Insomnia is a disorder which impairs a person’s ability to fall asleep, stay asleep or both. The causes, symptoms and duration of insomnia can vary from person to person. Some of the common symptoms include:
- Difficulty falling asleep
- Difficulty staying asleep throughout the night
- Waking up too early in the morning
Insomnia affects a person’s ability to sleep as well as how they function throughout the day. A person suffering from insomnia may experience reduced energy levels, moodiness, a weakened immune system, and poorer focus.
Everyone has poor sleep on occasion, and this is usually the result of staying up too late or waking too soon. This does not mean you have a sleeping disorder, just that you may need to change your habits. (This is referred to as Transient Insomnia)
Roughly 1/3 of adults suffer from insomnia and it is more common among older adults, women, individuals under stress/anxiety and those with certain medicinal and emotional wellness issues, for example, depression.
Insomnia is diagnosed as either Short-term or Chronic. Short-term insomnia is a temporary sleeping disorder goes on for up to three months (also known as Transient Insomnia). It happens in 15 to 20% of individuals.
Chronic Insomnia: This kind of sleeping disorder happens no less than three times each week and goes on for three months or more. Around 10 percent of individuals have Chronic Insomnia.
Our certified sleep care staff can provide treatment strategies to counter the effects of transient insomnia and in some cases chronic insomnia as well helping you get back to feeling rested.
Symptoms and Causes of Insomnia
Symptoms and causes of insomnia vary from patient to patient. Insomnia symptoms may include:
- Feeling fatigued even after a night’s sleep
- Daytime drowsiness
- Irritability, depression or anxiety
- Difficulty paying attention, focusing on tasks or remembering
- Increased errors or accidents
- Drop in the performance quality
- Cognitive Impairment
- Impulsiveness or aggression
- Lack of energy or motivation
Insomnia is often linked to other ailments, in fact it is rare to have insomnia that does not worsen or is itself not worsened or protracted by other factors. These complicating factors can include:
Stress: Stress can range from daily stresses such as work-related or personal stress to severe stress such as the death of loved ones, divorce or job loss.
Sleep Disorders: Sometimes a person suffers from other sleep disorders which may be leading to increased insomnia. For instance, people with restless legs syndrome or periodic limb movement disorder may have a hard time falling and or staying asleep.
Medical Conditions: Many physical illnesses can cause insomnia. Insomnia may be the primary problem, or it may be secondary due to other causes, such as a disease or medication. People who experience pain, discomfort or limited mobility from medical issues may have difficulty falling asleep or staying asleep. Insomnia due to medical conditions is most common in older adults because as people age they generally develop more chronic health issues. Conditions such as pregnancy and menopause can also cause sleep problems. The severity and duration of insomnia often varies with the related health condition.
Mental Disorders: The relationship between sleep and mental health is complicated. A mental health disorder can cause Insomnia. Depression is one of the frequent reasons behind Insomnia. Individuals with depression typically have trouble falling asleep or staying asleep. Alternative mood disorders like bipolar disorder may also cause sleep issues.
Medication or Substance Use or Abuse: Insomnia can be caused by many prescription or over-the-counter medications. Some medicines that contain pseudoephedrine and can make it difficult to fall asleep, like cold & allergy medicines, etc.
Drinking alcohol right before bedtime can cause frequent awakenings throughout the night. It also can occur if you suddenly stop using a sleeping pill.
Caffeine and alternative stimulants can prevent you from falling asleep and can also cause frequent awakenings during the night.
Individuals sensitive or allergic to certain foods may also develop insomnia.
Environmental factors: The environment where you sleep can cause insomnia. Disruptive factors that interfere with sleeping also cause Insomnia, such as noise, light or extreme temperatures. Extended exposure to environmental toxins and chemicals may prevent you from being able to fall asleep or stay asleep.
Habits or lifestyles: Irregular sleep schedules can cause insomnia in workers who need to sleep during the day.
So how do you know if you have Insomnia? If any of the following sound like you then you may have insomnia.
- You struggle to fall asleep, often taking longer than 30 minutes.
- You wake up throughout the night or awaken earlier than planned and are unable to get back to sleep.
- You have difficulty focussing and experience reduced energy throughout the day.
- You frequently get less than 7 hours of sleep.
Insomnia that lasts a few months or longer is considered to be “chronic” while insomnia less than 3 months is generally considered to be “short term” or transient. For short term insomnia, adhering to a proper sleep regime may be sufficient to solve the problem. However, if you believe you suffer from Chronic Insomnia it is a good idea to talk to a certified sleep care specialist. Our Quality Sleep Care team can help diagnose insomnia and work together with you to treat it.
There are a number of treatments that can be helpful for relieving insomnia but which approach is best depends on the underlying cause. For chronic insomnia a certified sleep care specialist may recommend any combination of the following treatments:
Often, chronic insomnia can be treated by improving “Sleep Hygiene.” Sleep hygiene refers to the set of bedtime habits or rituals that you perform at night before going to bed. These habits can be used to improve your sleep.
Cognitive Behavioural Therapy
The thoughts and behaviours that keep you from a good sleep can be addressed by the Cognitive Behavioural Therapy (or “CBT”) for insomnia. CBT can include techniques for stress reduction, relaxation and sleep schedule management. For more information on how CBT can help you sleep better contact a qualified Sleep Care specialist.
In some cases medication is prescribed for sleep disorders such as insomnia. One approach is to prescribe “hypnotics” which is medication that directly targets insomnia by helping to induce sleep. Another way medication is used to treat insomnia is by targeting other health issues that may contribute to the problem. Remember, you should only take medication under the supervision of your physician.
In cases where the insomnia is caused by a particular medical condition, you may be referred by your physician to a specialist who can treat the underlying condition. During the course of treatment, as your medical conditions improve your insomnia may begin to resolve.