Insomnia is by far the most common reason for a doctor’s visit when it comes to sleep disorders, and treatments can vary depending on the root cause.
Insomnia is classified into two categories; sleep-onset insomnia, where you find it hard to get to sleep and sleep-maintenance insomnia where you have problems staying asleep.
The time it takes a non-sufferer to get to sleep is between 1 and 20 minutes.
Insomnia is further defined into how often it happens so transient insomnia is where you have problems for a few nights, short term insomnia, where you have problems up to a month and chronic insomnia where the problems exist for more than a month.
About 30 to 40 percent of adults report some degree of insomnia within any one year period and 10 to 15 percent of those indicate a chronic level.
It’s believed up to twice as many women than men suffer some form of insomnia being at least partly contributed to hormonal changes.
There is also varying degrees of sleeping problems associated with babies, toddlers and teenagers. (see article Insomnia in Pregnancy)
The root cause of insomnia certainly comes under one or more of the following categories below. Discovering the cause or causes is the first step in putting insomnia to bed and getting night after night of good quality sleep.
Psychological factors – these can be stress, anxiety, depression and over stimulation most likely related to work, home and general lifestyle.
Lifestyle – so a bad or inconsistent diet, lack of exercise or exercising too close to bedtime and regular overuse of the stimulants, caffeine, alcohol, nicotine and recreational drugs.
Sleep Environment – your bedroom needs to be a place for Goldilocks where temperature, light and noise levels are just right for you.
Medications – over the counter cough medicines as well as beta blockers, diuretics and thyroid hormones and withdrawal from some drugs can affect sleep patterns.
Mental – depression, schizophrenia, bipolar and dementia are all linked to insomnia.
Medical – any condition which causes pain or discomfort is going to have an impact on your sleep which includes
Sleep Disorders – discounting insomnia there are over 70 classifications of sleep disorders which mostly come under the following categories.
Sleep related breathing disorders – e.g. snoring and sleep apnea
Sleep related movement e.g. restless leg syndrome (RLS)
Circadian rhythm disorders e.g. advanced sleep phase syndrome (ASPS) and delayed sleep phase syndrome (DSPS)
Parasomnias e.g. sleepwalking, bruxism (teeth grinding)
Hypersomnias e.g. Narcolepsy, sleep paralysis
The Consequences of Insomnia
The effects of going without sleep can range from being tired, listless and forgetful during the day as well as loss of concentration and the ability to learn to the tragically extreme sleeping disorder known as fatal familial insomnia (FFI).
Without going into detail it’s a genetic condition where the brain’s thalamus is damaged (the area that controls the stages of sleep) and the sufferer CANT sleep at all. The condition is fatal with different stages of body and mind deterioration.
This is, as I said a very rare condition with perhaps 40 known families affected worldwide but it does demonstrate the utmost importance of sleep.
Treatments for Insomnia
For chronic insomnia sufferers the short term use of some medications like benzodiazepines can be used. Otherwise relaxation techniques and cogative-behavioural therapy maybe appropriate. Alternatively using the bedroom only for sleeping and making sure that the bed and surroundings are comfortable and not too warm can all help. And an adjustment to your sleeping patterns. A consultation with your doctor is worthwhile for advice that suits your particular situation.