Healthy Living

What Is Insomnia? Get the Facts

What Is Insomnia: Get the Facts

Key Takeaways

  • Insomnia is a sleep disorder where people have trouble sleeping.
  • It can occur independently or as a result of another problem.
  • Insomnia can be short-term, which may last for a few days or weeks, or long-term that may last for more than a month.

Insomnia is also known as sleeplessness. It is a sleep disorder where people have trouble sleeping. Insomnia is caused by several factors. People with insomnia have abnormal sleeping patterns as well as daytime sleepiness, irritability, and a depressed mood. They may also have an increased risk of developing unnecessary psychological tensions and disorders. People with insomnia also have difficulties in focusing and learning. Insomnia can be short-term, which may last for a few days or weeks, or long-term that may last for more than a month.

While every health care expert has his own viewpoint regarding insomnia, the major issue lies on how it actually develops in a person:

  • Is it genetic or hereditary?
  • Is it curable?
  • What are its side effects?

Insomnia can occur independently or as a result of another problem. Conditions that may result in insomnia include:

Other risk factors include working night shifts and sleep apnea. The diagnosis of insomnia is generally based on the sleep habits of the individual, followed by an examination to look for any other underlying causes. The best way to diagnose insomnia is by conducting a screening that may be done by asking the following two questions: 

  1. Do you have a difficulty in sleeping?
  2. Are you experiencing difficulties in falling or staying asleep?

While it is always recommended that people be vocal about their condition with their friends and family, it is also certain that it is not an incurable problem. 

The first step in addressing insomnia involves diagnosis through an evaluation of the patient's sleep hygiene and the lifestyle changes he or she has been undergoing. Treatment recommendations usually include keeping to a consistent bedtime routine, exposure to sunlight, sleeping in a quiet and dark room, and regular exercise. Additionally, cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) may also tremendously help in the treatment of insomnia. 

While taking sleeping pills may be considered as one of the obvious first preference by many, people must keep in mind that insomnia is also linked to certain injuries, dementia, and addiction. Moreover, no health care provider would recommend taking sleep medications for more than four or five weeks as the effectiveness and long-term safety of these medications are unclear. With the existence of numerous interrelated sleeping disorders and various sources describing them, it may be hard for people to understand what insomnia really is. So, how is insomnia medically defined? What are its types, symptoms, causes, and treatment?

Definition

Insomnia refers to a sleep disorder, which is characterized by a difficulty in sleeping. People with insomnia are deprived of enough sleep, which is necessary for the normal functioning of the body. People living with insomnia have difficulties in falling asleep, staying asleep all throughout, or getting back to sleep after waking up too early.  

Types of Insomnia

There are two different types of insomnia: acute and chronic. The period for which insomnia lasts determines its type. 

  • Acute insomnia - is a type of sleeplessness characterized by the brief time for which it lasts, from a single night up to a few weeks. It results from temporary circumstances that people face in their daily lives, such as being in a stressful situation or receiving bad news. In most cases, an acute bout of insomnia does not need any medical attention, since it tends to resolve on its own.
  • Chronic insomnia - is a long-term sleeping disorder marked by its occurrence for at least three nights weekly for an entire month or longer. Unlike acute insomnia, this type of sleeplessness requires medical attention before people can get back to their normal sleeping patterns. Chronic insomnia can simultaneously occur with other medical conditions.

Causes of Insomnia

The causes of insomnia may considerably vary depending upon the particular type of insomnia. Although it is hard to pinpoint the exact condition that can trigger a person's insomnia, various conditions have been associated and linked with it. 

Acute insomnia is commonly caused by:

  • Stress
  • Certain diseases
  • Discomforts
  • Alcohol and nicotine
  • Environmental factors
  • Pets
  • Medications
  • Sleeping pattern changes
  • A snoring partner
  • Media and technology
  • Parasites
  • Genetic conditions
  • Bad news
  • Specific stimulants

Chronic insomnia can develop due to:

  • Depression
  • Psychological problems
  • Emotional distress
  • Chronic stress
  • Nervousness
  • Anxiety
  • Pain and discomfort
  • Other underlying medical conditions

Symptoms of Insomnia

InsomniaSymptoms

  • Concentration and memory problems
  • General tiredness
  • Lethargic body and fatigability
  • Daytime sleepiness
  • Irritability
  • Excessive worrying about future events
  • Getting caught up in old thoughts and memories
  • Feeling overwhelmed by responsibilities

Diagnosing Insomnia

One must never ignore the symptoms of insomnia. Those people who suspect that they have insomnia should immediately contact their health care provider.

In your doctor's appointment, you will be asked to undergo a physical examination and answer questions regarding your medical history, particularly your sleeping routine. You will also be requested to record your sleep patterns and your daytime moods for a week or two. Your sleeping partner may also be required to give information about how and for how long you sleep. To get the best treatment, you must ensure that you are honest about your sleeping disorder to both your family as well as your doctor for an accurate diagnosis.

Treatment

In most cases, acute insomnia symptoms disappear without medical care, especially for those people who are in the practice of enhanced sleeping patterns. All you need to do is to live a good and healthy lifestyle, which involves a balanced diet, proper medication, and doing calming activities such as yoga to develop a peaceful state of mind.

Those people who find it hard to live normally with the symptoms of insomnia are recommended to seek medical advice from their physician. Chronic insomnia needs medical attention. People living with chronic insomnia are usually given medications to help them feel relaxed and fall asleep.

Who are at risk of having insomnia?

Some people are at a considerable risk of developing insomnia compared with others. They are:

  • People who work different shifts
  • The elderly
  • Travellers
  • People who think a lot about the past and future 
  • Those who consume alcohol and nicotine on a regular basis
  • Drug dependents
  • Menopausal and pregnant women
  • People who have health-related mental disorders

Insomnia and Lifestyle

Insomnia can cause you to change some of your daily routines. Refrain from unhealthy practices to avoid developing sleeplessness.

Firstly, alcoholic beverages and stimulant-containing products should be avoided because they interfere with your sleep cycle. If you keep consuming these beverages, they may affect you in the future by leading to serious health concerns including insomnia.

DealwithInsomnia

Secondly, electronic devices such as smartphones and laptops need to be switched off before you go to bed because they produce a blue light that interferes with the body's melatonin production. Melatonin is a hormone that is responsible for causing sleepiness in humans. Along with this, physical exercises should be done regularly and consistently hours before you go to sleep. However, you must maintain a specific schedule for your exercises because doing them just before your sleeping time can create a stimulant effect in your body. 

Finally, it is always better for people with insomnia to consult their doctor, especially on matters concerning changes in life and general lifestyle that might be the root causes of their insomnia.