Research Round 2 - Cycle 4 - Why Do We Have Trouble Sleeping?

Hey everyone,

This week I plan to talk about the different medical issues that revolve around sleep. I plan to focus on three main conditions: Insomnia, Sleep Apnea and Narcolepsy. For each medical condition, I would like to uncover each issue, find symptoms and find a way to fix the condition or find a way for people to live with it. Before I dive into my post, I need to do my second myth.

Myth #2

Insomnia is characterized by difficulty falling asleep.

A common myth people hear all the time is "Insomnia is based on difficulty falling asleep" which isn't true. The myth is just a symptom of insomnia, not the main reason.



Image result for insomnia clipart

What is it?

Insomnia is a sleeping disorder that prevents people from falling and/or staying asleep, but there are two different types. The first type is called Primary Insomnia which means the person who has insomnia doesn't have any other conditions that could have a side affect of Insomnia. Secondary Insomnia is the second type and it's when someone has another health condition like cancer, depression or heartburn which can cause Insomnia. (1)

How long will Insomnia last?

How long your Insomnia lasts is based on how serious it is. If a person has acute Insomnia which is short term, it should only last a few days to a couple weeks. Whereas if they have chronic Insomnia it can last from three nights to months or even longer. (1)

What are the symptoms?

  • difficulty falling asleep
  • trouble staying asleep for the whole night
  • losing the ability to stay awake during the day
  • depression, anxiety
  • anxiety specifically about sleeping
  • difficulty paying attention or focusing (2)

These are just some of the main symptoms of insomnia, but there are many more.

What are the causes of Insomnia?

Insomnia isn't a medical issue that you are born with, but instead an issue that could be caused by stress, poor sleeping habits and bad eating habits. Stress is something most of us are familiar with because at some point we all have gone through it. If too much stress is put on one person whether it's school, work or illness related, the brain is too active at night which causes the person not to sleep. Poor sleeping and eating habits are pretty similar because our body likes to have a pattern and if your sleeping at different times every night or taking naps in the middle of the day, our bodies won't be tired at night. For eating habits, it's not recommended that you eat at night since it may feel uncomfortable when lying down in bed which result in the person not feeling tired, but more bloated. (2)  

Is there a cure? or A way to live with Insomnia?

Thankfully there is a cure for insomnia and it seems quite simple but at the same time it could be hard for some. Doctors say just a small lifestyle change could prevent and cure insomnia. For each person the change may be different because it's unlikely majority of people will all have the same cause. For stress, trying a way to control it by asking for help from your family members or even seeking medical advice could be helpful. Bad habits can easily be fixed by going to bed at the same time everyday and not eating after 9 pm. (3)



Image result for sleep anpea cartoon

What is it?

Sleep Apnea is a serious condition where you stop breathing for short periods of time during your sleep. The time periods when you aren't breathing vary, but they can last from seconds to minutes. Luckily, your breathing does come back to normal with a snort or cough. Oddly enough, doctors can't detect it because it occur during sleep, but rather you spouse or parent notices symptoms. (4)

How long will Sleep Apnea last?

Sleep Apnea doesn't go away on it's own for adults, but sometimes children can grow out of it. (5)

What are the symptoms?

  • restless sleep
  • waking up from choking, coughing or gasping
  • low energy, can't focus, memory issues
  • morning headaches, sore throat
  • opposite behaviour (4,5)


What are the causes of Sleep Apnea?

There are many causes of Sleep Apnea and they aren't hereditary thank goodness. The most common causes of Sleep Apnea are obesity and surprisingly gender. Studies show that men are more likely to have this medical problem than women I'm not certain why, but I think it has to do with women's bodies and how men sleep differently than women. More causes of Sleep Apnea include high blood pressure, smoking, high metabolism and race. (4)

Is there a cure? or a way to live with it?

As of right now there isn't a cure for Sleep Apnea, but rather a lot of ways to live with it. One way to fix the issue is to have a sleeping machine which helps you breathe at night. It releases air into your nose so you breathe through the whole night and it prevents you from not breathing. Another simple way is to loss weight or change the way you sleep. Which could mean lying on your side or stomach instead of your back. For adults, an easy fix is to not drink so much because alcohol can cause you to stay awake and could put you at risk for accidents. (4)



Image result for Narcolepsy Humor

What is it?

Narcolepsy is a neurological disorder that affects a person's ability to stay awake during the day because they don't sleep at night. Sometimes a person may have a sleep attack, it's when they fall asleep right there and then. Narcolepsy can occur in between the ages 15-25, but it can happen at any age, it's just more common during your teens and young adult. (6)

What are the symptoms?

  • sleepiness during the day
  • cataplexy (loss of muscle tone and you feel very weak)
  • hallucinations
  • sleep paralysis (inability to move or speak while falling asleep)
  • behaviour changes
  • insomnia  (6,7)


What are the causes of Narcolepsy?

There isn't a specific answer for what causes Narcolepsy, but there are some theories. Scientists believe people with the disorder have low levels of hypocretin. Hypocretin is a neurological chemical in our brains that regulate our wakefulness and sleep. Since they have low levels of hypocretin, they have troubles staying awake therefore it causes Narcolepsy. Some other options are .... it could have run in your genes so its hereditary or a brain injury could have caused Narcolepsy. (7)


Is there a cure? or a way to live with it?

Like the causes, there isn't a cure for Narcolepsy, but rather medication or lifestyle changes to make the disorder tolerable. Some medications which are normally prescribed include

  • Monafinil
  • Anti Depressants
  • Sodium Oxybate
  • Amphetamine like stimulants

Some lifestyle changes could be going to bed earlier and having a sleep schedule, making time in the day for short naps, not eating or drinking before bed and exercising daily. (7)


For my next round of research I will be looking into  some reasons behind sleeping issues, not medical issues but how stress, anxiety and depression can prevent people from sleeping. Also, I want to define the difference between stress issues which result in not sleeping verses medical issues. Thanks for all the comments last post and I will try and create a survey because I am quite curious to see how much sleep everyone gets.












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Thanks for reading! Please comment and leave your opinions because they really help my research and they are all very encouraging.

Original Post

Hi Lauren,

Your research on various medical conditions that can deprive sleep was very interesting. I like how you started your research by busting a myth about insomnia. I find that some conditions that make sleeping difficult are often misunderstood and characterised solely due to this symptom, making it difficult to identify the actual issue. It is also interesting how the effects of some conditions can be reduced by a simple lifestyle change, while others cannot be cured.

One thing that perhaps you could look into if Fatal familial insomnia, which is a variation of insomnia that is extremely progressive and can result in death. Although it is extremely uncommon, it would probably still be interesting to research. Here is a link with some information about it.

I hope that this helps and good luck with your research!

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