Insomnia is a sleep disorder that regularly affects billions of people around the world. In a nutshell, people with insomnia find it difficult to fall asleep or stay asleep. The effects can be harmful. Insomnia often leads to daytime sleepiness, lethargy, and a general feeling of being unwell, both mentally and physically. Mood swings, irritability, and anxiety are common related symptoms. Insomnia has also been concerned with a higher risk of developing chronic diseases.
Insomnia can be due to physical and psychological factors. There is seldom an underlying medical condition that causes chronic insomnia, while transient insomnia may be caused by a recent event or occurrence. Insomnia is caused by:
- Disruptions in circadian rhythm –jet lag, job shift changes, high altitudes, environmental disturbance, extreme weather condition.
- Psychological issues –depression, bipolar disorder, anxiety disorders, or psychotic disorders.
- Medical conditions – chronic pain, chronic fatigue syndrome, congestive heart failure, angina, acid-reflux disease (GERD), chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, asthma, sleep apnea, Parkinson’s and Alzheimer’s diseases, hyperthyroidism, arthritis, brain lesions, tumors, stroke.
- Hormones – estrogen, hormone shifts during menstruation.
- Other factors – sleeping next to a snoring partner, parasites, genetic conditions, overactive mind, pregnancy.
Media technology in the bedroom
Several researches in adults and children have suggested that subjection to light from televisions and smartphones prior to going to sleep can affect natural melatonin levels and lead to increased time to sleep.
Moreover, a study conducted by Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute found that back-lit tablet computers can affect sleep patterns. These studies imply that technology in the bedroom can worsen insomnia, leading to more complications.
SIGNS AND SYMPTOMS
Insomnia itself may be a sign of an underlying medical condition. Even so, there are many signs and symptoms that are associated with insomnia:
- Difficulty in falling asleep at night.
- Waking during the night.
- Waking earlier than desired.
- Still feeling tired after a night’s sleep.
- Daytime fatigue or sleepiness.
- Irritability, depression, or anxiety.
- Poor concentration and focus.
- Difficulty socializing.
- Gastrointestinal symptoms.
- Worrying about sleeping.
Sleep deprivation can lead to other symptoms. The affected person may wake up not feeling fully awake and refreshed, and may have a feeling of tiredness and sleepiness throughout the day. Having trouble concentrating and focusing on tasks is common for people with insomnia.
Insomnia includes a vast range of sleeping disorders, from lack of sleep quality to lack of sleep quantity. Insomnia is generally categorized into three categories:
- Transient insomnia – occurs when symptoms last up to three nights.
- Acute insomnia – also called short-term insomnia. Symptoms continue for several weeks.
- Chronic insomnia – this one lasts for months, and sometimes years.
Few types of insomnia resolve when the underlying cause is treated or wears off. In general, insomnia treatment focuses on determining the cause. Once identified, this underlying cause can be correctly treated . Besides treating the underlying cause of insomnia, both medical and non-pharmacological (behavioral) treatments may be used as therapies. Non-pharmacological approaches are inclusive of cognitive behavioral (CBT) therapy in one-on-one counseling sessions or group therapy:
Medical treatments for insomnia include:
- prescription sleeping pills
- sleep aids available online or over-the-counter
- melatonin, which can be purchased online
Home remedies for insomnia are:
- Improving “sleep hygiene”: Not sleeping too much or too little, exercising daily, not forcing sleep, maintaining a regular sleep schedule, avoiding caffeine containing products at night, avoiding smoking, avoiding going to bed on an empty stomach, and ensuring a comfortable sleeping environment.
- Using relaxation techniques: Such as meditation and muscle relaxation.
- Stimulus control therapy – only go to bed when sleepy. Avoid watching TV, reading, eating, or worrying in bed. Set an alarm for the same time every morning (even weekends) and avoid long daytime naps.
- Sleep restriction: Decreasing the time spent in bed and partially depriving the body of sleep can increase tiredness, ready for the next night.
Insomnia can afflict an individual of any age; it is more prevalent in adult females than adult males. It can erode school and work performance, as well as contributing to obesity, anxiety, depression, irritability, concentration problems, memory problems, poor immune system function, and reduced reaction time. Few people are more likely to experience insomnia. These include:
- travelers, particularly through multiple time zones
- shift workers with frequent changes in shifts (day vs. night)
- the elderly
- users of illegal drugs
- adolescent or young adult students
- pregnant women
- menopausal women
- those with mental health disorders