A true insomniac will tell you that there is nothing romantic or lyrical about going without sleep for nights. Patients of insomnia find it difficult to go to sleep. An insomniac will often wake up several times during the night or wake too early and find it difficult to go back to sleep. It’s a sleep disorder that affects millions of people all over the world. However, it does not get the attention that it deserves.
Insomnia can be divided into two categories; primary insomnia and secondary insomnia. Primary insomnia is a condition in which a person has sleep problems but it is not related to any other health condition. Secondary insomnia implies that the sleep problem is linked to another health concern.
Insomnia can also be differentiated depending on its duration. It can last for one night up to a few weeks, in which case it is short-term or acute insomnia. If it lasts for three nights in a row for up to a month or more, it is long-term or chronic insomnia.
Insomnia may lead to sleepiness during the day, fatigue, irritability and weak muscle movement. People with insomnia may also find it difficult to concentrate. Consequently, their performance at work or at school deteriorates.
There are many things that may cause insomnia. Some of these factors are:
Stress due to a big change in life like a new job or the loss of a job could be a reason why a person does not get sleep. A divorce or the loss of a loved one is also big changes in life that could result in insomnia.
• Psychiatric condition
Psychiatric conditions like depression can lead to insomnia. Depression usually leads to chronic insomnia.
• Health condition
An underlying health condition like sleep apnea may cause insomnia. Physical pain may also keep people up at night.
Medication for allergies, colds, asthma and high blood pressure can cause insomnia for a few nights.
• Substance abuse
Nicotine and caffeine are stimulants that can keep people up at night. Alcohol may result in disturbed sleep.
• Environmental factors
There may be too much light or noise which may disturb sleep. Reading ebooks or using the laptop before sleep is also harmful.
Insomnia may be hereditary. Studies have found that children with an insomniac parent are more likely to suffer from insomnia.
Acute insomnia usually does not need treatment and goes away on its own. The trick is to follow good sleep habits. A light snack before bedtime often helps. Following a routine like going to sleep at the same time and waking up at the same time everyday also helps. Some kind of activity like reading or listening to music before going to bed may help bring on sleep. It is advisable not to eat a big meal or exercise before bedtime.
Chronic insomnia needs treatment. It involves first treating any underlying cause that may be a causing the insomnia. If it persists, a physician may suggest behavioural therapy. This will help change the behavioural pattern that may be leading to insomnia. Sleep restriction therapy and relaxation exercises may also help.
In order to ensure that your insomnia is not caused by sleep apnea, take this sleep test. Once your physician rules it out, the insomnia can be treated.