Do you have those nights where you seem to can’t fall asleep? That happens to everyone once in a while, isn’t it? But people with insomnia have to deal with this night after night. Some individuals with insomnia have trouble falling asleep, others, wake up throughout the night, and struggle to fall back asleep and these disturbances typically happen at least three times each week. Acute insomnia lasts less than a month, whereas chronic insomnia lasts over a month. And here’s more information you need to know about this health condition:
- Acute insomnia lasts less than a month, whereas chronic insomnia lasts over a month.
- Insomnia affects both the quantity and the quality of sleep, which makes it hard for individuals to reach the restorative levels of sleep that cause daytime sleepiness and fatigue and over time the feeling of irritability, anxiety, and depression.
- This thing can lead to professional and personal problems as well as day to day challenges like falling asleep while driving.
- Although insomnia can happen without underlying cause, it can also accompany and worsen other problems like pulmonary diseases, psychiatric conditions, and a whole variety of conditions that might cause pain.
- Insomnia also has a common side effect of stimulants, like caffeine; as well as depressants like alcohol – which can both disrupt the regular sleep cycle.
- Insomnia can be the result of daily stresses from work or relationships. As well as environmental factors, like having to work night shifts or having a new born baby.
- There are some biological factors associated with insomnia. Studies have shown that people with insomnia might have heightened levels of stress hormone cortisol, which plays a role in the process of waking up every morning.
- People with insomnia are also more sensitive to the effects of cortisol, typically waking up at much lower levels of cortisol as compared to the general population.
- Insomnia is also associated with reduced levels of estrogen and reduced levels of progesterone, which can happen during menopause.
- Individuals with insomnia will self-medicate with alcohol and benzodiazepines, both of which can be extremely dangerous. Alcohol abuse can lead to some physical and psychological changes that can rapidly worsen the sleep-wake cycle and lead to dependence.
- Similarly, benzodiazepines, especially short-acting ones, can also create dependence and have a high abuse potential, which can actually worsen insomnia if someone tries to stop using them.
- One method of treatment is getting good sleep hygiene, which includes going to sleep and waking up at the same time every day, also including weekends, getting good exercise (but not right before bed), reducing alcohol intake, avoiding naps during daytime, avoiding caffeine intake and smoking in the evening, and not going to sleep hungry.
- Another potential treatment is stimulus control which includes using the bed only to sleep rather than a place from which to watch television, text, or talk on the phone. It also helps to keep the environment calm by removing bright lights like a computer or a phone screen and minimizing noise. Sometimes though, these are unavoidable in which case eye covers and earplugs can definitely help.
- It’s also not helpful to try to force sleep to happen, which means that people that can’t sleep after 20 minutes should simply leave the bed then return when they feel ready to sleep. These suggestions help the individual associate sleep – and only sleep – with the bedroom.
- There’s behavior therapy, which includes relaxation techniques as well as cognitive behavior therapy to help better manage problems and life stressors. While these techniques are being used, some medications such as melatonin agonists, non-benzodiazepine sedatives, and occasionally benzodiazepines might be prescribed to help with sleep.
- Medications can often have side effects, though, so they are used for less than two months, usually in combination with the behavioral therapy techniques.
- Insomnia is an inability to get restorative sleep that causes daytime sleepiness and fatigue and can be managed with good sleep hygiene, stimulus control, behavior therapy, and occasionally short courses of medications.
Treating insomnia can be a frustrating experience because its biological reason remains hidden, and the treatment is still based on observation of patients. Giving insomnia care is like practicing medicine before the germ theory of disease became established. Depending on the cause of your insomnia, determine what individual treatment options are best for you. Be persistent in your efforts. It may take several weeks for your body to react to a particular treatment and for results to become evident. Don’t be afraid to experiment and try different approaches; choose the one method that works best for you.