Insomnia: What to Know about the Sleep Problem?

Every time we go to bed, we want to fall asleep as soon as possible. We hope to wake up feeling refreshed the following morning after catching a good night’s rest. But, unfortunately, this doesn’t happen for all of us. Some individuals spend their nights waiting for sleep to come. They become restless when it’s time to fall asleep and spend the night twisting and turning in their beds. This not only leads to anxiety but also causes illness. While sleepless nights are temporary in most cases, in others with chronic insomnia, this may stretch for a long duration. So, to help you better understand insomnia treatments and symptoms, here is more information on this sleep problem. Have a look!

What is insomnia?

Insomnia is a rest disorder that causes people to stay awake during the night. The sleep problem either leads to difficulty falling or staying asleep or makes people get up too early in the morning. Experts suggest adults sleep for seven to nine hours, but insomnia prevents this from happening. Thus, it results in daytime fatigue, difficulty concentrating, and an increased risk of various diseases.

How does insomnia affect people?

Patients with insomnia experience problems with sleep. Since they wake up frequently through the night or early in the morning, they show symptoms like daytime sleepiness, lethargy, mood changes, irritability, and anxiety. These issues can result from insomnia or contribute to sleep problems. Long-term insomnia may also lead to the development of chronic illnesses like obesity, diabetes, depression, and cardiovascular problems. Having the rest disorder can undermine performance at school or work and limit people’s ability to carry out daily activities.

What are the causes of this sleep problem?

Insomnia can result from several physical or psychological reasons. The sleep problem might occur because of temporary problems like short-term stress or overeating. In some people, insomnia also stems from an underlying medical condition. A few common causes of insomnia are:

  • Jet lag, alternating work shifts, changes to the body’s internal clock.
  • An uncomfortable environment because the room is too hot, too cold, or too noisy can disrupt sleep.
  • Being responsible for taking care of someone in the house can also affect sleep.
  • Not getting enough physical exercise can also lead to insomnia.
  • Experiencing problems like night terrors or bad dreams.
  • Some people fail to sleep because of using recreational drugs like cocaine or ecstasy.
  • Using media devices like a phone or laptop before bed can create the need to seek insomnia treatment.
  • Some medicines can also affect your sleep cycle and prevent you from resting peacefully. This could also lead to sleep problem.
  • Natural transition can also cause difficulty with resting. For example, women dealing with menopause experience hormonal changes. It can lead to issues like disrupted sleep because of night sweats. Similarly, in people with Alzheimer’s, changes in the brain alter sleep patterns.

A few medical conditions can also lead to this sleep problem. These include:

  • Stress
  • Bipolar disorder
  • Depression
  • Schizophrenia
  • Mental health problems
  • Restless legs syndrome
  • Sleep apnea
  • Chronic pain
  • Chronic obstructive pulmonary disease
  • Gastrointestinal reflux disease
  • An overactive thyroid

What are the common symptoms of insomnia?

Besides disrupted sleep, other signs that suggest the need to seek insomnia treatment are as follows:

  • Daytime fatigue
  • Low motivation
  • Headache
  • Anxiety around bedtime
  • Lack of concentration
  • Gastronomical problems
  • Irritability or depression
  • Sleepiness

What are the risk factors associated with this sleep problem?

Although insomnia can affect people at any age and at any time, certain factors can increase its risk. These include:

  • Being old
  • Travelling across time zones
  • Becoming pregnant
  • Being female
  • Experiencing physical or mental health problems
  • Having a family history of insomnia
  • Going through menopause
  • Going through crucial life experiences
  • Working in shifts
  • Consuming caffeine, drugs, meds, and alcohol

What are the types of insomnia?

Insomnia is primarily categorised into two:

  • Acute or transient insomnia, a short-term problem
  • Chronic insomnia that can last for years or months

Experts also classify insomnia based on the causes:

  • Primary insomnia is an issue caused by itself
  • Secondary insomnia results from another health problem

Few people categorise it on the basis of severity

  • Mild insomnia causes fatigue
  • Moderate insomnia affects daily functioning
  • Severe insomnia significantly impacts daily life

How can you diagnose insomnia?

