Why Your Insomnia is a Bigger Issue Than You Realise
Insights with Dr Anup Desai (Sleep Physician)
Getting a consistently good night's sleep will help you build the mental, physical and emotional resilience required to face the stresses of our modern world.

So what happens if we find ourselves struggling with insomnia?

Dr Ron spoke with Dr Anup Desai, to help shed light on the possible health consequences of insomnia and her top tips to support better sleep and reduce insomnia. 

Dr Anup Desai shares his insights below...

Defining Insomnia
Dr Desai says insomnia is very common. We have all experienced it at one time or another. It can be acute, transient or chronic.

Chronic insomnia is of clinical impotence. It is defined as difficulty falling asleep or difficulty maintaining sleep. You are considered to be struggling to fall asleep if it takes you longer than fifteen minutes to half an hour to fall asleep.

Difficulty maintaining sleep is when you struggle to maintain sleep, meaning you wake up in the middle of the night and struggle to go back to sleep.

Early morning waking can also be a form of insomnia. You might go to bed at ten o'clock and sleep well, but wake up at four in the morning and not be able to go back to sleep.

In order for chronic insomnia to be diagnosed, it must occur several times per week, over a period of one to three months.

Chronic insomnia is more common in the elderly. Dr Desai estimates insomnia affects ten to twenty percent of people globally.

Insomnia is a cause for daytime distress
When you have a sleep deficiency, insomnia also causes daytime distress. Throughout the day you may feel fatigued and battle to function at your best.
Signs your insomnia is causing daytime distress include:
  • Poor memory
  • Difficulty expressing yourself
  • Poor reaction time
  • Feel foggy
  • Difficulty maintaining concentration
The changes and signs you are not getting enough sleep are subtle, but important. You may feel like you are coping well with less sleep. However once you address the deficit and get enough sleep, you discover you are able to function much better.
Can you really catch up on sleep?
Dr Desai says: 
"A lot of people think they can manage with small amounts of sleep but the reality is they can't."

Many people restrict their sleep during the week and try to catch up by sleeping in over the weekend. Research studies have shown when people restrict their sleep to just five hours per night for a week their performance deteriorates.

Even if you sleep for a few extra hours on Saturday and Sunday, it is not sufficient to make up for the seven to ten hours you lost during the week. This means your performance will not bounce back to baseline levels by the time you reach Monday.

The habit of catching up on sleep on weekends may actually cause more harm than good.

It shifts your sleep rhythm to later in the day. You create a delayed sleep phase because you go to bed later and wake up later the next day. This makes it even harder to wake up early on Monday when you need to get to work.

Why lack of sleep is a major concern for overall health
Poor sleep can lead to a lot of health issues. The list of health conditions linked to poor sleep is fairly long. Some include:
  • Hypertension
  • Heart attack
  • Stroke
  • Insulin resistance
  • Diabetes
  • Poor mental health
There is a strong relationship between sleep disorders and mental health. There is an increased risk of anxiety and depression. Treating these disorders is also more difficult when sleep is a problem too.

Recent research is pointing to untreated sleep disorders as a possible cause for dementia. It is early days and a lot more research needs to be done, but it holds a lot of promise.

Dr Anup Desai's top tips to support better sleep & reduce insomnia: 
  • Understand the importance of sleep
  • Respect your bedtime
  • Respect your sleep time
  • Allow enough time for sleep and don't let anything intrude on this time
  • Get help if you are struggling
  • Create an environment conducive to sleep - no work, private, dark, quiet and cool
  • Get regular exercise, preferably in the morning
  • Create a wind down routine
Take a deeper dive into the importance of sleep and sleep quality in the deep dive sleep pillar.
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