Blanca Brew

Breaking down insomnia by looking at different types of insomniacs, what are the main causes for loss of sleep, and key tips to overcoming a series of sleepless nights.

For many, tucking themselves into bed is an exciting, if not the most exciting, part of the day. People look forward to the comfort and relaxation sleep provides. But what if sleep was something one feared? For insomniacs, the bedroom can be a constant reminder of countless sleepless nights, a place for overthinking embarrassing moments, and where one fears the prospect of losing sleep.

How common is insomnia? Can anyone be an insomniac? What is it.

Insomnia is the world’s most common sleep disorder, with 60% of Australians suffering from at least one symptom of Insomnia, occurring three to four times a week. Symptoms of insomnia are common. This might be because their causes are equally as common.

A woman sitting at the edge of her bed.

Insomnia disorder is associated to someone who has difficulties with:

  1. Falling asleep: known as onset/early insomnia.
  2. Consolidating sleep: the inability to enter a deep sleep, known as middle insomnia.
  3. Sleep duration: waking up too early and not being able to fall back asleep, known as terminal/late insomnia.

Insomniacs can experience some of these symptoms or in more extreme cases, suffer from all of them. Such symptoms  occur despite having adequate opportunity to sleep (i.e. a bedroom, the absence of daylight, a quiet space).

There are two main types of insomniacs. Firstly, those that suffer from acute insomnia disorder: this is when someone experiences symptoms of insomnia at least three or four days a week for several weeks, but never regularly over a period of three months. Secondly, is chronic insomnia disorder: when someone experiences symptoms of insomnia over a long term, lasting over the three month threshold.

What causes insomnia?

A woman lying awake.

The causes of insomnia are different for everyone but are common enough that most people can experience its symptoms at different stages and degrees throughout their lifetime. For example, according to the SHF’s report, older people will more likely have trouble maintaining sleep, whereas young adults and teenagers have more trouble falling asleep. Luckily, sleep deprivation for most people is short term, as exhaustion has a way of overpowering an overthinking mind, a sore leg, a buzzing fly, or even disruptions to our circadian rhythm (our biological clock) from things like jet lag. For insomniacs however, severe causes trump the power of exhaustion and maintain a state of wakefulness.

A woman struggling to fall asleep.

There are two main causes of insomnia:

  • Primary insomnia: when long-term medical conditions (i.e. respiratory or cardiac disorders) cause physical and mental pain by reducing the quality of life and productivity of someone. This mainly results in difficulty falling asleep or maintaining sleep.
  • Secondary insomnia: when psychological disturbances such as mental trauma, depression, and anxiety cause symptoms of insomnia.

Please note that this is a simplified explanation of the possible causes for insomnia and a full list of physical, cognitive, and risk factors can be found here.

So, yes. Anyone can experience symptoms of insomnia at different stages of their life, but insomniacs suffer from these symptoms on a more regular basis that calls for certain lifestyle changes to overcome them.

3 top tips to overcoming a sleepless night

Someone suffering from a restless night.

From medical to psychological tactics, there is no single cure for overcoming a sleepless night. Here are some tips on how to minimise a case of insomnia:

  1. Sleep Restriction: This is a technique involving following a strict sleep schedule and wake up time (i.e. if desired sleeping time is 8 hours and the alarm is set for 7am, the patient must go to sleep at 11 pm). More time in bed does not necessarily mean effective time falling asleep.
  2. Establishing good sleep practices before going to bed: i.e. no use of blue-light electronics, no TV directly before bed, shutting the blinds, and keeping the room at a cool temperature.
  3. Only use the bed for sleep. If one finds themselves unable to fall asleep, leave the room and tire yourself out by doing relaxing activities such as reading or writing.
Young woman fallen asleep while reading a book.

 Side note: Drugs such as melatonin can also be used to increase the chances of falling asleep. They can be however, highly addictive and can lose effect if used regularly over a certain period of time.

A brief guide to some of the most common foods women crave during a nine-month pregnancy cycle. 

Pickles, grapefruit, and ice cream. A sub-par combination for most, but a delicacy for one with pregnancy cravings. Although women will often experience some type of food cravings or aversions throughout the first, second, and third trimesters of their nine month cycle, little is known as to why women crave certain flavors, textures, and food combinations when expecting but not post-partum.

Top food cravings during pregnancy:

  1. Chili Peppers. Spicy foods are a popular craving among pregnant women. One theory suggests this is because the body is often in need of cooling down during pregnancy. Eating spice generates the effect of cooling down on the body, triggering a craving for a particularly distinct taste.
  2. Dark Chocolate. Both rich with antioxidants and flavour, dark chocolate satisfies pregnancy’s increased caloric needs.

