Some Interesting Facts on Insomnia:
- Every individual experiences insomnia at some stage of life.
- Not everyone who is suffering from insomnia needs medical attention except for the severe cases.
- One can overcome it by switching to healthy habits such as physical exercises, yoga, and meditation.
- The increasing number of people with insomnia has something to do with modern technology.
- People living in cities and towns are more likely to fall victim to insomnia.
- Over excitement, joy, fear, sadness, or pain can trigger insomnia at any time.
- According to the statistics published on the National Sleep Foundation, about one-third of the US population suffers from some form of insomnia.
- It is often caused as an effect due to the treatment of certain illnesses and medication.
- Hormonal and behavioral change can also cause insomnia.
- The National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute (NHLBI) lead or sponsors many studies aimed at preventing, diagnosing, and treating heart, lung, blood, and sleep disorders.
- It affects the sleep pattern of people and may last up to a week to a year or a few.
What is Insomnia?
Some define insomnia as a sleeping disorder while others describe it as a mental illness. There are a few who describe insomnia as both. It is however not important how people define it. What’s more important is to understand what insomnia is.
Insomnia is a change in the sleeping behavior or sleep disturbance of an individual and makes it difficult for an individual to fall asleep even after going to bed and once asleep they have difficulty staying asleep for a healthy period of time.
People with insomnia have difficulty falling asleep even when they have the chance of doing so. Even the comfiest of bed and healthiest of diets cannot help the individual complete his/her sleep.
When a person suffers from insomnia, his/her body desires for rest while the brain continues to function against the body’s will. It is just like having a wallet full of hard cash to spend on food and still returning home hungry.
You might as well say that it is a combination of multiple sleeping disorders including poor sleep quality to lack of quantity of sleep to no sleep at all.
In general, it can be categorized into three types depending upon the nature of the sleeping disorder usually, the duration it lasts and its symptoms. They are:
1. Transient Insomnia:
Transient insomnia is a non-occurring one and can last up to 3 days or less than a week.
It is a common type of insomnia and could be caused due to the most frequent events in life.
It occurs when an individual is overwhelmed by the feeling of happiness or joy, sadness, or loss.
The good thing is it does not require any medical attention and is self-solved. Once the problem resolves the individual can once again experience improved sleep quality.
2. Acute Insomnia:
Acute insomnia is the most common of all. It is also termed as short-term insomnia since it lasts from few days to few weeks.
It might occur due to life-changing events and circumstances. getting a huge promotion on the job, or being fired from the job are some of the examples of such events.
Acute insomnia might as well occur when you are shouldering a heavy burden of work stress.
A lot of people experience acute insomnia and it is often known as adaptation insomnia since one experiences acute insomnia when adapting to a new situation.
The good thing about acute insomnia is that it resolves without any medical treatment at all.
Some other factors that might cause acute insomnia are as follows:
- It can be caused by some kinds of illness.
- Might also occur due to external stimuli such as noise pollution, air pollution, light from the roadside lamp pole, etc.
- It might as well occur due to change in seasons.
- Changes in sleeping patterns and sleeping places might as well cause acute insomnia.
3. Chronic Insomnia:
When a person experiences disturbances in the night sleep for at least three nights a week which continues for a period of three months or more, it can be said that that the person is suffering from chronic insomnia.
The National Institutes of Health states that chronic insomnia in adults is mainly triggered as a side effect of other primary problems such as medication and treatment of diseases and illness.
According to health sources, chronic insomnia in adults can be of two types. They are:
- Primary Insomnia
- Secondary Insomnia
Primary insomnia might occur due to certain changes in the sleep environment, unhealthy eating habits, unhealthy sleeping habits, change in work shifts and lifestyle, etc.
It is not caused as an effect due to certain medications, treatment of diseases. It occurs purely due to primary causes which are still not clear to date.
Sleep studies suggest that when there are changes in the lifestyle of an individual, primary insomnia is likely to occur.
Behavior such as late-night chatting, falling in love, breakup, and tragedy, late-night work schedule might as well play an important role in the triggering of it.