Diagnosing the sleep problem at an early stage is the first step in ensuring successful insomnia treatment. For this, visit a sleep doctor who may:

  • Enquire about your medical history, sleep patterns, and drug habits
  • Conduct a physical exam to help diagnose the issue
  • Perform a test to know if you have insomnia
  • Conduct an overnight sleep study to record rest patterns
  • Ask you to wear a resting device for tracking movements and sleep-wake patterns

What are some recommended insomnia treatments?

Although the best insomnia treatments can vary from person to person, some recommended options are

  • Going for counselling
  • Increasing melatonin levels
  • Taking over-the-counter aids
  • Trying prescriptive meds
  • Going for cognitive behavioural therapy

What can you do at home to improve insomnia?

There are several home remedies you can try to manage insomnia. These involve changing:

Rest habits:

  • Make sure to go to bed and wake up at the same time every day
  • One of the insomnia treatments is to darken the room using blinds or curtains when resting
  • An ideal room temperature should be maintained for a good night’s rest
  • Telephones and other devices should be kept outside of the room as an insomnia treatment.
  • Create a sleep routine you can follow every day before falling asleep

Dietary habits:

  • Do not go to bed hungry. Make sure to have something before going to sleep
  • Consider cutting on alcohol consumption, especially around the night time to treat insomnia
  • Avoid consuming a heavy meal at least 2 to 3 hours before bedtime
  • Consume a healthy and varied diet to boost your overall well-being

Relaxation habits:

  • Exercise every day but not within four hours of bedtime
  • Practise breathing and relaxation exercises to improve insomnia
  • Doctors recommend not napping during the daytime as an insomnia treatment
  • In case of medical health problems, like anxiety, receive medical attention
  • Try listening to soothing music or reading before bedtime to ensure a good night’s rest

Other approaches:

  • People suffering from cough or acid reflux should stack pillows to raise their upper body to catch a peaceful night’s rest.
  • If issues like cough, pain or other health problems ruin your sleep, talk to a doctor.
  • Experts suggest trying natural sleep aids like warm milk, herbal tea, and valerian before going to bed.
  • Trying aromatherapy and inhaling some soothing fragrances like lavender can also help manage insomnia.
  • A traditional Chinese medical technique, acupuncture, is another insomnia treatment. It involves inserting thin needles at pressure points across the body to ease the symptoms.

    There isn’t a specific test to diagnose insomnia. A healthcare provider will perform a physical exam and ask questions to learn more about your sleep issues and symptoms. The key information for the diagnosis of insomnia is reviewing your sleep history with a doctor. They’ll also review your medical history and the medications you’re taking to see if they may be affecting your ability to sleep. You may also:Get a blood test: Your doctor may want you to do a blood test to rule out certain medical conditions such as thyroid issues or low iron levels that can negatively impact sleep.
    Keep a sleep diary: You may be asked to write down your sleep patterns for one to two weeks (bedtime, wake time, naps, caffeine use, etc.) This information can help your provider identify patterns or behaviors that interfere with rest.Complete a sleep study: Sleep studies (polysomnograms) aren’t necessary for diagnosing insomnia. If your doctor has concerns that your insomnia may be caused by sleep apnea or another sleep disorder, you may be referred. You may go to a sleep disorders center or do the study at home.Short-term insomnia often gets better on its own. For chronic (long-term) insomnia, your healthcare provider may recommend:Cognitive behavioral therapy for insomnia (CBT-I): CBT-I is a brief, structured intervention for insomnia that helps you identify and replace thoughts and behaviors that cause or worsen sleep issues with habits that promote sound sleep. Unlike sleeping medication, CBT-I helps you overcome the underlying causes of your insomnia.Medications: Behavior and lifestyle changes can best help you improve your sleep over the long term. In some cases, though, taking medication for a short time can help you sleep. Doctors recommend taking sleep medicines only now and then or only for a short time. They’re not the first choice for treating chronic insomnia.

To sum up:

Insomnia is a common rest problem that keeps people awake at night or makes them wake up too early in the morning. The rest problem may result from a range of issues like physical or mental health conditions. Lifestyle factors like unsuitable room environments and shift work can also affect sleep. Since a lack of rest can lead to numerous problems like mild tiredness or chronic illness, it is necessary to treat sleep disorders. A few insomnia treatments include therapy, changing sleep habits, and dietary habits. To decide which treatment you should opt for, you must see a doctor!


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