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TOP 9 THINGS TO KNOW ABOUT INSOMNIA - DEFINITION,TYPES, SYMPTOMS, DIAGNOSE, TREATMENT & PREVENT

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TOP 9 THINGS TO KNOW ABOUT INSOMNIA - DEFINITION,TYPES, SYMPTOMS, DIAGNOSE, TREATMENT & PREVENT

All of us love to sleep. What other than a good sleep do we look for after an entire day of hectic work? It refreshes your whole body and mind and gives you a sudden boost of energy to carry out day-to-day activities. But do you know, there is a medical condition that does not let you fall asleep?

Well, if you don’t, read ahead!

Contents

1. WHAT IS INSOMNIA

2. WHAT DOES IT MEAN TO HAVE INSOMNIA?

3. TYPES OF INSOMNIA   

4. SYMPTOMS OF INSOMNIA

5. HOW TO DIAGNOSE INSOMNIA

6. HOW TO TREAT INSOMNIA

7. HOW TO PREVENT INSOMNIA

8. FINAL WORDS

9. FAQs

 

WHAT IS INSOMNIA

Insomnia is a common sleep disorder that affects your sleep cycle by making it harder for you to fall asleep. It sometimes makes you wake up in the middle of your sleep and it makes it difficult for you to go back to sleep. Insomnia can decrease your energy levels, worsen your moods, quality of life and efficiency of work performance.

The amount of sleep each person required varies from person to person but most adults need at least 6 to 7 hours of sleep every night.

Based on reports from the American Sleep Association,

  • Nearly 70 million Americans experience sleep disorders.
  • 5% reported falling asleep while they were driving.
  • 40% reported falling asleep during the day accidentally.

 

WHAT DOES IT MEAN TO HAVE INSOMNIA?

For some people using an electronic device right before sleeping can make it difficult to sleep or they find themselves waking up much earlier than they should be waking up.

This can lead to:

  • Mood changes
  • Irritability
  • lethargy
  • Anxiety
  • Feeling sleepy during the day

Insomnia can also sometimes be responsible for the development of certain chronic disorders such as:

  • Cardiovascular Diseases
  • Depression
  • Diabetes
  • Obesity


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Types of Insomnia:

 

Primary Insomnia:

 The type of insomnia that is not related to or has not arised due to any other medical condition.

Causes of Primary Insomnia:

  • stress related to particular traumatic life events
  • Noise,Light,etc.

 

Secondary Insomnia:

The type of insomnia which arises due to to a medical condition or use of substances such as alcohol or drugs.

Causes of Secondary insomnia:

  • Mental Health Disorders, for example, Depression, anxiety
  • Certain Medications to treat various other diseases such as allergies, asthma, high Blood Pressure
  • Alcohol or Tobacco or other illegal drugs usage
  •  Endocrine System Disorders such as Hyperthyroidism
  • Sleep disorders such as Sleep Apnea, or restless leg syndrome.
  • Gastrointestinal Reflux Disease (GERD)
  • Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease (COPD)


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Symptoms of Insomnia:

  • Headaches
  • Irritability
  • Low Motivation
  • Lack of Coordination
  • Low Energy
  • Gastrointestinal System problems
  • Feeling Tired or sleepy during daytime
  • Impaired ability to Concentrate and focus
  • Taking the help of certain medications to fall asleep
  • Social Life affected

According to Experts, Lack of sleep is one of the main reasons for road accidents.

 

Risk Factors for Insomnia:

Insomnia can affect people of any age but certain factors increase the risk of having insomnia. Some of these factors are:

  • Using Caffeine, medications, drugs or alcohol
  • Having a family history of Insomnia
  • Pregnancy
  • Going through menopause
  • Travelling across timezones
  • Certain mental or physical conditions
  • Females

There are certain medicines that can potentially cause insomnia. some of them are:

  • Alpha-Blockers
  • Beta-Blockers
  • Statins
  •  Corticosteroid
  • Combinations of Glucosamine and Chondroitin
  • Cholinesterase inhibitors
  • Angiotensin II Receptor blockers(ARBs)
  • Angiotensin-converting enzyme(ACE) Inhibitors
  • Selective Serotonin Reuptake Inhibitors or SSRI, antidepressant

 

How to diagnose Insomnia:

When you visit a doctor regarding experiencing symptoms and not being able to sleep, the doctor will not right away diagnose you as "Insomniac". He needs to make sure you have insomnia and will ask you certain questions about :

  • Sleep history
  • Psychological condition
  • Emotional Condition
  • Medical Condition
  • Environment,etc.

