Insomnia is a sleep disorder which is characterized by the difficulty in falling or staying asleep. Patients with insomnia might have one or more of these following symptoms:
- Difficulty in falling asleep
- Waking up frequently during the night and also having trouble in going back to sleep
- Waking up very early in the morning and finding impossible to sleep again even if tired
- Feeling very tired and dull upon waking up
Types of Insomnia
There are 2 types of insomnia:
1) Primary Insomnia.
2) Secondary Insomnia.
When a person has sleep problems which are not directly linked with any other health problem or condition, then it’s called Primary Insomnia.
Secondary Insomnia happens when a person has sleep problems because of some other health issue. This includes health problems like depression, cancer, asthma, arthritis or heartburn. Insomnia can happen due to the medication the patient is taking or some substance like alcohol which they are using. There are other types of Insomnia.
Acute versus Chronic Insomnia:
Insomnia can be classified into acute and chronic depending on how often it occurs and how long it lasts. It can be either short-term (acute insomnia) or a long lasting one (chronic insomnia). For some people, it can come and go, with some period of time with no sleep problems. Acute insomnia usually lasts from one night to a couple of weeks.
Acute Insomnia Causes:
- Life stress (Mental Stress)
- Physical or Mental illness
- Discomfort at the Emotional or physical level
- Because of some environmental factors like extreme temperatures, light, noise which causes interference with sleep
- Intake of some medications to treat other illness(like colds/allergies/depression/blood pressure/asthma).
- Unexpected interferences in the normal sleep schedule (ie. jet lag or because of the switch from day to night shift,etc.)
The condition becomes chronic when the person experiences insomnia for at least 3 nights a week for longer periods of time.
Chronic Insomnia Causes:
- Depression or anxiety.
- Presence of Chronic stress.
- Experiencing some sort of pain or discomfort during the night.
Symptoms of Insomnia
Following are some of the insomnia symptoms in which an Insomniac person will experience:
- Sleepiness in the daytime
- A lot of tiredness
- Problems in concentrating on work or memory issues
How to diagnose Insomnia?
If you think you experience any of the above insomnia symptoms, talk to your health care professional. A simple evaluation involving a physical exam, a review of medical history and sleep history. One can maintain a sleep diary for a week or more, keep track of the sleep patterns, etc. Another thing to track is, how you feel and mood levels throughout the day.
A doctor may want to interview the bed partner to know about both the quality and quantity of your sleep. In extreme insomnia cases, one may be referred to a sleep specialist or dental sleep clinic for special tests.
Acute insomnia can be cured without any treatment. Mild effects of insomnia can be cured or prevented by practicing proper sleep habits. If the insomnia affects your activities during the day, then consult a health care provider immediately. If you are sleepy and tired during the day, sleeping pills are usually prescribed for a limited time. If the problem persists, then check with a sleep specialist.
Short acting drugs can help to avoid the side effects such as drowsiness which happen in the following day. So, avoid using over-the-counter or random sleeping pills for insomnia. They might have undesired side effects and also bound to lose the effectiveness over time.
Chronic insomnia treatments involve first treating the underlying conditions or any health problems which causes insomnia. If insomnia continues, doctors may suggest taking behavioral therapy. Such behavioral approaches help one to change the behaviors which worsen insomnia.
This helps also in learning and adapting new behaviors which will promote sleep. Other techniques like sleep restriction therapy, relaxation exercises and reconditioning are found to be useful. Levels of Insomnia in Australia is rather high because of the climatic conditions.
Ways to prevent Insomnia:
Good sleep habits and sleep hygiene can help in beating insomnia. Following tips are proven to be effective:
- Go to sleep at the same time every night and also get up at the same time every morning. It’s best to try not to take naps during the day. Because such naps make one less sleepy during the night.
- Avoid too much usage of phones or other communication devices which give off light during bedtime. Such activities make it harder to sleep immediately.
- Avoid taking substances like nicotine, caffeine and alcohol during the evening times. Caffeine and nicotine are active stimulants and they keep one from falling asleep. Alcohol can lead to waking up in the middle of the night and interferes highly with the sleep quality.
- Get regular exercise and some other forms of physical activity. Do not exercise near bedtime. It may stimulate the blood flow and makes it hard to fall asleep immediately. Experts suggest to not exercise for at least 3 to 4 hours before sleeping time.
- Do not eat any heavy meals later in the day. It’s always preferable to have a light snack before bedtime. It usually helps in sleeping faster.
- Make your bedroom war enough and comfortable. Make sure that the room is quiet, dark and not too warm or too much cold. If you find difficulty with light, try using a sleeping mask. In case noise is a problem, try using earplugs or a fan or a noise removal machine to reduce the sounds.
- Make sure to follow a routine which helps you to relax before sleep. It could be reading a book, listening to music, or taking a warm bath.
- Try to avoid using your bed for activities other than sleep. Doing office work, eating, playing on the bed makes it difficult to get a proper sleep mindset.
- If one can’t fall asleep or not feeling drowsy, then it’s better to get up and read or do some activity which is not overly stimulating. Try doing this until you feel sleepy enough.
- If you lie awake worrying about a lot of things, then try doing a to-do list before going to bed. This helps one to avoid unnecessary worries during the night time.
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