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.
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
- Alzheimer’s disease and other types of dementia
- 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
Symptoms of insomnia include:
- Sleepiness during the day
- Problems with concentration or memory
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