INSOMNIA – Symptoms, side effects and causes.

By Veronica Mercer Mental Health Accredited Social Worker

INSOMNIA. Mental health. Side effects. Symptoms and cause.

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Tags: INSOMNIA. Mental health. Side effects. Symptoms and cause.


By Veronica Mercer Mental Health Accredited Social Worker


Sleep is a naturally recurring state of mind and body, characterized by altered consciousness, relatively inhibited sensory activity, inhibition of nearly all voluntary muscles, and reduced interactions with surroundings.

Healthy sleep is important for both physical and mental wellbeing. It also improves productivity and overall quality of life. Everyone, from children to older adults, can benefit from practicing good sleep habits. If you’ve ever felt drowsy or “zoned out” in class or at work, then you’re already aware of how important a good night’s sleep can be.

INSOMNIA. Mental health. Side effects. Symptoms and cause.

What you might not know, however, is that sleep isn’t just important for helping you get through those dreaded Monday mornings, but it’s essential for your mental health too. Life constantly throws up challenges and difficulties. Resilience is the ability to manage and cope with these challenges. It is believed that having enough sleep is a crucial factor in our ability to deal with adversity and the demands of a busy life.

Sleep is a built-in biological source of resilience and the ability to bounce back. Although the relationship between sleep and mental health is not clearly understood, we believe that a good night’s sleep helps foster both mental and emotional resilience. Chronic sleep disruptions set the stage for negative thinking, depression, anxiety and emotional vulnerability.

REM (rapid eye movement) sleep – the deepest stage of the sleep cycle, stimulates the brain regions used in learning. Essentially, when deep sleep is disrupted, it wreaks havoc on our brains and impairs our ability to think clearly and remember things. How much sleep do I need? Most adults need between seven and eight hours sleep each day.

Be realistic about your needs. Younger people have different sleep needs. If you are a poor sleeper it is very important you do not spend too long in bed. Spend no more than 8 or so hours in your bed. If you spend more time in bed, you will be telling your body that it’s OK to drift in and out of sleep all night. Going to bed later at night may be the single best thing to help reduce your wake time during the night in bed (

So, how much sleep do you need? According to 18 sleep experts who compared nearly 2,500 research papers, their recommendations are that on average you need:

• nine to 11 hours if you’re aged between six and nine-years-old

• eight to 10 hours if you’re a teenager

• seven to nine hours if you’re between 18 and 64 years-old

• seven and eight if you’re over 65 years old (

What are good sleep habits? Good sleep habits are often referred to as good sleep hygiene. There are many things that can be done to improve sleep. Here, we will give you some guidelines for what you should and should not do for a good night’s sleep. Many people have trouble with their sleep. If you are one of them, some of these simple things may help. What should I do in the evening?

• Try to go to bed at the same time each night.

• Our bodies have an internal clock and hormones that control sleep and wakefulness. • This clock works best if there is a regular sleep routine.

• When working well, you will feel sleepy at bedtime. Try not to ignore this by staying up, as this is a window of opportunity for sleep.

• Going to bed too early can also disturb your sleep. In the hour before going to bed, it is important to have a relaxing sleep routine. Some things that you may find relaxing include having a warm bath, reading quietly or a warm milk drink.

• Going to the toilet is important to avoid having to get up in the night.

• It is also recommended to turn off all screens (e.g., computers, smartphones) 1/2 hours prior to bed, and if possible, not have them in the bedroom.

Things to avoid in the evening?

• Caffeine should be avoided at least 2 hours before going to bed. This isn’t just coffee and tea. It is also found in colas and soft drinks. Smoking also makes it difficult to go

• No cigarettes before going to bed or during the night.

• Alcohol might help you get to sleep, but it will make it harder to stay asleep. It makes sleep problems like snoring and sleep apnoea worse as well.

• Activities that are stimulating should be avoided in the hour before bed. This includes moderate exercise, computer games, television, movies, having important discussions, using social media and responding to emails and text messages.

• Being in a brightly lit environment or the blue light of the computer can reduce evening levels of the a sleep-promoting hormone, melatonin.

• Don’t fall asleep on the couch during the evening as it reduces your sleep pressure and makes it harder to fall asleep when you go to bed.

• It is important to not be hungry at bedtime or having a full stomach can make it difficult to sleep.

• Some people find that having a small snack at bedtime helps them to sleep Better.

When in Bed.

• Make sure your bed is comfortable.

• Avoid being too hot or too cold.

• The mattress, pillow and blankets should be comfortable and restful.

• There should be no distractions in the bedroom.

• This may mean removing the television, radio and hand-held devices such as phones and laptop computers.

• If there is a clock in the bedroom, it should be covered to avoid clock watching.

• If possible, don’t allow children and pets to be a disturbance.

What should I do during the day?

• One very important thing is to stay out of bed.

• Some people use the bedroom as a living room, where they study, watch television, make phone calls and read books. This will make it harder to sleep.

• It is important to train the brain to link the bed with sleep. The bedroom should be used for sleeping and intimacy only.

• As a rule, exercise is good for sleep, but not just before going to bed. The best times are in the morning and before the evening meal, however any exercise is better than none.

• Being out in the natural daylight during the day will improve sleep at night. This will help with your body clock, and the melatonin levels in the body. It is best to be outside in the early part of the day.

What should I do if I can’t get to sleep?

• Sleep is not something that you can force to happen. If you are not asleep within 20 to 30 minutes of going to bed you should get up.

