“Insomnia – An Overview”
Having endured bouts of insomnia on and off for the past 20 years you would think I would never have to do research I would just write an article from straight experience, not so. Surprisingly, up until now I never really knew what caused the bouts, nor what I did to provoke them or how to prevent them from happening in the first place. As always in my quest for knowledge and better understanding I hope that this article will help anyone who reads this as much as it helped me to understand what I’m dealing with.
An Overview of Insomnia. Insomnia is a sleep disorder that is best described as difficulty falling and/or staying asleep. People with insomnia have one or more of the following symptoms:
- Difficulty falling asleep
- Waking up often during the night/ having trouble going back to sleep
- Waking up too early in the morning
- Feeling tired upon waking
The story of my life…smh.
Types of Insomnia. There are two types of insomnia: primary insomnia and secondary insomnia.
Primary insomnia: Primary insomnia means that someone is having sleep issues that are not directly associated with any other health condition or problem.
Secondary insomnia: Secondary insomnia means that a person is having sleep problems because of another issue, such as a health condition (like asthma, depression, arthritis, cancer, or heartburn); pain; medication; or a substance (like alcohol).
Acute vs. Chronic Insomnia. Another fun insomnia fact is that it varies in how long it lasts and how often it occurs. It can be for a short amount of time (acute insomnia) or can last for what seems forever (chronic insomnia). It can also come and go, with periods of time when you would have no sleep problems, thank God for small miracles. Acute insomnia can last from one night to a few weeks. Insomnia is called chronic when a person has insomnia at least three nights a week for a month or longer; try 2 weeks straight.
Causes of Insomnia. Causes of acute insomnia can include:
- More than normal life stress (job loss or change, death of a loved one, divorce, moving).
- Emotional or physical discomfort
- Environmental factors like noise, light, or extreme temperatures (hot or cold) that interfere with sleep
- Some medications (e.g, colds, allergies, depression, high blood pressure, and asthma) may interfere with sleep
- Interference in normal sleep schedule (jet lag or switching from a day to night shift, for example).
Causes of chronic insomnia include:
- Depression and/or anxiety
- Chronic stress
- Pain or discomfort at night
Symptoms of Insomnia
Symptoms of insomnia can include:
- Sleepiness during the day.
- General tiredness.
- Problems with concentration or memory.
Diagnosing Insomnia. With what you’ve read so far you think you might have insomnia, talk to your doctor. An evaluation may include a physical exam, a medical history, and sleep history. Your doctor may ask that you keep a sleep diary, to keep track of your sleep patterns and how you feel during the day. He/ she may want to interview your bed partner (if needed) about the quantity and quality of your sleep. In some cases, you may be referred to a sleep center for special tests.
Treatment for Insomnia. Acute insomnia may not require treatment. Mild insomnia often times can be prevented or cured by practicing good sleep habits (see below). If it’s hard for you to function during the day because you are sleepy and tired, your doctor might prescribe sleeping pills for a limited time. Rapid onset, short-acting drugs can help you avoid effects such as drowsiness the following day. Avoid using over-the-counter sleeping pills for insomnia since they may have undesired side effects and tend to lose their effectiveness over time.
Treatment for chronic insomnia includes first treating any underlying conditions or health problems that are causing the insomnia. If insomnia continues, your health care provider may suggest behavioral therapy. Behavioral approaches help you to change behaviors that may worsen insomnia and to learn new behaviors to promote sleep. Techniques such as relaxation exercises, sleep restriction therapy, and reconditioning may be useful.
Good Sleep Habits for Beating Insomnia. Good sleep habits, can help you get a good night’s sleep and beat insomnia.
Here are some tips:
Try to go to sleep at the same time each night and get up at the same time each morning. Avoid taking naps during the day because they may make you less sleepy at bedtime
Stay away from caffeine, nicotine, and alcohol late in the day. Caffeine and nicotine are stimulants and can keep you from falling asleep. Alcohol can cause waking in the night reduces the quality of your sleep.
Exercise regularly. Avoid exercising close to bedtime because it may stimulate you and make it hard to fall asleep. Experts suggest not exercising for at least three to four hours before the time you go to sleep.
Try not eating a heavy meal late in the day. A light snack before bedtime (I got nervous..lol), however, may help you sleep.
Make your bedroom comfy. Make it dark, quiet and just the right temperature, not too warm or too cold. If light is a problem, try a sleeping mask. If noise is a problem, try earplugs, a fan, or a “white noise” machine to cover up the sounds.
Follow a routine of relaxation before sleep. Read a book, listen to music, or take a bath.
Avoid using your bed for anything other than sleep or sex.
If you’re not sleepy and don’t feel drowsy, get up and read or do something that is not overly stimulating until you feel sleepy.
If you’re like me and find yourself lying awake worrying about things, try making a to-do list before you go to bed. This may help you to not focus on those worries overnight.
Insomnia can be frustrating and you never really know when it’s gonna hit. For me, after living with it and doing some reading on the topic I think I might actually have more of a handle on this. A little education goes a long way. Thank God for the internet..lol.