Other events such as frequent travel and jet lag might as well trigger primary insomnia.
Primary insomnia may resolve on its own however chances are you need to consult a psychiatrist and take medication if it goes unresolved.
There could be some long term side effects to primary insomnia that are developed mainly due to the precautionary measures that people apply in order to help them sleep while suffering from primary insomnia.
The side effects of primary insomnia can be;
- Going to bed early,
- Change in eating patterns to help sleep,
- Stressing out thinking about the preventive measures,
- Lack of focus at work due to a distracted mind,
- Weight loss and hair fall,
- Lack of sleep results in daytime sleepiness,
- Dark circles and wrinkles appearing on the face, etc.
Unlike primary insomnia, secondary insomnia occurs as a result or side-effect of certain medication, treatment procedures, and illness.
Studies suggest that taking certain medicines might as well trigger insomnia in some people. These medicines include:
- A few selective anti-depression pills(Eg- Zoloft, Prozac, etc) that contain drugs and are used in treating depression.
- Some of the medicines used to treat respiratory diseases such as Theophylline.
- Some other forms of pills containing drugs that are used for treating psychological disorders.
- Corticosteroids (Steroids) may also cause insomnia in some people.
- Some medicines used in treating Parkinson’s disease are also linked with insomnia.
- Cough syrups and decongestants.
- Drinking substances containing caffeine such as coffee and tea.
- Chronic pain may also trigger insomnia in some people.
- Psychiatric disorders such as anxiety disorder and depression have been recognized as a cause of insomnia in some people.
- Sleep apnea is a sleep disorder that is linked with insomnia.
Chronic insomnia in adults might persist for up to a year. The good news is treatments of chronic insomnia is fairly easy. One can easily overcome it by switching to a healthy lifestyle. The treatment involves;
- Engaging in physical exercises on a daily basis.
- Avoiding drinks containing caffeine such as coffee.
- Eating foods rich in carbs before going to bed.
- Avoiding day time naps.
- Scheduling the time of sleep and time of waking up to enhance sleep quality.
Following the above-mentioned tips may result in improved sleep quality withing matters of days.
Onset and Maintenance Insomnia:
Depending upon the type of insomnia disorder it is further categorized into two types. They are:
A person suffering from onset insomnia faces trouble falling asleep. In other words, the person has trouble initiating sleep when he/ she goes to bed.
The person suffering from any of the above-mentioned types of insomnia could have onset insomnia. It may last from a day to a few months depending upon the type.
The causes of onset insomnia could be any of the above-mentioned causes depending upon the type of insomnia the person is suffering from.
The most common cause include psychological or psychiatric issues such as stress, depression, and anxiety.
Sleep studies suggest that people suffering from restless leg syndrome, movement disorder, and those who consume products rich in caffeine fall victim to it. They have a hard time initiating sleep.
Onset insomnia was all about not being able to initiate sleep in the first place whereas maintenance insomnia is about not being able to maintain sleep for a healthy period of time. resulting in compromised sleep quality.
The people suffering from maintenance insomnia have difficulty staying asleep for a longer period of time. They might as well wake up in the middle of their sleep and find it hard to go back to sleep again.
People suffering from it are light sleepers and get distracted very easily. As a result, they can wake up even at the slightest of sound, light, or physical contact.
There are major setbacks of maintenance insomnia. Such as;
- People suffering from maintenance insomnia when waking up cannot go back to sleep and they are worried sick of not being able to complete their sleep. This causes further complications and creates a vicious, never-ending cycle.
- They may become victims of their own thoughts and go into depression and may need medical treatment.
- They wake up feeling restless and dull-minded. This could badly affect their performance at work.
- Poor sleep quality, when combined with a bombardment of ill thoughts, could lead to mental disorder and may need help from a psychiatrist to recover.
Behavioral Insomnia of Childhood:
According to a study published on NCBI on childhood insomnia, there is no exact definition of what childhood insomnia is.
