What is Insomnia?
Some of the symptoms associated with the disorder include the following:
- Inability to fall asleep, despite feeling sleepy
- Interrupted sleep, waking up frequently and difficulty going back to sleep
- Waking up excessively early in the morning
- Feelings of exhaustion and fatigue after waking up
Sleep requirements vary from person to person, but on average most people need 7 to 8 hours of sleep each night. Most adults do experience insomnia from time to time, but for some people the condition may be present for an extended period and is called chronic insomnia. Insomnia of a more temporary nature that occurs occasionally for just a few days at a time is called acute insomnia. At times, acute insomnia may simply develop as a symptom of some other health condition or a side effect to certain medications.
What can Cause Insomnia?There are many possible causes of insomnia and these may differ depending on the type of insomnia. Common causes of acute insomnia may include the following:
- Mental and emotional stress that can be caused by your career, a work promotion or demotion, change of job, relationship problems, loss of a loved one, divorce or relocating etc.
- An illness that afflicts you or a family member
- Physical or emotional discomfort
- Lack of a regular routine and changes to your sleep schedule because of a newborn baby, a pet, change in work shifts or jet lag
- Environmental factors such as climatic conditions and noise that can affect sleep
- Certain medications used to treat conditions like hypertension, asthma and allergies may also affect the quality of sleep
Common causes of chronic insomnia may include the following:
- Anxiety disorders like social anxiety or depression
- Chronic stress
- Chronic or persistent health conditions that cause pain and discomfort at night
How to treat insomnia?Once the cause is clear, acute insomnia can be treated quite easily without medical care and in most cases even resolved naturally. Changing sleep patterns and finding solutions to the problem that is causing sleeplessness will in most cases suffice. If healthy sleeping habits and practices to promote and improve the quality of sleep do not help, your doctor may recommend behavioral therapy and specific relaxation and sleep techniques. Sleep medications may also be prescribed in many cases, but make sure that you avoid treating yourself with over the counter sleeping aids as this is just a temporary measure and it comes with a high risk as it can become a habit. The effectiveness of sleep medications is dulled over time and the dependence on sleep medications is on the other hand increased.
Insomnia FactsInsomnia or poor sleep health is not regarded as a public health crisis but many experts believe that it should be treated as one. The burden of insomnia has been grossly underestimated because the focus of attention is restricted towards few other conditions that contribute to non-communicable diseases. While diets and obesity have a huge role to play, the importance of sleep to general health and wellbeing cannot be underestimated. Sleep deprivation, insomnia and other sleep disorders contribute significantly to the global burden of disease as they greatly increase the risk of cardiovascular disease, diabetes, obesity and cancer, as well as the risk of injury and violent death through human error.
Increased awareness on the disease is essential and greater efforts need to be made to tackle the paucity of global data and insomnia statistics. What was once thought of as a problem of the developed world has now become just as much of a burden in developing countries.
- Insomnia is the most prevalent of all sleep disorders and is believed to affect anywhere from 30 to 50 percent of all people at some point in their lifetime.
- Long-term sleep deprivation can cause severe health problems and compromise your quality of life. It is estimated that chronic insomnia affects as much as ten percent of these individuals.
- Insomnia affects one out of four people and it isn’t gender or age specific. Insomnia in children may be uncommon but it is certainly not unheard of. With increased examination and performance stress these figures are only rising. The condition is increasingly prevalent as you age with 40 to 60 percent of all individuals above the age of 60 suffering from insomnia.
- Insomnia is twice as likely to affect women as compared to men.
- Chronic insomnia greatly increases the risk of various non-communicable diseases. There were 57 million deaths in 2008, with 58% of these being attributed to chronic (non-communicable) diseases. These numbers could be significantly reduced if sleep disorders were addressed.
- Studies have shown that the risk of strokes, hypertension, arteriosclerosis, obesity, diabetes and depression are much higher in patients suffering from insomnia.
- Substance abuse like smoking, alcoholism and drugs are more likely to develop in individuals suffering from insomnia.
- Fatigue and drowsiness cause around 100,000 traffic accidents a year, claiming as many as 1,500 lives and leaving over 70,000 injured. Now take into account that these figures are limited to the United States which accounts for just 5 percent of global population.
- Researchers have found that insomnia isn’t just a problem in humans but can affect our pets as well and pests too! Fruit flies were the test subjects in the study and they were found to display symptoms very similar to those seen in humans such as impaired balance and weight gain.
- Most of us tend to think that following a regular routine on weekdays will suffice to keep us healthy. Unfortunately, those wild weekends and late night parties also take their toll. Studies suggest that people with different sleep schedules on weekdays and weekends are more likely to suffer from sleep deprivation and obesity.
- There is no miracle cure or medication for insomnia that can solve the problem. Sleeping pills do not cure insomnia and can even contribute to the development of chronic insomnia. Cognitive behavioral therapy is the only strategy with a proven track record.
- Fatal familial insomnia should not be confused with acute or chronic insomnia. It’s a much more serious condition that is caused as a result of a genetic disease. This disease prevents the victim from falling asleep and the duration of sleeplessness keeps increasing until the lack of sleep turns fatal. Thankfully, this is not a common condition.