• Go to another darkened room and sit quietly.

• Try not have screen time (e.g., television, smartphone, computer) eat, drink or do household chores.

• When you feel tired and sleepy again go back to bed. This helps your mind link bed with sleep – not with being frustrated and not sleeping. Rest is good – it does not have to be sleep.

• Don’t label yourself as an insomniac as this will increase your worry and frustration.

INSOMNIA. Mental health. Side effects. Symptoms and cause.

Tick Tock goes my mind?

• Some people lie awake in bed at night and cannot switch of their thoughts. If this is a problem, set aside a ‘worry time’ during the evening. Use this time to think about what has been happening during the day, make plans and workable solutions. Then don’t think about these things until the next day.

• Keep the hour before bed as your wind down time – develop a routine that prepares your body and mind for sleep. Listen to quiet music or something that you find relaxing.

• Remember that we can never shut off our mind. Our thoughts continue all the time, so try to make them calmer thoughts.

• Create a favourite fantasy place. Or daydream of your favourite holiday spot. If other thoughts come in, consider them for a moment and then try to gently replace them with calm thoughts.

• If you are still unable to sleep despite your best attempts at relaxing and trying to calm your thoughts, go out of the bedroom and wait until you’re sleepy and tired and then try again.

Are naps good or bad? It depends. Remember that the average adult sleeps for between seven and eight hours a day. If you are taking naps without any problems, and they are short naps (around 30 minutes) then this will not be detrimental to your nighttime sleep. On the other hand, naps in the evening, or dozing in front of the TV, can make it harder to get to sleep at night.

What about prescription medicines and sleep? Some of these will make it easier to get to sleep. But others will keep you awake. It is best to take them only when your doctor or pharmacist says so. Sleeping pills are designed for short-term or intermittent use only, and always under the supervision of your medical doctor. But they are only a short-term fix.

INSOMNIA. Mental health. Side effects. Symptoms and cause.

How important is a routine? Try to stick to a good sleep routine. Improved sleep will not happen as soon as changes are made. But if good sleep habits are maintained, sleep will certainly get better. It is not possible to do the same thing every day, but it should be most days. Different things work for different people. Find what works for you and stick with it. If you try everything and your sleep still doesn’t get any better, then see your GP (

INSOMNIA. Mental health. Side effects. Symptoms and cause.

The Facts

• The total cost of inadequate sleep in Australia was estimated to be $66.3 billion in 2016 – 17

• This total is made up of $26.2 billion in financial costs and $40.1 billion in the loss of wellbeing.

• The $26.2 billion in financial costs due to inadequate sleep are estimated to be as follows:

• health system costs of $1.8 billion, or $246 per person with inadequate sleep;

• productivity losses of $17.9 billion, or $2,418 per person with inadequate sleep;

• informal care costs of $0.6 billion, or $82 per person with inadequate sleep; and

• other costs (including welfare payments, tax losses) of $5.9 billion or $802 per person with inadequate sleep

• The $40.1 billion in loss of wellbeing is estimated using World Health Organisation and Australian Government metrics which assess the non-financial costs of healthy life lost through disability and premature death from inadequate sleep and associated conditions (Sleep Health Foundation 2017).

INSOMNIA. Mental health. Side effects. Symptoms and cause.

How sleep can affect your mental health. If you’re struggling to sleep over an extended period, this may lead to more challenges to your mental health, or it may make existing mental health challenges worse. Here are some ways that this may occur:

• Being tired makes it harder to cope – Everyday life becomes a much greater challenge when you’re tired. Over time, this can affect your self-esteem and mental health.

• You may become lonely – Feeling more tired may cause you to skip on going out and other social activities, meaning you might see less people. Becoming isolated can lead to mental health problems.

• Your mood might be lower – Sleep deprivation (lack of sleep) may impact your mood and energy level. Regular poor sleep could impact your mood negatively in diverse ways which could increase negative thinking cycles.

Some Trivia

• 12% of people dream in black and white

• 2/3 of a cat’s life is spent sleeping

• Humans spend 1/3 of their life sleeping

• The record for the longest period without sleep is 11 days

• It’s not uncommon for deaf people to use sign language in their sleep

• The sensation of falling when half asleep and jerking yourself awake is called ‘hypnic jerks’

• It’s thought that up to 15% of the population are sleepwalkers

• Sleep deprivation will kill you more quickly than food deprivation

• Those born blind experience dreams involving things such as emotion, sound, and smell rather than sight

• Within 5 minutes of waking up, 50% of your dream is forgotten

• Pain tolerance is reduced by sleep deprivation High-income earners ($65 – $75,000) get the best sleep(

Wishing you all good mental well-being, Cheers Veronica


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A highly successful sales and leadership career working in a number of different and very competitive industries. Engaging with decision makers at all levels in business and government. Three decades employed by corporations, SME businesses in senior roles and almost twelve years operating as a freelance contractor has equipped me well for all aspects of business. Whether leading and mentoring sales teams, or in a direct sales role I enjoy the challenge to meet and exceed expectations. Making a real and tangible difference in either a team environment or as an individual is an important personal goal I have consistently achieved throughout my career. In all of my business and personal dealings over the years there is one issue that stands out above all others - communication. Excellent communication skills creates trust, helps with mutually beneficial outcomes and above all cements long lasting positive relationships. I strive everyday to communicate effectively with the people I encounter.