Sleep patterns differ from one individual to another but, sleep disorders are quite common. One of the most common sleep disorders is insomnia. Insomnia is a sleep condition where one has trouble sleeping, staying asleep, or both. It can develop into other health issues as well. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recommends 7 to 9 hours of sleep every day. In the U.S. alone, 25% of the population experiences insomnia at some point in their lives. 75% of them only develop short-term effects that don’t need medical intervention.
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Types of Insomnia
Acute Insomnia: Also known as adjustment insomnia, acute insomnia is the most common. It’s short-term insomnia that lasts anywhere from a few days to a month. Acute insomnia is due to environmental changes or stressful events. Some of the causes include an uncomfortable bed, excessive light, or a new environment.
Chronic Insomnia: This is long-term insomnia. A patient experiences sleep difficulties for at least three days a week to a month. Chronic insomnia can either be primary or secondary. Primary chronic insomnia, or idiopathic insomnia, has no specific cause. Secondary, or comorbid insomnia, is more common. It’s due to certain medical conditions like acid reflux, diabetes, and sleep apnea.
Onset Insomnia: This occurs when someone has difficulties initiating sleep. Onset insomnia can be chronic or short-term. Common causes include stimulants like caffeine, environmental changes, stress, and chronic pain.
Maintenance Insomnia: When you have maintenance insomnia, you have difficulties staying asleep. You also find it hard going back to sleep after waking up or you wake up too early. This may be due to psychological or medical conditions.
Behavioral Insomnia of Childhood (BIC): BIC occurs in children and there are different types. BIC sleep-onset is due to a child’s negative associations with sleep. Establishing a healthy sleep routine should resolve it. BIC limit-setting is insomnia that occurs when a child refuses to go to bed. BIC combined type is a combination of BIC sleep-onset and BIC limit-setting.
Symptoms of Insomnia
- Difficulties falling asleep when you go to bed
- Waking up in the middle of the night and being unable to go back to sleep
- Waking up too early
- Feeling tired even after a night’s rest
- Daytime sleepiness or fatigue
- Depression, anxiety, and irritability
- Difficulties concentrating on tasks and memory problems
- You become prone to accidents and errors
- Anxiety or worry about sleeping
Diagnosis for Insomnia
A doctor will make a clinical diagnosis if:
- You experience sleep difficulties at least thrice a week for over 3 months
- Sleep difficulties affect your quality of life
The doctor or specialist will ask you about your medical history. They will also enquire about alcohol use, drug use, and sleep patterns. A physical exam may be conducted to test for underlying conditions. The specialist may also request an overnight sleep test, which records your sleep pattern and sometimes has you wear a special device. The device tracks your sleep-wake patterns and movements.
How to Treat Insomnia
There are pharmaceutical and non-pharmaceutical insomnia treatments. Your doctor will discuss treatment options with you. Sometimes, you may need to try different treatments until you find one (or a combination) that works best for you.
The first line of treatment is cognitive-behavioral therapy (CBT) which is usually done with a therapist to practice mindfulness. Sleep hygiene treatment is another option. This involves making changes to your bedtime routine, like avoiding stimulants before bed.
Medications for this ailment include over-the-counter drugs like diphenhydramine (Benadryl). The doctor may also prescribe medications like eszopiclone (lunesta) and zolpidem (ambien).
Sometimes activities like meditation can help treat insomnia. Meditation and yoga reduce stress, depression, anxiety, pain, and digestive discomforts.
How to Manage Insomnia
Short-term insomnia goes away on its own with time. Chronic insomnia, however, needs intervention. It can be managed through:
- Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT): It’s used to replace behaviors and thoughts initiating sleep problems. CBT treats and manages the underlying causes of sleep problems.
- Medications: Sleep medications can be prescribed for a short time to manage insomnia. They are, however, the last option if CBT fails.
- When should you see a specialist? If your insomnia is beginning to affect your quality of life, then you should see a specialist. See a doctor also if you experience sleep problems at least thrice a week for months.
- How much sleep do you need? Most studies suggest that an adult requires 7 to 8 hours of sleep every 24 hours.
Healthier Me Today is intended for informational purposes only. It is not a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Never ignore professional medical advice in seeking treatment, always consult with your healthcare professional. Stay healthy!