It is a sleeping disorder and can be explained in three distinct terms as categorized by the International Classification of Sleep Disorders (ICSD). They are:
- Bedtime resistance or dyssomnias (BIC sleep-onset),
- Delayed sleep onset (BIC limit-setting), and
- Combined type(BIC combined type)
BIC sleep-onset may occur as a result of the negative association with sleep. The perfect examples of such a negative association are learning to fall asleep only aster listening to lullabies, bedtime stories, and being rocked or nursed.
This results in prolonged sleep onset and sometimes is accompanied by night walking which severely affects one’s sleep quality.
BIC limit-setting may occur due to children’s desire to stay awake for a longer period of time and not go to sleep on time. They refuse to sleep early and repeatedly oppose going to sleep by making different excuses. These excuses can be wanting to watch TV for a longer period, playing games, asking to tell more bedtime stories, wanting to use the bathroom before sleep, etc.
BIC Combined Type:
BIC combined type as the name suggests is the combination of both the above-mentioned sub-types. It is characterized by a negative association with sleep together with refusal or resistance to go to sleep.
It is mainly caused due to lack of limit-setting by the parents or caretakers. And can be avoided by setting limits to when their children go to bed and what activities are allowed before going to bed.
Encouraging children to learn healthy behaviors may also help in avoiding these types of sleeping disorders.
It is fairly easy to know if a person is suffering from insomnia or not. People with insomnia exhibit the following characteristics accompanied by trouble falling asleep or maintaining sleep;
- Lying on bed closing your eyes and you are bombarded with irrelevant thoughts one after another. And you have a hard time subduing your thoughts and have trouble falling asleep.
- You only are able to sleep for a short period of time and your sleep quality is compromised.
- You wake up even at the slightest of sound. Even the sound of a cockroach walking disturbs your sleep.
- Waking up before you could complete your sleep and not being able to go back to sleep again.
- You wake up feeling tired and your body feels as if every ounce of energy has been sucked out of your body.
- Tension and headache are frequent.
- Difficulty socializing with people.
- Gastrointestinal symptoms may appear.
- Daytime sleepiness.
Primary Causes of Insomnia:
Apart from the above-mentioned causes, these are the primary causes of insomnia.
Hormonal changes occurring in the body may also trigger insomnia. Different hormones may contribute to sleepless nights in men and women.
In women, the lower production of estrogen and progesterone hormones during the time of perimenopause may result in sleepless nights. Insomnia is an early sign of menopause in women.
In men, the production of testosterone hormones in a large quantity results in bad night sleep.
Apart from them, imbalance in hormones such as growth hormones, thyroid hormones, cortisol, etc may result in insomnia.
Different Types of Foods:
Consumption of different types of foods containing components such as nicotine, caffeine, and alcohol may also lead to insomnia.
Drinking coffee especially at the end of the day may keep you awake for a longer period of time before you fall asleep.
Similarly, smoking and drinking late at night may cause affect your sleep.
Problem with the Brain Switch:
The human brain is one complicated Melatonin mechanism and is responsible for almost anything we do. It can be said the same for sleep as well.
Our brain knows when it’s time to sleep and automatically shuts down as soon as we go to bed.
It is all controlled by a pea-shaped gland located just above the middle brain called melatonin. It produces a hormone that tells your brain when it’s time to take a nap so that it could shut down.
But there are times your brain becomes a tyrant and doesn’t obey the command. It keeps on working continuously without rest which results in poor sleep or sleep difficulties.
It is no news that modern technologies are severely affecting our lives and our health. Soon as we dived into the world of technologies, our lifestyle changed.
Whether our lives changed for good or bad is a topic of discussion, it is however confirmed that modern technologies are severely affecting our health.
Having access to mobile phones 24/7, being able to watch TV whenever we desire and many other gadgets are causing significant changes in the sleeping pattern and the sleep quality of people.
Technologies such as TV and the internet tends to keep people awake for a longer period of time. They get less time to sleep and their mental health is compromised. This change in behavior is linked with insomnia.