Based on your answers, he will start testing you by putting you under a sleep schedule and recording certain observations before coming to a final conclusion. Your doctor might ask you to:

  • Record when you fall asleep
  • Record the number of hours you sleep
  • Make a note of the number of times you wake up in the middle of the night
  • The time at which you wake up regularly

 Apart from this, the doctor can also conduct other medical tests and blood tests that can probably explain what is causing a disturbance in your sleep schedule.

A sleep study is not only recommended in cases of insomnia but is also used to diagnose various other sleep disorders such as obstructive sleep apnea.

Two possible ways in which a sleep study may be carried out are:

  •  You may be asked to sleep overnight at a sleep centre
  • Or you may be given the option to conduct your sleep test by yourself at the comfort of your homes.

During such a sleep study, several electrodes are placed on various parts of your body for example your head. These electrodes will help in her recording your brain waves to help differentiate between various stages of sleep. It will also be helpful in detecting your body movements during your sleep.

The results of such a sleep study will provide your doctor with certain Neuroelectrical and Physiological Information which will help him come to a diagnosis.

How to treat Insomnia:

Some of the common ways in which insomnia can be treated are:

  • Counselling:
  • Cognitive Behavioural Therapy
  • Over-the-counter sleeping aids
  • Alternative Medicine
  • Medication
  • Home Care Strategies
  • Aromatherapy

 

1. Aromatherapy:

A form of treatment in which certain essential oils are either inhaled or massaged onto the skin to cure certain ailments is known as aromatherapy. Such essential oils are made from a variety of trees, flowers, plants and other naturally occurring substances that have healing properties.

Some of the essential oils used to induce sleep are:

  • Lavender
  • Roman Chamomile
  • Sandalwood
  • Cedarwood
  • Bitter Orange or Neroli

Studies have shown that using a mixture of certain essential oils improve the quality of sleep and wellbeing in older adults.

Essential oils are perfectly safe to use as they do not generally cause side effects. The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has classified most of the essential oils used during aromatherapy as "Safe".

 

2. Alternative medicine:

A lot of people upon realising they have been experiencing symptoms of insomnia for a very long time resort to home treatment and self measures. Some of the most common self measures are:

Melatonin:

  • Melatonin is a hormone secreted by the pineal gland during night time which helps in regulating the sleep-wake cycle.
  • In recent times, melatonin has emerged as an over-the-counter(OTC) supplement as a method to help overcome insomnia.
  • Even though the use of melatonin is quite common there is no guaranteed proof that it is perfectly safe to use for longer periods of time. Consult your doctor before resorting to melatonin usage to overcome insomnia.

Valerian:

  • Known for its mild sedating effects valerian has been used as a sleeping aid in recent times as a dietary supplement.
  • Just like melatonin, its authenticity is not yet established, so it is always recommended to consult a doctor before considering the use of such sleeping aids.

Acupuncture:

  • Acupuncture has been in use since ancient times to relieve stress and other common elements.
  • More research is needed in case of specificity of insomnia but it is mainly used to combat certain symptoms of insomnia such as stress, headache, etc.

Yoga:

  • Just like Meditation, yoga helps to calm the body and mind which can contribute to better living standards if practised regularly.

 

3. Medication:

There are certain pills that can induce sleep and help you temporarily fight against insomnia but they are not usually recommended due to the side effects they cause in your body. Always consult a doctor regarding certain medications for insomnia or any other medical condition for the matter.

Some of the most common sleeping pills used are:

  • Eszopiclone (Sold under brand name Lunesta): Works as a hypnotic. It slows down brain function.
  • Ramelteon (Sold under the brand name Rozerem): Acts by stimulating the melatonin receptors in the brain.
  • Zaleplon (Commercially available under brand name Sonata): Functions as a Sedative-Hypnotic. Makes you feel relaxed and helps you fall asleep sooner. It slows down the activity of the brain due to its sedating properties.
  • Zolpidem (Sold under the brand name Ambien): It is suggested to be used after Cognitive Behavioral therapy to treat Insomnia. It functions as a powerful Sedative.

Certain pills are addictive and can cause side effects like tiredness during the day, etc. It is recommended to consult a doctor before resorting to such medication.

 

4. Over-The-Counter Sleeping Aids:

Certain Non-Prescription drugs are available which contain Anti Histamines. When you're about to go to sleep, hormone histamine levels in the brain goes down which help to induce Non-Rapid Eye Movement (NREM) Sleep. Anti Histamine induces drowsiness and hence, help you fall asleep sooner.

