Insomnia is a condition in which someone finds it hard to fall asleep or stay asleep for an amount of time that enables them to feel well-rested the following day. This condition is common among the elderly and is said to affect one in three people on average.
Signs and Symptoms:
The common signs and symptoms in people affected with the condition include:
• Difficulty falling asleep even while in bed and comfortable
• Staying awake for long periods of time when in bed
• Waking up many times throughout the night
• Difficulty in going back to sleep after waking up too soon
• Lack of energy throughout the whole day, even upon waking up in the morning
• Inability to nap during the day, even when tired
• Irritability and lack of concentration
• Waking up too early in the morning
• Disturbed and poor-quality period of sleep, known as ‘unrefreshing or non-restorative sleep (NRS)’.
• Feeling of drowsiness, tiredness, and fatigue
• Difficulty concentrating on a particular subject leading to cognitive impairment
• Mood swings and disturbances
• Behavioral disorders and adjustment issues, such as feeling aggressive and impulsive which leads to an adverse effect on personal relationships.
• No feeling of rejuvenation
• Intake of sedatives or consumption of alcohol to fall asleep
Categories of Insomnia:
Insomnia can be categorized into the following two categories:
• Primary Insomnia - It is also known as 'chronic insomnia' or simply 'insomnia', and is a condition in which the person faces sleep problems due to psychiatric or environmental causes, but not directly associated with any health issues.
• Secondary Insomnia - This kind of sleeplessness arises on account of some health condition, for instance, diseases like asthma, depression, arthritis, cancer, etc. may lead to a decrease in sleep. Furthermore, intense pain in any organ or muscles in the body or due to the overconsumption of alcohol or any medication or drugs may become a cause for secondary insomnia.
Difference between Acute and Chronic Insomnia
Insomnia can also be categorized according to its duration of stay and the time of occurrence. It can both be short-term (acute insomnia) or long-term (chronic insomnia). When an insomniac person sometimes faces no sleep issues and has no difficulty in sleeping, it may be a case of acute insomnia which lasts for a period of one night to a few weeks. However, if a person faces disturbed sleep ranging from a period of three weeks to a month or longer, then this person may be suffering from chronic insomnia.
Who Can Get Insomnia?
Insomnia can happen to anyone and can last for days, months, or years, sometimes without a serious effect on overall health. If insomnia is constant or occurs repeatedly to the same individual, it may have negative effects on their quality of life. Sleep influences the activities that our bodies are able to carry out during the day, our moods, and even our behavior. Therefore, insomnia can affect all of these conditions as well. It can even strain a person's interpersonal relationships.
Causes of Insomnia:
Acute Insomnia: The major causes include:
• Personal issues or life stress, due for instance to a disturbed work life, a job change, an unhealthy relationship, divorce or sudden death of a loved one.
• Declined health
• Emotional or physical distress
• Environmental factors that cause interference in sleep, like, light, noise, temperature changes, etc.
• Change in the biological clock, for example, switching from a day shift to a night shift or due to jet lag.
• Due to side-effects of certain drugs or medications, especially those taken to treat colds, allergy, depression, high blood pressure, asthma, arthritis, etc.
Chronic Insomnia: The major causes are:
• Depression or nervousness
• Constant stress
• Pain or discomfort in the body especially during the night
How Do I Know if I'm Getting Enough Sleep?
There is no definite amount that one should sleep, because every person has a unique body and a different need for sleep. Typically, the recommended number of hours that a healthy, mature adult should spend sleeping is 7-9 hours per night. For children, the recommended amount is higher, usually up to 12 hours per night. It is essential to get enough sleep to avoid tiredness during the day, to feel refreshed, and to have enough energy to carry out everyday activities. If someone is experiencing exhaustion throughout the day and it is influencing his or her work or daily activities, it could be a sign that they are not getting enough quality sleep at night. Anyone that suspects that they are not getting enough sleep should first make a self-assessment to learn more about any issues they may have, and attempt to fix these issues before seeking medical attention.
Some ways to accomplish this are:
• Setting a specific sleep schedule. This allows the brain to become accustomed to resting at a particular time.
• Spend time relaxing before sleep (take a warm shower, watch a movie, listen to soothing music, etc.).
• Try wearing a mask, earplugs, or a blindfold, or using heavy curtains to avoid being woken up during the night.
• Avoid caffeine, nicotine, alcohol, and eating heavy foods directly before bedtime.
• Avoid sleeping for long periods during the day.
• Reduce stress by writing down worries that may keep you awake.
• Avoid using computers and other gadgets before going to bed.
When to Seek Advice from an Expert Medical Professional:
If all the above-mentioned strategies or self-help remedies are not able to provide the expected results and the patient still encounters difficulty sleeping, then it is advisable to consult a doctor or a sleep disorder specialist. One can seek professional medical assistance if:
• Insomnia makes the person face difficulties at home, school, or workplace.
• Insomnia occurs regularly for a prolonged period and there is no improvement, or the situation is getting worse.