Medication for Certain Illness and Diseases:
The American Association of Retired Persons (AARP) has listed the top 10 medications that may cause insomnia in some patients. They are:
- ACE inhibitors
- Angiotensin II-receptor blockers
- SSRI antidepressants
- Chondroitin and glucosamine
- Cholinesterase inhibitors
- Second-generation(non-sedating) H1 agonists
Apart from the above-mentioned medications, it may also be triggered due to severe chronic pain.
- It causes sleep deprivation that may cause a significant impact on one’s life. The person who is facing sleep deprivation is more likely to wake up tired and feeling unwell.
- He/she may have a problem staying awake during the day time(daytime sleepiness) and may lack focus and concentration at work.
- He/she may not feel like doing anything at all. That includes eating as well. The person may not feel well and is caught up in irrelevant thoughts the whole time.
- A person suffering from insomnia may as well fall victim to a vicious circle leading to a stress disorder, anxiety, and mental illness.
- He/she is more likely to develop diseases such as chronic diseases.
- Studies also suggest that a person suffering from sleepless nights is more likely to become a victim of a bike or car accident.
- Lack of adequate sleep or delayed sleep phase syndrome(DSPS) may make a person more susceptible to allergies and can get irritated easily.
When to Seek Advice?
It is best that you seek for advice in the earlier stages so that you can avoid any serious issues that may occur in the later stages. If you feel like your life is changing for worse due to sleep deprivation or frequent sleepless nights, it is better you get help before things get out of control.
It is fairly easy to find help these days as you can find many sleep specialists online. The forum such as the sleep medicine clinic helps you find the answer to your questions related to sleep disturbance.
You might as well visit your physician and seek guidance. if your physician is unable to help you out, ask them to refer some of the well-known sleep experts in the area.
Although most of the cases are self- resolving and do not require any treatment at all, some severe cases may require treatment and medical care.
There are two possible treatments for insomnia. They are:
- Natural treatment, and
- Medical treatment
There are some home remedies for treating insomnia that prove effective for most of the cases. These natural ways of treating include both psychological and behavioral therapy;
Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT):
Cognitive-behavioral therapy is a psychological therapy that includes goal setting for a short period of time. Therapy CBT is a practical problem-solving approach used by psychiatrists in treating patients suffering from sick mentality.
A person suffering from insomnia can soon develop a sick mentality such as negative thinking, worrying about poor sleep quality, thinking about different ways to sleep and getting caught up on thoughts, etc. It has devastating effects on sleep health.
Cognitive-behavioral therapy helps those who are suffering from ill thoughts change their perspective of thinking. This involves one-on-one counseling or a group discussion. It helps to take care of anxiety disorder caused by their negative thoughts.
CBT focus on taking care of all the worries and fears related to sleep hygiene away from the patients by motivating them to think rationally. It also helps to cure circadian rhythm disorders caused due to desynchronization between internal sleep-wake rhythms and the light-darkness cycle.
Sleep scheduling is encouraged so that it would help people reduce their time to being awake. It helps to keep track of your time of being awake and the time you sleep.
Meditation and Yoga:
Insomnia is a result of your hyperactive brain that results in constant information processing at a very high rate. It becomes difficult to slow it down or basically turn it off when needed.
Meditation and yoga are a part of behavioral therapy that is used in the treatment of insomnia. They help to soothe our brain functionalities. It is one of the relaxation techniques that can be used in relaxing the mind. Yoga asana, on the other hand, helps to relax your mind and body as a whole.
As a result, you are able to control your thoughts processing through meditation and slow down your body processes by performing yoga asana.
You are thus able to fall asleep without much struggle and can maintain your sleeping posture for a healthy period of time.
Stimulus Control Therapy:
Stimulus control therapy is a type of behavioral therapy used in the treatment of insomnia. It helps to enhance the relationship between bedtime and the cues associated with the sleep environment.
It is one of the most effective therapies used for insomnia patients that includes a set of instructions to be followed strictly in order to re-establish a healthy relationship between sleep and the bed.
Some of the typical instructions used in stimulus control therapy are as follows:
- Going to bed only when you feel sleepy.
- If you do not fall asleep within half an hour of you going to bed, get up, and change the room and return only when you feel sleepy again.
- Try to develop healthy sleep patterns by going to bed and waking up at the same time.