    Woman enjoying a slice of chocolate cake.
  3. Vanilla Ice Cream. Also in line with the idea that the body is always looking to cool down, some suggest ice cream not only satisfies a sweet tooth, but is also high in calcium and iron. This rich ingredient is a popular craving for these nutrients. There are however, other, healthier options available to satiate a craving for calcium or iron (i.e. kale, almonds, fish).

    Woman in sunglasses enjoying a cup of vanilla ice-cream.
  4. Pickles. Along with the usual salty suspects, foods like potato crisps and pickles are a response to an increase in blood volume because they are high in sodium.
  5. Grapefruit. Sour citrus fruits such as lemons, and others such as grapefruit are low in natural sugar and high in vitamins and nutrients like vitamin C. This craving supports the popular hypothesis that the body craves food in which it is deficient.

    Sliced grapefruit on chopping board and plates.
  6. Rice. Starchy foods such as potatoes, pasta, and bread are popular cravings. Rice is a particularly interesting one because some research suggests it is culturally dependent. For instance, women in the Untied States are more likely to crave highly palatable foods such as chocolate, while women in Japan tend to crave rice. This suggests something to do with country specific cultural expectations about food and pregnancy.
  7. Dirt and clay. Yes, sometimes pregnant women crave non-food items such as ice, dirt, clay, soap, or chalk. These are unsafe to consume and may hint towards an iron deficiency. In more extreme cases, where the body cannot obtain certain vitamins or minerals from food substances, the body can develop Pica.

Why do pregnant women get food cravings? 

Woman eating a serving of hot noodles.

Pregnant women with food cravings or aversions does not last post-partum. This begs the question as to why pregnant women have a tendency to change their appetite for certain foods during pregnancy. Here a few hypotheses:

  • A popular suggestion is that pregnant women crave foods they themselves, or the fetus, have a deficiency in. The body craves what it lacks. For instance, a rare craving for citrus fruit such as Oranges might be a lack in Vitamin C, etc. An obvious link is the body increases a need for certain vitamins and minerals during pregnancy and expresses their absence in diet through cravings.
  • Others have suggested cravings and aversions to specific foods also have something to do with the manner in which pregnancy hormones can affect senses such as taste or smell.
Woman enjoying a meal of tacos with chillies.
  • Some scientific research has also suggested that although popular belief looks at biochemical justification for food cravings during pregnancy, they differ from country to country. Women in Japan for instance, had a higher reporting of craving starchy food like rice, whereas women in the United States had a higher case of craving for highly palatable foods such as fries, chocolate, and sweets. Indeed, this suggests cravings may have something to do with physiological factors or culture. This hypothesis challenges the idea that hormone levels influence food cravings.
Woman in pink enjoying ice-cream in a cone.
  • Some old wives tales suggest the baby’s gender has an influence on the types of cravings their mothers have. For instance, citrus cravings have often been associated to girls. Others suggest craving salty foods means the baby is a boy, whereas craving sweet foods means the baby is a girl.
Woman taking a bike into a sour lemon.

Side note: The only legitimate way of predicting a baby’s gender is through a skilled sonographer recommended by your doctor.

Whether a craving for ice cream means the body needs to cool down, or one for lemonade means one is having a baby girl, we still do not know enough about why women crave certain foods when they’re expecting. What is for sure, is that some foods are just not meant to be consumed at the rate some pregnant women crave during their cycle.

A happy couple presenting their sonogram.


While moving may be inevitable, its toll on the family can be minimised with a few conscious steps. 

According to Peter Martin’s Census 2016, on average, an Australian family will move interstate once every five years. Whether it be looking for a better job, escaping a broken relationship, wanting a bigger pool, or hating the land lord, regional migration is frequent in Australia. This means, Australians are on the go. But to what cost?

Every year, half a million Australians move interstate, according to the Australian Bureau of Statistics. From 2018 – 2019, this meant 404,000 people moved from one regional state to another. That’s more than four MCG stadiums at capacity.

the Melbourne Cricket Ground (MCG)

Challenges of moving

The reality of moving, particularly from one state to another, is unstable. Although moving could well seem like the most financially and socially viable option, our children don’t often have a say in these decisions. The mental cost of moving from one place to another is taxing on our kids.

Three happy kids laughing.

Depending on how frequently a family moves, children can find it much harder to nurture high quality relationships and foster a sense of belonging. This can be threatening to a child’s sense of identity down the line.

