One of the most common health concerns among adults is insomnia. Insomnia causes sleep problems that disrupt daily life and can be debilitating in some people. Stress, medications, and an individual’s sleep habits and environment can all contribute to insomnia.
What Is Insomnia?
Insomnia is a sleep disorder characterized by difficulty falling or staying asleep, even when you have plenty of time and a sleep-friendly environment. In order to be diagnosed with insomnia, these sleep problems must also cause daytime impairments such as sleepiness or difficulty concentrating.
Insomnia symptoms affect up to two-thirds of the population on a regular basis. Depending on how long they last and whether they cause distress or interfere with daily functioning, these bouts of sleeplessness may or may not meet the criteria for a formal diagnosis of insomnia. However, anyone who has concerns about their sleep should consult with a medical professional for proper diagnosis and treatment.
A doctor can ask you questions to get a better understanding of your situation and order tests to see if an insomnia diagnosis is appropriate. Insomnia symptoms can overlap with those of other sleep disorders, so it is best to consult a professional rather than try to self-diagnose.
Untreated insomnia, which results in long-term sleep deprivation, has been linked to a number of negative outcomes, including lower quality of life and an increased risk of chronic pain, heart disease, and diabetes.
Types of Insomnia
Acute insomnia and chronic insomnia are the two main types of insomnia. Acute insomnia refers to sleep problems that last a few days or weeks but no longer than three months. Short-term insomnia is frequently caused by an external cause or life stressor, such as divorce, the death of a loved one, or a serious illness. Chronic insomnia develops when acute insomnia lasts more than six months.
Chronic insomnia occurs when a person has sleeping problems and related daytime symptoms, such as sleepiness and attention problems, at least three days per week for more than three months. It is estimated that about 10% to 15% of people have chronic insomnia.
People who suffer from chronic insomnia are frequently distressed by their inability to sleep and the daytime symptoms that result from their sleep problems. In most cases, the symptoms are severe enough to interfere with a person’s work or school performance, as well as their social or family life.
H2: Symptoms of Insomnia
Insomnia symptoms include a variety of sleep-related difficulties as well as daytime issues. Common sleep problems that may indicate the presence of insomnia include:
- Trouble falling asleep
- Trouble staying asleep throughout the night
- Unwanted early morning waking
- Resisting sleeping at bedtime in children and teens
- Difficulty sleeping without a caregiver’s help in children and teens
Furthermore, insomnia causes daytime symptoms associated with sleep loss. Insomniacs frequently report feeling fatigued during the day, which can lead to impaired attention or memory. Sleepiness caused by insomnia can impair work, school, or social performance and increase the risk of an accident. Insomnia has the potential to have a negative impact on behavioral health and may contribute to episodes of irritability, hyperactivity, or aggression, particularly in children.
What Causes Insomnia
Insomnia has no single root cause. However, research suggests that in many people, insomnia is caused by certain types of physiological arousal at inconvenient times, disrupting normal sleep patterns. A higher heart rate, a higher body temperature, and increased levels of specific hormones, such as cortisol, are all signs of arousal.
Insomnia susceptibility may also be influenced by a person’s family history, age, and gender. Furthermore, insomnia disorders are frequently associated with mental health disorders such as depression and anxiety. In people who have both insomnia and mental health problems, the cause of insomnia may be different.
Risk Factors for Insomnia
While there is no single cause of insomnia, studies have identified factors that can increase a person’s chances of experiencing it. These include, but are not limited to:
- Being a woman or being assigned as a woman at birth
- Advancing age
- Reduced socioeconomic status
- Diabetes and chronic pain are two examples of medical conditions.
- Other types of sleep disorders include restless legs syndrome and sleep apnea.
- Depression and anxiety are examples of mood disorders.
- Having an immediate family member who suffers from insomnia
It is important to note that not everyone who has one or more of these risk factors will have insomnia, and not everyone who has one of these risk factors will have insomnia.
How Is Insomnia Diagnosed?
In general, doctors diagnose insomnia by examining a person’s sleeping habits and medical history.
Typically, a patient’s description of their symptoms guides the diagnosis of insomnia. A doctor may advise patients to keep a sleep diary for a week or more in order to gain insight into a person’s sleep duration, perceived sleep quality, and lifestyle choices that may contribute to sleep problems. Other self-reporting diagnostic tools, such as the Pittsburgh Sleep Quality Index, may be used in a clinical setting by medical professionals to determine the severity of insomnia symptoms.
Other assessments, such as a sleep study, may be ordered if a doctor needs to rule out other sleep disorders that could be causing a person’s symptoms.
Treatments for Insomnia
Insomnia treatment is determined by how long a person has been experiencing sleep problems and any specific factors that are contributing to their sleep loss. If your insomnia is caused by another condition, such as sleep apnea or depression, treating the other condition will usually improve your sleep.
It is critical to seek help for insomnia as soon as possible. Short-term insomnia patients may benefit from discussions about sleep hygiene practices. If the insomnia is causing significant concern or distress, a temporary use of a prescription sleep aid may be an option.
A few treatment approaches are available for people with insomnia that persists for weeks or months.
Cognitive Behavioral Therapy for Insomnia (CBT-I)
According to experts, cognitive behavioral therapy for insomnia (CBT-I) is the most effective first-line treatment for chronic insomnia. CBT-I assists people in managing their anxiety about their sleep problems and establishing better sleep habits.
Medication may be recommended if a person has significant symptoms of insomnia or if CBT-I does not help. Medication can help promote sleep, but it can also cause daytime drowsiness or confusion.
Some people who suffer from insomnia may be interested in trying alternative treatments such as melatonin or dietary supplements, yoga, hypnosis, or aromatherapy. However, there is currently no scientific evidence to support the use of these methods to treat insomnia.
Maintaining healthy sleep habits after insomnia treatment may help keep insomnia from returning.
Set a sleep schedule: Maintain the same bedtime and wake time every day, even on weekends.
Establish a dedicated sleep space: Reserve use of the bed for only sex and sleep.
Be mindful of substance use: Curb consumption of caffeine, or nicotine, especially near bedtime
Control light exposure: Try to keep the bedroom both dark and quiet, and refrain from watching television or using other electronics that emit blue light before bed.
Keep sleep-related anxiety in check: If you are experiencing anxiety about sleep troubles, get out of bed and try a relaxing activity like reading, taking a bath, or meditating.
Adjust your eating habits: Avoid eating large meals too close to bedtime.
At Into the Light, we believe everyone with insomnia deserves the best treatment. Our team of experienced professionals is dedicated to providing individualized care that meets each client’s specific needs. We offer various treatment options, including medication, therapy, and lifestyle changes. We also offer educational workshops and online resources.