These drugs are not intended for daily use. Anti Histamine can cause many side effects such as difficulty in urination, Dizziness, etc. Consult a doctor before taking Anti Histamine.

 

5.Counselling:

Normally taking medications are using a particular sleep schedule can in fact help people to get better sleep and take control of their insomnia. but in certain cases when even these fail to help you get better sleep, doctors would recommend counselling sessions which include cognitive behavioural therapy, Stimulation Control Therapy, medications, etc.

Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT):

Considered as the first line of treatment for people having insomnia, cognitive-behavioural therapy aims at controlling or eliminating every negative thought process that goes on in your mind and all the negative actions that keep you awake and interferes with your sleep cycle. It is considered to be more effective than certain medications used to treat Insomnia.

As a result of these negative thoughts, the person starts overthinking and gets worried about the pettiest of things which keeps his brain occupied with unwanted worries and thoughts during his sleep cycle and keeps him awake.

During this therapy, a person is trained to convert his negative thoughts into positive thoughts which will help him to get control of his thoughts and actions during his times of sleep.

Stimulus Control Therapy:

This is mainly involved in removing certain factors that divert your mind away from sleep and by eliminating such factors it will be easier for you to fall asleep faster.

Breathing exercises and relaxing your muscles prior to sleep are some important ways to help you get a good sleep.

Paradoxical Intention:

This works by the principle of "remaining passively awake" in this context. in simple terms, if you have a habit that you want to remove doing it more will eventually lead you to identify it and stop it. Here in the case of insomnia, a patient will try to stay awake as long as possible rather than expecting to fall asleep. This trains the person's mind into thinking that falling asleep is not as hard as it seems.

 

6. Home Treatment:

 

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  • Establish a strict sleep and wake up routine
  • Avoid using electronic gadgets right before you go to sleep.
  • Reduce caffeine and alcohol consumption at night times before sleeping.
  • Darken the room if you are trying to nap in the afternoon hours
  • Eat properly before going to bed, do not go to sleep hungry. Also, avoid meals 2 hours before bed.
  • Practise breathing exercises before sleeping.

 

Complications of Insomnia:

Insomnia can aggravate health issues if you already have it with insomnia. It can also newly cause some health disorders. Some of the major medical conditions are affected by insomnia are:

  • Anxiety
  • Depression
  • Weak Immunity
  • Diabetes
  • Obesity
  • Lowered sex drive
  • High Blood Pressure
  • Seizures
  • Memory problems
  • Decreased efficiency of work, etc.

 

How to Prevent insomnia:


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Certain home treatments mentioned above can be used to prevent insomnia. some of them are:

  • Avoiding caffeine, nicotine, alcohol
  • Exercising regularly
  • Not eating heavily before bed
  • Comfortable Bedroom
  • Not using gadgets before sleeping, etc.

 

Insomnia and Mental Health Issues:

Insomnia can increase the risk of getting Mental health disorders. Mental health disorders can also lead to disturbed sleep cycles. A good night's sleep can help prevent mental health disorders by a far mile, mental health disorders such as Anxiety, Stress, Depression, etc.

FINAL WORDS

If you find yourself experiencing any symptoms of Mental health disorder, consulting a doctor at the earliest will be the most beneficial thing to do before attempting any treatment of your own.

 

FAQs

1.Do women experience insomnia more than men?

Yes, due to extreme hormonal fluctuations during periods, a woman experiences more symptoms of insomnia than men, who have relatively lesser hormonal fluctuations.

When women go through Perimenopause, a period few years before the actual onset of menopause, they experience hot Flashes (Experiencing warmth in the body) and Night sweats that interfere with sleep and cause disturbances.

2. Is Melatonin a good treatment for insomnia?

Melatonin is a hormone secreted during sleep. People consider it as an Over-the-Counter dietary supplement. When taken before bedtime, it signals the brain to prepare for sleep time and It makes it easy for you to fall asleep.

This should be taken under the supervision of doctors as it can cause certain side effects in certain cases. You should stop taking melatonin if you don’t see any benefits for a week or more. Do not use melatonin if you are a breastfeeding mother or pregnant, have diabetes or High Blood Pressure.

3. Is it Fatal or Life Threatening?

Sometimes, insomnia can arise due to Sleep Apnea(Holding your breath during sleep involuntarily). In such conditions, insomnia can be fatal.


Abid Suhail

Abid Suhail

A medical student on the path to providing authentic medical knowledge for the sole purpose of generating awareness and education. More about me? I love Football :)