Insomnia is a tough cookie to crack. Sleep deprivation is a doubled edged sword which most of us fail to understand. There are two mechanisms that govern our sleep and daytime functionality
On one side you have the sleep mechanism and on the other you have the wakefulness mechanism. With a majority of insomniacs, the wakefulness mechanism often beats the sleep mechanism. This is usually due to a number of reasons. For one when our conscious mind is too awake at night, we find it nigh on impossible to sleep. Often this is due to excessive worry, stress or anxiety. Psychological disorders such as depression can also affect the ability to sleep.
It’s the subconscious that knows how to sleep, not the conscious mind. You may have tried, but it’s absolutely impossible to will yourself to sleep with the conscious mind. What’s more lack of sleep is habit forming. In time your body and mind get use to not sleeping, you get used to the spiralling thoughts that keep you awake and sleeplessness becomes a habit.
To top it all off, sleep deprivation reinforces the inability to sleep. When we are exhausted in the day, we can sometimes sense that our body and brain wants to shut off. The only thing we can do is to fight the tiredness. You drink caffeine to keep you awake, you go get some fresh air, you force concentration, you try and wake yourself up anyway you can.
By fighting off sleep, you’re weakening your sleep mechanism, it becomes a habit. Even when you’re completely exhausted and ready to sleep, your internal wakefulness mechanism keeps firing up from habit, breaking up sleep and keeping you awake. You’re natural ability to sleep is weakened and your sleep/wake cycle becomes imbalanced.
People wonder why sleep medication fail to work. Well for one, sleep medication cannot substitute natural sleep. In fact the chemicals in sleeping pills affect brainwaves and disturb deep sleep. Deep sleep is the most essential stage for energy and restoration, without it, you will most probably wake feeling groggy, tired, dazed and irritable. Headaches and muscle aches are common symptoms of sleep deprivation and light fragmented sleep.
It’s not surprising that in recent tests a placebo (sugar pill) had a far better impact on its test subjects than sleep medication. It’s a myth that sleep medication helps you sleep faster and it’s a myth that it can improve sleep and daytime performance. What’s more sleep medication is addictive and unhealthy for the body and mind (it is a drug after all).
You might be thinking right now, that there is no hope, that if sleep medication don’t work, what will? Insomnia is just as much a psychological disorder as it is a physical disorder. So it’s really essential for a sufferer to be treated on both the mind and body to successfully cure insomnia or at least improve sleep.