Insomnia

What Is Insomnia?

Insomnia is a sleep disorder in which you have trouble falling and/or staying asleep.

The condition can be short-term (acute) or can last a long time (chronic). It may also come and go.

Acute insomnia lasts from 1 night to a few weeks. Insomnia is chronic when it happens at least 3 nights a week for 3 months or more.

Types of Insomnia

There are two types of insomnia: primary and secondary.

  • Primary insomnia: This means your sleep problems aren’t linked to any other health condition or problem.
  • Secondary insomnia: This means you have trouble sleeping because of a health condition (like asthma, depression, arthritis, cancer, or heartburn); pain; medication; or substance use (like alcohol).

You might also hear about:

  • Sleep-onset insomnia: This means you have trouble getting to sleep.
  • Sleep-maintenance insomnia: This happens when you have trouble staying asleep through the night or wake up too early.
  • Mixed insomnia: With this type of insomnia, you have trouble both falling asleep and staying asleep through the night.
  • Paradoxical insomnia: When you have paradoxical insomnia, you underestimate the time you’re asleep. It feels like you sleep a lot less than you really do.

Insomnia Causes

Primary causes of insomnia include:

  • Stress related to big life events, like a job loss or change, the death of a loved one, divorce, or moving
  • Things around you like noise, light, or temperature
  • Changes to your sleep schedule like jet lag, a new shift at work, or bad habits you picked up when you had other sleep problems
  • Your genes. Research has found that a tendency for insomnia may run in families.

Secondary causes of insomnia include:

  • Mental health issues like depression and anxiety
  • Medications for colds, allergies, depression, high blood pressure, and asthma.
  • Pain or discomfort at night
  • Caffeine, tobacco, or alcohol use, as well as use of illicit drugs.
  • Hyperthyroidism and other endocrine problems
  • Other sleep disorders, like sleep apnea or restless legs syndrome
  • Pregnancy
  • Alzheimer’s disease and other types of dementia
  • ADHD
  • PMS and menopause

Insomnia Risk Factors

Insomnia affects women more than men and older people more than younger ones. Young and middle-age African Americans also have a higher risk.

Other risk factors include:

  • Long-term illness
  • Mental health issues
  • Working night shifts or shifts that rotate

Insomnia Symptoms

Symptoms of insomnia include:

  • Sleepiness during the day
  • Fatigue
  • Grumpiness
  • Problems with concentration or memory

TREATMENT

Treatment consists of:

– self care

– improving sleep habits     

– behaviour therapy and identifying and treating underlying causes.

Sleeping pills may also be used, but should be monitored for side effects.

Lifestyle and home remedies

– Stick to a sleep schedule.

– Stay active. 

– Check your medications. 

– Avoid or limit naps

– Avoid or limit caffeine and alcohol and don’t use nicotine.

– Don’t put up with pain. 

– Avoid large meals and beverages before bed.

Written by: Sarah Amah

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