The term insomnia is used frequently by many people in casual conversations referring to their lack of sleep. However, few know what a disorder of insomnia actually is and how it seriously impacts the lives of those who have the condition. It’s important to stay educated about the type of sleep disorders impacting millions of people each year because one of them could be impacting you or a loved one. Here’s everything you need to know about the well known but not so known sleep disorder of insomnia.
What Is It?
In its simplest definition, insomnia is the inability to fall or stay asleep. Each year, 60 million Americans are impacted by insomnia to some degree. It may be something that lasts a couple of days or it may go on for months and be more long-term. If it goes on for a long period of time, this is known as chronic or acute insomnia. Chronic insomnia impacts individuals for a month or longer. More commonly, acute insomnia lasts for a few days or weeks. This is more commonly caused by a significant event that causes a person to lose sleep. For example, a stressful time at work may lead a person to lose sleep.
Causes & Risk Factors
The average adult needs 7-8 hours of sleep each night. Even if an individual is in bed for eight hours, that still doesn’t mean they are getting 8 hours of quality sleep. Sleep disorders often manifest as insomnia, so it’s important to know what is truly causing the issue. You or a loved one may have insomnia if you meet any of the following criteria1.
Advanced Age: This is believed to be because older adults tend to have less control over their physiological sleep systems.
Gender2: Research has shown an increase in the prevalence of insomnia in women who are menopausal or during the menses phase.
Psychiatric Disorders: Sufferers of depression, stress or anxiety may be more commonly linked to having chronic insomnia. Having insomnia with a psychiatric disorder only exacerbates the issue. Any ongoing extreme feelings of emotion can stir up frequent insomnia.
Sleep Disorder: A sleep disorder like sleep apnea can cause you to have insomnia as it interrupts your sleep. It causes you to have cessations of breathing in the night, so you are never getting adequate sleep.
Diet: Something as basic as diet may be impacting your ability to fall or stay asleep. Caffeinated beverages or ingesting other stimulants like Nicotine may impact your ability to get quality sleep. Even if you fall asleep right away, you may never get to the deeper stages of the sleep cycle imperative for robust rest. Additionally, eating too close before going to bed may also cause physical discomfort barring good sleep. This could be acid reflux or a general feeling of fullness.
Medical Issues: Even diseases that appear to have nothing to do with your sleep, can, in fact, impede your sleep. Some of these conditions are diabetes, asthma, heart disease, Parkinson’s disease and Alzheimer’s disease.
Chronic Insomnia impacts 30% of the general American population. It is the most common sleep disorder in the United States and symptoms of it should not be ignored. Many people experience it throughout their lifetime, but don’t take it as seriously as they should.
You or a loved one may have insomnia if you experience:
- Poor work performance
- Lack of concentration
- Depression & anxiety
- Waking up too early
- Only short periods of sleep
- Being awake for most of the night
Diagnosis & Treatment
Too many people don’t seek a diagnosis for insomnia, because they think that it’s normal or something that they can handle on their own. When first asking your doctor about having insomnia, they will ask you a series of routine questions about weight gain, snoring and your mental health. Depending on their findings, they will move forth with testing of their discretion. Often, this will be done in the form of an overnight sleep test in order to monitor movement patterns and sleep cycles. They may also ask you to conduct an assessment of your sleep. This will involve keeping a diary for a couple of weeks to track the amount of sleep you had and your quality of sleep. The best way to handle this is to make a chart outlining the characteristics of sleep.
If they find that you have a specific sleep disorder, they will prescribe you treatment items for this. However, if you have generalized insomnia there are certain things you can do to help alleviate insomnia or get rid of it altogether.
Change Sleep Habits: Sometimes the root of insomnia is unhealthy sleep habits or stressful life conditions. These bad habits or situations need to be addressed and eliminated. If a person finds themselves with repeated stressors, they should do what they can to remove them or find ways to cope. Additionally, education on healthy sleep is essential. They should not be on electronics an hour before bed, refrain from eating before bed and attempt to be in bed at the same time each night.
If lifestyle changes don’t work, you may want to consider discussing sleep medications and therapy with your doctor. Sleep specialists will be able to help you determine what the best course of action should be in order to help you get the proper rest you need.
If you or a loved one think you have insomnia or are having trouble sleeping, be sure to contact us for help today!
- Insomnia: Definition, Prevalence, Etiology, and Consequences. Thomas, Roth. J Clin Sleep Med. 2007 Aug 15; 3(5 Suppl): S7–S10.
Johnson EO, Roth T, Schultz L, Breslau N. Epidemiology of DSMIV insomnia in adolescence: lifetime prevalence, chronicity, and an emergent gender difference. Pediatrics. 2006;117:e247–56.