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What is Insomnia?

Insomnia is a sleep disorder. Individuals who suffer from insomnia find it difficult to fall asleep, stay asleep, or both. They don’t feel refreshed when they wake up from sleeping, which can lead to fatigue and other symptoms. It can be short-term (acute)… Read more

Insomnia is a sleep disorder. Individuals who suffer from
insomnia find it difficult to fall asleep, stay asleep, or both. They don’t
feel refreshed when they wake up from sleeping, which can lead to fatigue and
other symptoms. It can be short-term (acute) or long-term (chronic). 

Risk Factors for Insomnia

Insomnia can occur at any age, and is more likely to affect
women than men. According to the National
Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute, people with certain risk factors are more
likely to have insomnia. These risk factors include:

  • high levels of stress
  • emotional disorders like depression or distress
    related to a traumatic life event
  • lower income
  • traveling to different time zones
  • certain medical conditions
  • sedentary lifestyle
  • changes in work hours or night shifts

Causes of Insomnia

Acute insomnia is typically caused by stress or an upsetting
event. It can last for days, or even weeks. Chronic insomnia is insomnia that
occurs three times a week for three months or more. This type of insomnia is
often secondary to another problem, like a medical condition, psychological
issue, or a combination of these such as substance abuse. Primary insomnia is
usually caused by life changes.

Symptoms of Insomnia

The National
Sleep Foundation identifies several symptoms of insomnia. People who suffer
from the disorder report at least one of these symptoms:

  • waking too early in the morning
  • un-refreshing sleep
  • trouble concentrating
  • fatigue
  • trouble falling or staying asleep
  • mood changes, like irritability
  • trouble in school or with relationships

Diagnosing Insomnia

Insomnia differs from many other disorders because it doesn’t
have a specific diagnostic test. Your doctor will ask you questions about your
medical, social, psychological/emotional condition and sleep history. This will
provide information that can help find underlying causes of sleep problems. You
might be asked to:

  • keep a sleep log
  • recording when you fall asleep
  • note whether you woke up repeatedly
  • report what time you wake up each day

This gives your doctor a picture of your sleep patterns. The
doctor might also order medical tests or blood work to rule out medical
problems that might be interfering with sleep.

Sometimes a sleep study is recommended. For this, you will
stay overnight at a sleep center. Electrodes will be placed on your body and
hooked up to an electroencephalography (EEG) machine, which will record
brainwaves and sleep cycles. The neuroelectrical and physiological information
from this type of study provides the doctor with potentially important
diagnostic information about your sleep issues.

Treatment of Insomnia

There are both pharmaceutical and non-pharmaceutical
treatments for insomnia. Your doctor can talk with you about what treatments
might be appropriate for you and you can try more than one to see which is more
effective.

Sleep hygiene training may be recommended. Sometimes
behaviors that interfere with sleep are causing insomnia and sleep hygiene
training can help you change some of these disruptive behaviors. This means
avoiding caffeinated beverages or exercise near bedtime and minimizing time
spend on the bed when not specifically intending to sleep (i.e. not watching TV
in bed).

If there is an underlying psychological or medical disorder contributing
to insomnia, addressing this issue with appropriate treatment can alleviate
sleep difficulties.

Sometimes medications are used to treat insomnia. Common
types of drugs include hypnotics and benzodiazepines. These have a high
potential for abuse and it’s easy to build up a tolerance. They should only be
used short-term. Sometimes certain antidepressants such as trazadone are
sometimes used quite effectively to treat sleep problems. Such medications have
the added benefit of potentially improving coincident mood problems.
Over-the-counter medications like antihistamines can help with sleep problems,
but can have unpleasant side effects like daytime sleepiness and dry mouth.

Before using any drug, medicine, or supplement to treat your
insomnia, talk with your doctor. There might be dangerous side effects or drug
interactions. Not every “sleep aid” drug is appropriate for everyone, and many
cases of insomnia can be much more effectively managed by lifestyle changes or emotional
remedies

Insomnia isn’t just a nuisance or a small inconvenience. It’s
a real sleep disorder, and can be treated. If you think you have insomnia, talk
to your doctor. By exploring possible causes, you can get the appropriate and
safe treatment you need.

Posted by: Dr.Health

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