This is perhaps because the ages from 10 to 18 are formative years both for the body (i.e. undergoing puberty), socially (i.e. developing social skills in a school setting), and academically (i.e. figuring out our interests, strengths, and passions at school). Moving, whether it be experiencing the change yourself or having a close friend leave you, can be tremendously character building because of the strain it puts on the need to adapt to a new setting.

A group of teenagers sitting by the water.

Minimising its impacts

Easier said than done. As parents, being aware of the challenges our kids can face is a step in the right direction. The impacts of moving go hand in hand with the reasons for moving. For instance, moving to find a better job for one parent can mean losing a job for the other. Divorce is also another major reason for families deciding a change of scenery is best for everyone. The effects of moving paired with the stressful reasons prompting it, are always sensed by those that have the least say in it.

Flexibility when it comes to adjusting to children’s emotions, changes in interests, and attempts to adapt to new social circles is crucial to minimising a sense of instability.

A father carrying his young toddler.

This could mean:

  • Keeping them informed. Letting children know exactly why you’re moving and how long you’re expecting to stay is important to making them feel involved and part of the team. This also shows sensitivity to the risk of a child feeling unheard.
  • Being more open to technology. Something most parents haven’t experienced growing up is the diverse way technology can be used to maintain long distant relationships. Facetime and Skype are not the only ways of maintaining a long-distance friendship. Increasingly, collaborative activities such as video games are used to keep in touch through a fun, and shared interest. Although too much screen time is something to be avoided, stigma around their use should be minimalised.
  • Getting involved. Encouraging children to participate in community initiatives such as local sporting teams, volunteering organizations, and attending seasonal activities such as summer camps, are great way for both parents and children to get to know their new surroundings. Whether or not they prefer their new home, getting involved is an important step towards mitigating mental strains associated with moving.
  • Making a new home feel like home. The sooner you unpack your boxes and put all your treasures out on display, the more comfortable and established children feel. Makes sense: home is where the family is… and all your stuff!

No matter what the reasons for moving are, choosing to minimise its effects is achievable and crucial to maintaining our children’s happiness, as well as our own.

Two children having a pillow fight.

It’s 7.00 am in 2013. I am living in the suburbs of New York City. Papa is annoyed. I know this because Scottish pipes and drums are blasting from the Bose speakers in the kitchen – this means we are late to breakfast.

Different styles of music marked different stages of our day growing up. For example, on a normal week day, we played classical music at breakfast. As a result, from a young age, we were familiar with Bach’s Cello Suite No. 1 and Mozart’s Requiem, K. 626. These composers and their pieces marked the beginning of every day. At lunch time, we listened to Neil Diamond in the 70s and Stan Getz’s Girl from Impanema. Dinner, however, was exclusively American and Italian jazz.  Frank is a big family favourite—always kicking off Saturday night appetisers with New York, New York.

For as long as I can remember, I have woken to classical and fallen asleep to jazz.

Graffiti of jazz musicians.

With my days structured in musical genres, I was able to use my spare time for exploring my own musical tastes. From rap, to country, to Pitbull – my Spotify playlists never seem to make much sense. Indeed, growing up listening to different types of music meant I could not only explore a myriad of musical epochs, but also developed an interest in their history, because of the important social and political role some musicians played.

The way my parents used music to break up our days and structure them according to meal times, meant to this day, I associate music with community, to a time for conversation, and a time to enjoy my food.

I credit my solid relationship with food with the benefits of music.

A young family sharing a meal together.

As I grow older, I am increasingly aware of the manner in which family dynamics around food and meals can shape and affect our children’s eating habits. The benefits of listening to music at home in a structured, but enjoyable way, meant, growing up, the time for eating was always a shared event. Music brought my family together around a small kitchen island for breakfast, lunch, and dinner.

A happy family having a picnic.

Not only has the correlation between food and music positively affected the quality of our time spent eating, but as well as that of our conversation. If anything, music inspires taste and mood, which is reflected in the way people communicate.

Research on the association between music and its intellectual benefits for kids is common. The assumption is, however, that there is causation involved between listening to music and children earning higher marks. This didn’t play out for me because I was never patient enough to learn a musical instrument and always preferred kicking the soccer ball. However, alternative explanations could explain why children who grow up listening to music or playing a musical instrument achieve success. For instance, a child taking the time to learn to play the guitar might learn the skill of perseverance, which helps when tackling challenging homework.

Toddler playing the guitar at home.

The Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America (PNAS) show that music has physical and emotional benefits. Music activates the emotional reward system of our brains and causes the release of dopamine. This is one of the main signaling molecules in our brains. It is often used to describe a small, pleasurable thrill. Music creates ‘peak emotional arousal’ following for instance, the anticipation of a beat drop or a particularly enjoyable passage.

