us, since childhood, like bedtime stories. From fussing to go to bed as children to longing to take a nap as adults, we all grew to experience the magic that a good night’s rest can bring. Yet, there are individuals all across the world who do not get to enjoy such benefits as they suffer from disturbed sleep or poor sleep quality, also known as Insomnia.
A study published by the Oxford University Press states that approximately 8-10% of the population suffers from Chronic Insomnia while 20-30% of the population has insomnia symptoms at any given time. According to Christopher L. Drake, “Insomnia is the experience of inadequate, insufficient, or nonrestorative sleep despite ample time in bed.”
With the rampant advancement in technology, the use of social media and the internet has been a cause of various mental disorders. One consequence of their excessive usage is decreased sleep quality and quantity. Scrolling through social media apps before bed is commonly seen among the youth to majorly deteriorate sleep quality.
Doomscrolling, or the act of spending an increased amount of time reading negative news online, is gaining traction as a cause for disturbed sleep. Not only social media usage but also an increased pace of life as a result of technological advancements breeds high levels of stress. When we cannot sleep the night before an exam, an important job interview or the progress report our boss is expecting on that incomplete project, is all a cause of stress. Severe stress caused due to a traumatic event or even death, can also lead to insomnia.
Insomnia is researched to negatively impact mental and physiological health. Earlier regarded as a symptom of depression, it is now suggested to perpetuate depression as well. This comes from the theory that regions associated with sleep overlap with regions regulating affective and cognitive functioning. Several studies demonstrate the excessive secretion of cortisol due to insomnia.
Cortisol is the stress hormone, secreted by the adrenal gland which increases blood sugar level, respiration rate, and oxygen supply and slows down non-essential functions when in a flight or fight mode. Similarly, in patients suffering from depression, there is a hyperactivation of the HPA or Hypothalamic-Pituitary-Adrenal axis seen in patients diagnosed with depression.
Therefore, this demonstrates the physiological coincidence between Insomnia and Depression. Research findings suggest that patients suffering from depression showcasing insomnia symptoms have higher rates of suicidal behaviour as compared to other patients suffering from depression. Insomnia also has a direct impact on an individual’s quality of life and daytime functioning. It negatively affects their work performance social capabilities, physical well-being, productivity and economic aspects relating to health.
Ways to improve sleep quality
Insomnia is treated by administering different forms of therapies. The most commonly used strategies are Behavioural Treatments. Three widely known behavioural treatments in practice are Stimulus control therapy developed by Bootzin in the 1970s, Progressive muscle relaxation and Cognitive restructuring of dysfunctional beliefs. Stimulus control therapy is based on the idea that insomnia is a consequence of learned associations between one’s bedroom environment and some kind of hyperarousal. While Progressive muscle relaxation includes successive relaxation of muscle groups till the entire body feels relaxed.
The therapy lasts for 30-45 minutes and requires daily practice. Lastly, Cognitive restructuring of dysfunctional beliefs is when patients are helped in better understanding the particular effects of their sleep disruption while also learning coping techniques to actively address certain dysfunctional thoughts, such as, “If I sleep tonight, I will not be able to wake up on time for work tomorrow.” Limiting social media usage before bedtime can drastically help with falling asleep.
This helps two-fold, firstly, limited exposure to blue light emitted from screens since the blue wavelength is associated with increasing alertness and mental sharpness, which interferes with falling asleep. Secondly, it limits sensory stimulation from social media content. Along with social media other stimulations including caffeine, television and should also be avoided close to bedtime. Further, a warm and cosy sleeping environment along with a relaxing bedtime routine helps wind down after a long day of work and gives you the rest necessary to energize for the next day.
In conclusion, Insomnia is a complex sleep disorder with causes rooting from internet usage to stress levels. Evidence suggests that Insomnia, earlier a symptom of depression, no can be a cause due to the physiological correlation between sleep quality and affect. It also negatively impacts one’s quality of life, daytime functioning and health. Strategies of limited blue social media usage, caffeine intake and in general, sensory stimulation, one can improve their sleep quality and quantity. The importance of sleep is insurmountable; thus, a healthy sleeping schedule must be ensured for good health and well-being.