WHAT IS INSOMNIA?
Insomnia is the sensation of daytime fatigue and impaired performance caused by insufficient sleep. In general, people with insomnia experience an inability to sleep despite being tired, a light, fitful sleep that leaves them fatigued upon awakening, or waking up too early.
Under debate is the question of whether insomnia is always a symptom of some other physical or psychological condition or whether in some cases it is a primary disorder of its own.
Common symptoms of insomnia include:
- feeling tired during the day
- having frequent headaches
- lack of concentration
- you wake up feeling tired and not refreshed
- sleeping better away from home
- taking longer than 30 or 40 minutes to fall asleep
- waking repeatedly during the night
- waking far too early and being unable to fall back asleep
- being able to sleep only with the aid of sleeping pills or alcohol
Insomniacs often complain of being unable to close their eyes or rest their minds for any period of time. This author certainly knows what it’s like to have your mind racing at bedtime. In our stress-filled world, we are often plagued with unfinished to-do lists in your heads. When it’s quiet and time for sleep, many people have problems pushing those to-do lists aside in favor of dreamland.
Artistic types claim that they get their best ideas at night while lying in bed trying to sleep. One scholar even said that if a man had as many ideas during the day as he does when he has insomnia, he’d make a fortune. That may be true, but eventually, the lack of sleep will take its toll.
The worst part of insomnia is wanting to sleep but being unable to. The mind races and is unable to rest and that makes you overly tired and barely able to function the next day. Sometimes insomnia lasts longer than just a few nights.
Insomnia, usually temporary, is often categorized by how long it lasts:
Transient insomnia lasts for a few days.
Short-term insomnia lasts for no more than three weeks.
Chronic insomnia occurs when the following characteristics are present:
- When a person has difficulty falling asleep, maintaining sleep, or has non-restorative sleep for at least three nights a week for one month or longer.
- In addition, the patient is distressed and believes that normal daily functioning is impaired because of sleep loss.
Chronic insomnia may also be primary or secondary, depending on the cause:
- Primary chronic insomnia occurs when it is the sole complaint of a patient.
- Secondary chronic insomnia is caused by medical or psychiatric conditions, drugs, or emotional or psychiatric disorders.
Some common types of secondary insomnia include:
- Sleep apnea is a sleep disorder caused by difficulty breathing during sleep. Persistent, loud snoring and frequent long pauses in breathing during sleep, followed by choking or gasping for breath are the main sighs of sleep apnea. For more information, visit sleepapnea.org.
- Restless Legs Syndrome is a sleep disorder characterized by unpleasant sensations (creeping, burning, itching, pulling or tugging) in the legs or feet, occurring mostly in the evening and at night. Moving the legs around tends to relieve the unpleasant sensation temporarily. For more information, visit rls.org .
- Sleep-wake schedule or circadian rhythm disorders are sleep disorders caused by having sleep-wake schedules that do not match up with your natural sleep schedule. People who work the night shift may suffer from this problem
- Insomnia due to medical conditions: Many common medical problems and the drugs that treat them can cause insomnia, including allergies, arthritis, heart disease, hypertension, asthma, Parkinson’s disease, attention deficit hyperactivity disorder, or hyperthyroidism. Physical discomfort (e.g. chronic pain) may also cause problems sleeping.
- Insomnia due to substance use or withdrawal: Many drugs and medications can cause sleep disturbances, either while taking them or while withdrawing from them. Alcohol, stimulants, sedatives, and even long-term use of sleep medications can cause insomnia.
- Insomnia due to an emotional problem: Insomnia can be a symptom of a number of emotional difficulties. If you find that you worry excessively about numerous minor matters or if you have experienced sadness or a loss of interest in activities for a number of weeks consult your physician.
Insomnia may also be defined in terms of inability to sleep at conventional times. The following are examples and are referred to as circadian rhythm disorders.
- Delayed Sleep-Phase Syndrome:. Delayed sleep-phase syndrome is the term for a circadian clock that runs late but reliably. People who have this condition (usually adolescents) fall asleep very late at night or in early morning hours, but then they sleep normally
- Advanced Sleep Syndrome. This syndrome tends to develop in older people; it produces excessive sleepiness in the morning and undesired awakening early in the morning.