This creates a similar feeling in our bodies as that of other ‘euphoria-inducing stimuli’ such as food, drugs and sex.

A model of the human brain.

When combined with other euphoric aspects of our lives – i.e. food and a happy family environment, music has incredible social and personal benefits. The natural benefits of music on the body explain why music is a universal concept among humans.

 A 3-step guide for parents to encourage our children to use their creativity in an entrepreneurial spirit. Whether it be doing the activity they love or simply getting familiar with what a business looks like, motivating our kidpreneurs to start thinking on their feet can be an incredible learning experience from the comfort of their own home.

At 17, Jack Bloomfield is a self-made Australian millionaire. Starting with odd jobs like mowing his neighbour’s lawns, his instinct to make money has led him into a successful entrepreneurial journey while balancing his final years at school. Today, Mr. Bloomfield owns five e-commerce stores and is the CEO Tech Founder of Disputify, a cyber theft prevention platform. Youth entrepreneurs are not to be underestimated.

Jack Bloomfield by Jack Bloomfield PTY LTD available here and used under a Creative Commons Attribution. The image has not been modified.

Speaking to children about making money can be a great way to get a business going straight from the kitchen. This topic can however, seem vaguely unapproachable, and perhaps, unnecessary. This is even more reason for parents to encourage our children to approach their interests with creative ideas, in order to set them up with a potential business platform.

Step 1: Have an idea and follow it through

Showing our kids we support them doing what they love can give them the confidence they need to pursue it as a business idea. Nevertheless, it is important to remember picking up activities and dropping them for other interests is common for kids at a young age. Focusing on one can however, significantly build a child’s understanding of a particular field and give them the drive to explore it as an entrepreneur.

Options are endless. There are entrepreneurs for all things, and all shapes and sizes. Whether it be calligraphy cards, cookie baking and packaging, scented holiday candle making, or sewing reusable masks during a pandemic, money or space should not hinder a child’s ability to pursue their interests into a profitable idea. Indeed, many successful entrepreneurial ideas are DIY and do not require an expensive investment.Step 2: Establish a target market

Once children have a product idea they are excited by and interested in developing, they need to establish a targeted market. For instance, certain products are more suited to next door neighbours and family friends, whereas others can be distributed as perfect gift ideas to teachers and their colleagues at school.

Establishing a targeted audience will help narrow ideas to figure out what quality of service is expected from potential customers. This is a fun and creative process resulting in a lot of trial and error but teaches our children invaluable skills they can use in the future.

An inspiring business created by Lottie Molnar and Amy Lansell at aged 14, is Tallow Candles (@tallowcandles). This Melbourne based business started up in 2016, when both girls were in Middle School. Using home ingredients and DIY materials, they began a hand poured soy candle business from the comfort of their very own kitchen. Using their cooking and sewing skills, both girls were able to master the art of candle-making using kitchen materials, and that of packaging and presentation of their products. A local success, the target market for their scented candles was friends, family and school-teachers in Melbourne. This ensured their products were easily marketed by word of mouth by loyal customers.

Step 3: Get it out there

Finally, with an idea in mind, a product to sell, and an audience to sell it to, get your product out there. Depending on their age, our role as parents could be inspired by helping monitor and manage our child’s business image on, for example, social media. Sometimes, when a desired audience is local (i.e. family and friends), a private Facebook or Instagram page is a safe and easy way to go.

Here are a few accessible ways young entrepreneurs can put their ideas into the open:

  • Word of mouth
  • Social media
  • School (i.e. through teachers and friends)
  • Work (colleagues of parents)
  • Neighbourhood/local initiatives

At 13 years old, Issy Hunt started Instagram account @cardsandco.official as a way to turn her talent in calligraphy writing and love for art into a small Australian-based business. This consisted of selling personalised calligraphy place cards for two dollars per card. With guidance from her parents, her social media accounts are private, aiming to only target friends, family, and friends of friends. In doing so, Issy’s parents can enjoy some peace of mind knowing a deliberately small-scale business platform does not attract strangers. Cards & Co has been an incredible way for Issy to learn the nuts and bolts of marketing a skill, presentation in photography, delivery of products, budgeting and customer service.

An important note: A child’s ability to pitch and sell their product could really depend on the way their parent approaches public platforms like social media. Are you comfortable with your child’s image being online? Would you rather people heard about your product in person? How creative can you get online vs. off-line?

Although on one hand, it might seem unnecessary to put in the effort to encourage your child to start their own business early, each step outlined above highlights some of the most durable and essential skills kids can apply to their work ethic at school and potentially, in their working relationships in the future. Not only does encouraging youth entrepreneurship enhance children’s awareness about business, it can bolster family and community bonding.