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Insomnia Overview

Introduction

Nearly everyone has occasional sleepless nights, perhaps due to stress, heartburn, or drinking too much caffeine or alcohol. Chronic insomnia is defined when you have problems falling asleep, maintaining sleep, or experience nonrestorative sleep that occurs on a regular or frequent basis, often for no apparent reason.

Insomnia Overview

Most adults have experienced insomnia or sleeplessness at one time or another in their lives. An estimated 30-50% of the general population are affected by insomnia, and 10% have chronic insomnia.

Insomnia is a symptom, not a stand-alone diagnosis. By definition, insomnia is “difficulty initiating or maintaining sleep, or both.” Although most of us know what insomnia is and how we feel and perform after one or more sleepless nights, few seek medical advice. Many people remain unaware of the behavioral and medical options available to treat insomnia.

Insomnia techniques you’ve probably already tried but are still worth trying again.

·    See a Doctor

Insomnia can be a symptom of physical disorders, although for most of us it’s the result of tension, stress and anxiety—and of course the more anxious we get about our insomnia, the worse it gets. If your doctor pronounces you a “healthy” insomniac, he might suggest some of the techniques provided here. Or she might prescribe drugs to help you get to sleep.

We suggest you try all these methods first, and use drugs only as a last resort. The decision, of course, is yours.

·    Take a Warm Bath

It’s a great way to relax your body. Don’t overdo it, however. You merely want to relax your body, not exhaust it. Too long in hot water and your body is drained of vitality.

What causes insomnia?

Insomnia is the body’s way of saying that something isn’t right. Things that may cause insomnia include stress, too much caffeine, depression, changes in work shifts, and pain from medical problems, such as arthritis.

There are different kinds of insomnia:

·    Sleep Onset Insomnia (Delayed Sleep Phase Syndrome): A disorder in which the major sleep episode is delayed in relation to the desired clock time that results in symptoms of sleep onset insomnia or difficulty in awakening at the desired time.

·    Idiopathic Insomnia: A lifelong inability to obtain adequate sleep that is presumably due to an abnormality of the neurological control of the sleep-wake system. The insomnia is long-standing, commonly beginning in early childhood, sometimes since birth.

·    Psychophysiological Insomnia: A disorder of somatized tension (conversion of anxiety into physical symptoms) and learned sleep-preventing association that results in a complaint of insomnia and associated decreased functioning during wakefulness.

Symptoms

Symptoms of insomnia can be different for each individual, and people with insomnia might experience a variety of symptoms, such as:

·    Difficulty falling asleep, which can mean lying in bed for up to an hour or more, perhaps tossing and turning, wishing for sleep to begin.

·    Awakening during sleep and having trouble getting back to sleep.

·    Awakening too early in the morning.

·    Feeling unrefreshed upon awakening.

·    Daytime irritability, drowsiness, anxiety, and/or nonproductiveness.

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