Insomnia – Keeping You Awake Whole Night

By on December 6, 2011

insomniaInsomnia is the most common sleeping disorder. Nearly one third of the US population is affected with this sleep disorder. Insomnia in simple words can be described the inability to fall asleep. Sometimes, this inability to fall asleep may even continue for the whole night.

The common complaint of an insomniac is not being able to close his eyes or rest his mind even for couple of minutes throughout the night. And finally after long-long hours of wakening when he goes into sleep, it would be nearly his wake-up time. As a result, within couple of hours he will be waking up again.

Types of Insomnia

Depending of the period for which of occurrence of inability to fall asleep exists, insomnia can be classified as transient insomnia, acute insomnia and acute insomnia.

Transient Insomnia

This is when the symptoms of insomnia last for shorter period of time such as a week or less. The actual cause is due to some external disorders such as stress to the greater extent, change of sleep-wake time, sleeping environment, etc.

Acute Insomnia

This is when the symptoms last for a period of three weeks to less than a month. This is also known as short-term insomnia. The causes are same as that of transient insomnia. Sometimes, female hormonal changes can also cause this type. But, most often it is the stress, changes in sleep-wake times; night shift-work can result to this type of insomnia.

Chronic Insomnia

This is when the symptoms last for a period of more than a month. Depending upon the causes this type can be further classified as primary and secondary chronic insomnia.

  • Primary Chronic Insomnia: A chronic insomnia is known as primary chronic insomnia, when caused are due to any stress, jetlag, extreme temperatures, sleeping environment, night-shift jobs, stress, medications used as a treatment for some other disorder, daytime napping, alcohol consumption, etc.
  • Secondary Chronic Insomnia: A chronic insomnia is known as secondary chronic insomnia, when causes are due to some physical or mental condition such as depression, heart attack, Parkinson’s disease, narcolepsy, asthma, arthritis, etc.

Causes of Insomnia

The sleep habits that we follow to the great extent result in insomnia. The causes include:

  • Maintaining irregular sleep-wake time
  • Shift in sleep schedule such as Jet lag
  • Maintaining poor sleep hygiene
  • Daytime napping
  • Night shift duties
  • Doing exercise just before going to bed for sleep
  • Stress, anxiety disorder, panic disorders, and fear
  • Parasomnias such as sleep walking, nightmares, REM behavior disorder, etc
  • Mental disorders such as depression, bipolar disorder, etc
  • Hormonal changes during menstrual periods and menopause
  • Medical conditions such as Parkinson’s disease, heart problems, arthritis, thyroid, etc
  • Alcohol or drugs consumption
  • Heavy smoking
  • Using medications such as antipsychotic drugs, certain antibiotics, prescription drugs
  • Discomfort caused due to certain pain.

Commonly found symptoms among insomniacs include:

  • Experiencing trouble in falling asleep frequently.
  • Frequent waking up during sleep.
  • Not feeling refreshed upon waking up in morning.
  • Excessive daytime sleepiness.
  • Feeling tired during daytime.
  • Decrease in levels of concentration.
  • Decreased levels of ability to do daily activities.

Diagnosis and Tests

When you consult a sleep doctor, he or she will ask you few questions that include:

  • Frequency of the symptoms
  • Time to getting sleep
  • Current medications
  • Medical history
  • Alcohol or drugs consumptions
  • Sleep environment, etc

This questionnaire itself will be helpful in diagnosing insomnia.

Insomnia Treatment

No treatment is necessary for transient insomnia, as the symptoms just last for few days. Symptoms will disappear as soon as the body adjusts to the conditions that are causing transient insomnia.

For treating acute or chronic insomnia, the actual physical or mental cause has to be identified and treated. Maintaining proper sleep hygiene helps a lot in ruling out insomnia symptoms.

Cognitive Behavior Therapy:

This has shown very effective in insomnia treatment. This therapy helps in changing the misconceptions and expectations regarding sleep, controlling anxiety, controlling depression in insomniacs. This indeed will help in improving the sleep quality and sleep habits.

Insomnia Medications:

There are few insomnia medications that are prescribed for treating insomnia. Such medications include:

  • Benzodiazepines: this is the most common medication prescribed for treating insomnia. Some examples of Benzodiazepines medications are flurazepam, temazepam, triazolam, and flunitrazepam.
  • Non-benzodiazepines: certain non-benzodiazepines are used for treating mild to moderate insomnia. Some examples of Non-benzodiazepines medications are eszopiclone, zopiclone, zolpidem, and zaleplon.
  • Melatonin Supplements: Using of these supplements has also shown effective in treating. These supplements will help in inducing the sleep and also in regulating sleep-wake schedule.
  • Antidepressants: One can even use antidepressants as an insomnia treatment method. Some of the examples of antidepressants are trazodone, amitriptyline, mirtazapine and doxepin.
  • Antihistamines: Antihistamine diphenhydramine is the non-prescription drugs that can be used for treating. Unisom and Unisom 2 are two available antihistamines.

Self Help Tips for Insomnia

  • Maintain regular sleep-wake cycle
  • Avoiding alcohol consumption, cigarette smoking, and caffeine drinks lately.
  • Avoiding food intake at least for a time of 3 hours before bedtime.
  • Exercise regularly. But, avoid exercising close to your bedtime.
  • Making a sleep friendly environment in your bedroom such avoiding sleep destructing things computer and television from bedroom, having a dim bed-light, etc.
  • Avoid napping.
  • Drink glass of warm milk before going to sleep.
  • Taking a warm bath just before going to sleep.

Myth of Alcohol Consumption for Insomnia Treatment:

Some people consider alcohol consumption as an insomnia treatment. But, the truth is that alcohol consumption will cure insomnia, but indeed it will worsen the conditions. It is obvious, that a person fall asleep after consuming alcohol. But, alcohol consumption creates problems in second half of the sleep. So, alcohol consumption should be avoided for having insomnia relief.

It is always good to consult a sleep doctor, when the insomnia symptoms are persisting for longer of time.

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