Insomnia is a fairly common sleep disorder characterized by individuals with insomnia having trouble falling asleep, staying asleep or both. This often results to poor-quality sleep or little sleep. The insomniac, a person with insomnia, may wake up feeling not refreshed and affect the person’s daily functions. Moreover, it may also affect mood, energy level, performance and overall quality of life.
There is no standard number of hours for all persons. Sleep hours will depend from person to person, however, most adults require seven to eight hours of sleep per night. Insomnia will vary depending on how often it occurs or how long it lasts.It is normal for people to experience acute insomnia at one point in their lives, although some cases are also known to be chronic (long-term). Majority of all cases of chronic insomnia are due to secondary insomnia.
Types of Insomnia
There are two types of insomnia, which is differentiated based on its underlying cause.
- Primary insomnia
- Not due to medical conditions, medicines and other substances
- Secondary insomnia
- Caused by different health conditions, certain medications and substances, wherein insomnia is a side effect
Causes of Insomnia
There are many different causes of insomnia ranging from mental problems to environmental factors and sleep schedule.
- Acute insomnia
- Stressful major life event such as, death of a loved one, change or loss of job, divorce, or moving houses
- Emotional or physical upset
- Environmental factors such as, light, extreme temperatures, and light
- Certain medications such as, hypertension, asthma, allergies, colds, and antibiotics drugs
- Certain substances such as caffeine, alcohol and nicotine
- Chronic insomnia
- Chronic stress
- Nightly pain or discomfort
- Medical conditions such as cancer, arthritis, overactive thyroid, stroke, etc.
- Learned insomnia
Symptoms of Insomnia
Symptoms of insomnia are quite obvious, which can include the following, usually in combination:
- Difficulty falling asleep
- Trouble staying asleep, such as often waking up in the middle of the night and incapable of falling asleep again
- Waking up too early in the morning
- Upon waking, feeling tired
- Feeling sleepy during the day
- Increased errors
- Memory or concentration problems
- Impaired daytime functioning
Treatment for Insomnia
Insomnia can usually be treated, often involving lifestyle and home remedies. In some cases, insomnia will resolve themselves. The following is generally recommended in cases of insomnia:
- Improve sleep hygiene by maintaining a regular sleep schedule. Do not over or under sleep and avoid forcing sleep.
- Control sleep stimulus. Avoid going to bed unless one is going to sleep. Avoid doing other activities in bed such as reading, watching TV and eating.
- Relaxation techniques before bedtime may be useful such as, muscle relaxation and meditation. Massages may also help.
- In some cases, prescription sleeping pills are recommended. Other medical treatments that are used to treat insomnia include antihistamines, melatonin, antidepressants and over-the-counter sleep aids.
Insomnia is not generally considered a medical emergency. With sufficient home care, it can be effectively managed. To learn more about insomnia and other health conditions that can be treated at home, enrol in First Aid Courses.
An Overview of Insomnia (2013). WebMD Retrieved September 17, 2013, from http://www.webmd.com/sleep-disorders/guide/insomnia-symptoms-and-causes