Do you struggle to get to sleep regardless of how tired you are? Or do you wake up in the middle of the night and lie awake for hours, anxiously watching the clock? Do you have Insomnia?
Insomnia and Sleep
Sleep is as essential as diet and exercise. Inadequate sleep can result in fatigue, depression, concentration problems, illness and injury.
Insomnia is the most prevalent sleep disorder in the general population, and is commonly encountered in medical setting. Insomnia takes a toll on your energy, mood, health, and ability to function during the day. Chronic insomnia can even contribute to serious health problems. Simple changes to your lifestyle and daily habits can put a stop to sleepless nights.
What is insomnia and What Causes It?
Insomnia is a sleep disorder that is characterized by difficulty falling and/or staying asleep. Although insomnia is the most common sleep complaint, usually, it is not a single sleep disorder. It is more accurate to think of insomnia as a symptom of another problem.
Insomnia usually differs from person-to-person. In some individuals, insomnia can be caused by something as simple as drinking too much caffeine during the day. And in others, insomnia may be the sign of a more complex issue like an underlying medical condition. Insomnia can be caused by pain, digestive problems or a sleep disorder. Some common sleep disorders such as restless legs syndrome and sleep apnea can lead to insomnia. Insomnia may also be a symptom of anxiety or depression.
Some medications can lead to insomnia, including those taken for:
colds and allergies
high blood pressure
depression (especially SSRI antidepressants)
Who is at Risk for Insomnia?
Insomnia is a common disorder. One in 3 adults has insomnia sometimes. One in 10 adults has chronic insomnia. The National Center for Sleep Disorders Research at the National Institutes of Health estimates 30%-40% of adults report some symptoms of insomnia each year, and about 10%-15% report they have chronic insomnia.
The prevalence of insomnia is higher among older people and women. Women suffer loss of sleep in connection with menstruation, pregnancy, and menopause. Rates of insomnia increase as a function of age but most often the sleep disturbance is caused by some other medical condition.
People who might be at increased risk for insomnia include those who:
Have a lot of stress.
Are depressed or have other emotional distress, such as divorce or death of a spouse.
Have lower incomes.
Work at night or have frequent major shifts in their work hours.
Travel long distances with time changes.
Have certain medical conditions or sleep disorders that can disrupt sleep.
Have an inactive lifestyle.
So how do you distinguish a normal, passing sleep problem from a more serious form of insomnia that requires treatment?
According to the American Academy of Sleep Medicine (AASM) guidelines, people with insomnia have one or more of the following symptoms:
Difficulty falling asleep
Difficulty staying asleep (waking up during the night and having trouble returning to sleep)
Waking up too early in the morning
Unrefreshing sleep (also called “non-restorative sleep”)
Fatigue or low energy
Cognitive impairment, such as difficulty concentrating
Mood disturbance, such as irritability
Behavior problems, such as feeling impulsive or aggression
Difficulty at work or school
Difficulty in personal relationships, including family, friends and caregivers
How Is Insomnia Diagnosed?
Usually, your doctor will diagnose insomnia based on your medical and sleep histories and a physical exam. He or she also may recommend a sleep study. Sleep studies are very helpful when the cause of your insomnia is unclear.
If you are experiencing difficulty sleeping, consider whether an event or particular stress could be the cause. If so, the problem may resolve in time. If not, and the problem persists for a few weeks or more, or if you experience excessive daytime drowsiness as a result of the insomnia, talk to your doctor about your symptoms. Bring with you a record of your sleep (sleep diary), fatigue levels throughout the day, and any other symptoms you might be having.
How Is Insomnia Treated?
There are a number of approaches to treating insomnia. Your health care professional will ask about your sleep experience, your sleep schedule, and your daily routine. A thorough medical history and physical examination may be needed.
Treatment for insomnia can include behavioral, psychological, medical components or some combination thereof. You and your doctor will need to talk about your particular situation and history of insomnia, as well as its causes, to decide on the best treatment plan.
The good news is that most cases of insomnia can be managed with changes you can make on your own—without relying on prescription or over-the-counter sleeping pills. However, if insomnia has become a regular occurrence, talking to your doctor about medical treatment may be a good idea.
Regardless of age, insomnia can affect anyone. Knowing the magnitude of your sleeping habits can and will greatly influence your health and immune system. It’s no longer just about getting beauty sleep, but about getting healthy sleep. If you are experiencing insomnia, seek medical advice.