What Is Insomnia?
Insomnia is a sleep disorder that makes it difficult to fall and stay asleep for long enough to feel well-rested the next morning. The amount of sleep needed varies from person to person. The average adult requires approximately 7 to 8 hours of sleep. However, insomnia is about the quality of sleep and how you feel after sleeping. People who experience insomnia are usually dissatisfied with their sleep and find it harder to function during the day. Not only does insomnia have an impact on your energy level, concentration and mood, but also on you health, performance at work/school and quality of life.
Types Of Insomnia
Primary vs. secondary insomnia
You can have sleep problems due to another health condition such as asthma, depression, heartburn, arthritis or cancer. This is called secondary insomnia. Primary insomnia is not directly associated with another health condition or problem.
Acute vs. chronic insomnia
You can divide insomnia in the category acute insomnia or chronic insomnia. It depends on how long you experience it and how often it occurs. Acute insomnia can last from one night up to a few weeks, which is considered a short period of time. It often happens due to life circumstances, for example if you are nervous for an activity or event the next day. Acute insomnia is very common and many people have experience with this type of sleep disruption. It often goes away without any treatment.
Chronic insomnia is when a person experiences insomnia for three nights a week for a minimum of one month. Insomnia can also come and go when a person doesn’t have any sleep problems. Chronic insomnia is usually a symptom or side effect of another condition; secondary insomnia.
What Can Cause Insomnia
Acute and chronic insomnia can have different causes since they both have old time. As mentioned before Acute insomnia is often caused by life circumstances:
Stress is a common factor that keeps you up at night. Whether it is stress from something small like a presentation or significant life stress such as moving or divorcing. The death of a loved one or getting a new job or job loss can also cause stress that can keep you awake.
- Emotional of physical discomfort
You might have troubles falling asleep because you are thinking about the fight you had with your partner, which can cause insomnia. Another factor that can cause insomnia might be that your mattress is not as comfortable as it used to be. It might be the time to consider getting a new mattress.
- Illness and medication
Having a cold, allergies for dust mites, asthma can cause insomnia. Sneezing and coughing are not helping you to fall asleep. Also certain medications to treat the illness can disrupt your sleep and cause insomnia.
- Environmental factors
The environment in which you sleep might be too noisy or not dark enough. This can slow down the process of falling asleep, which can cause insomnia. Also, when your room is too cold or too hot. Who can sleep in the summer and not be sweating when it’s 30 degrees?
- Interferences in regular sleep schedule
You may have a jetlag if you came back from a business trip or holidays or when you have to switch from night to day shifts and visa verse. It can cause insomnia since your internal body clock is not used to the new circumstances.
The causes of chronic insomnia:
- Psychological problems and emotional distress:
The two most common cause of chronic insomnia are anxiety and depression. People who are often depressed either sleep too much or they have troubles falling asleep. Daily anxiety issues or anxiety disorders, such as post-traumatic stress disorder, can cause insomnia. It is harder to fall asleep if you’re worried if you will fall asleep. Other causes of insomnia in adults like chronic stress can also keep you up at night.
- Pain or discomfort
You’re not able to relax and fall asleep if you’re not lying comfortable in your bed. Chronic pain or lower back pain can cause insomnia. You might not be sleeping on the right mattress for your condition. Even if you don’t experience pain, but you’re not comfortable in bed, might be a sign for a new mattress.
- Sleepiness during the day
- General tiredness
- Difficulty falling asleep
- Night awakenings
- Wake up early
- Concentration/Memory problems
Changing your sleep habit and addressing the underlying cause of insomnia can already help you sleep again. If insomnia still doesn’t go away, you may want to consider consulting your doctor for behavior therapies or medication.
Cognitive and behavior therapy
Your doctor can refer you to a type of cognitive behavioral therapy that’s specifically focused on people with insomnia (CBT-I). CBT-I targets the unhelpful thoughts and behaviors that can cause insomnia. This treatment promotes healthy sleep habits and uses various methods to relieve sleep anxiety. Many people find it very effective with long-lasting results.
CBT-I may include:
- Relaxation techniques
Progressive muscle relaxation, biofeedback, and breathing exercises can help you to calm the body, reduce anxiety and induce sleep. Other relaxation techniques that help people sleep involve mindfulness, guided imagery and meditation techniques. These techniques can help you fall asleep and return to sleep when you suddenly wake up in the middle of the night.
- Stimulus control
Stimulus control contributes to breaking the association between the bedroom and wakefulness. You should only associate the bedroom with sleep and sex. Therefore, the time you spend in bed is limited, as well as the activities in the bedroom.
- Sleep restriction
Sleep restriction means that you limit the time spend in bed and bedroom. It has strict bedtimes and waking times schedules. It limits the time you spend in bed for sleep purposes only. This can cause sleep deprivation since you’re not allowed to sleep outside the scheduled times. Time limit gradually increases if sleep has improved.
- Paradoxical intention
This treatment is to reduce anxiety and worries about being able to fall asleep. To achieve that, rather than focusing on falling asleep, people have to go to bed and try to stay awake.
There several sleep aids available for insomnia, prescription medication and (non-prescription) over-the-counter drugs.
Determining which medication is most suitable for your sleep problems depends on your insomnia symptoms and many different health factors. This is why it’s important to consult a doctor before taking a sleep aid. Over-the-count medications are usually not recommended since they only tackle the symptoms and not the underlying cause of insomnia. Also, it can cause side effects and patient can become dependent.
If they are recommended, you should have the smallest effective dose possible for the shortest time; two to four weeks maximum. Major classes of prescription insomnia medications include benzodiazepine hypnotics, non-benzodiazepine hypnotics, and melatonin receptor agonists.