- Use your bedroom only for sleeping purpose
- Avoid excessive day time napping.
Change in Lifestyle:
Lifestyle changes may also prove helpful in insomnia management. Our eating habits play an important role in triggering insomnia.
Incorporating healthy habits can greatly help. These healthy habits include;
- Involving oneself in physical exercises such as swimming, cycling, dancing, meditation & yoga, jogging, etc for at least half an hour every day.
- Avoid consuming products that contain caffeine, alcohol, and nicotine.
- Try developing bedtime habits such as going bed and waking up at the same time every day.
- Make your sleeping room sleep-friendly by introducing room fresheners, comfy mattresses, low lighting conditions, and most importantly technology-free.
If all the above methods do not work for you and you feel like your situation is getting worse, it is time you consult a doctor and seek pharmacological treatment.
The American Academy of Sleep Medicine has published a new clinical practice guideline for the pharmacologic treatment of chronic insomnia in adults in February 2017.
The American College of Physicians(ACP) also has strict guidelines regarding the treatment procedure for chronic insomnia disorder in adults. It highly recommends that all adult insomnia patients must first receive cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT-I) as the initial treatment for chronic insomnia disorder.
Later, if the problem still persists or worsens, the therapists should clearly discuss the health benefits, possible side effects, and cost of short term medication before proceeding with the treatment.
There are distinct differences between the clinical guidelines of AASM and the ACP. So, it is important that you go through these guidelines before proceeding with clinical medication.
There are basically two types of pharmacological treatments available. They are:
These medicines can help you improve your sleep health. But it is not necessarily true that medicine which is helpful for others might as well work for you.
The types and doses of medicine used may vary from person to person depending upon the nature of insomnia one is suffering from and other health factors.
It is important that you keep in mind the side effects of such sleep aids used for insomnia management. These prescription sleeping pills can make you sleepwalk, sleep eat, sleep deprivation, tipsy when you wake up, etc.
If you experience any such side effects, it is time you consult your doctor for possible solutions.
Also, remember if your insomnia is secondary in nature that is caused due to medication or illness, it is better to eradicate the root cause of the problem.
Uncertified/Over the Top Products:
There are alternative uncertified products available in the market that claim to work against insomnia. These products are however unregulated by healthy authorities.
Thus, the effectiveness of these medicines and products is a matter of question. It is wise to consult your doctor before you decide on taking such over the top medicines.
1. What is fatal familial insomnia?
Fatal familial insomnia (FFI) is a rare and fatal genetic degenerative brain disorder. People suffering from FFI experience sleeping disorder which is mind in the beginning but soon worsens and can lead to mental and physical failure which results in death.
Following are the symptoms of fatal familial insomnia:
- Sleeping difficulties including falling asleep and maintaining a state of sleep,
- May experience muscle stiffness,
- fall victim to the loss of coordination,
- May experience loss of appetite,
- May experience trouble speaking or swallowing,
- Cognitive and mental decline
- Weight loss and fever, etc.
2. Who is more at risk of suffering from insomnia, men or women?
Studies suggest that women are more at risk of suffering from insomnia than men. The study also concluded that women of older age are more likely to experience insomnia that includes; difficulty falling asleep, sleeping for a short period of time, feeling groggy when awake, etc.
3. Are there any prerequisites for falling victim to insomnia?
It is a fact that some people are at more risk of suffering from insomnia than others. If you fall under one of the following categories of people, you are more likely to experience insomnia.
- People with low income,
- Middle-aged and old aged people,
- Those who work in different shifts,
- Those who travel frequently to different time zones,
- Pregnant women,
- People having stress disorder, anxiety disorder, or mental disorder,
- The adolescent with the pressure of studies, etc.
4. How is insomnia diagnosed?
When you visit a psychiatrist or a sleep doctor, you’ll initially be asked about your sleep pattern, social environment, medical condition, etc. For the next step, you might be asked to keep a sleep log to record your time of sleep and wake up.
You might also have to go through a physical examination to look for the signs of any underlying conditions. In worse cases, sleep studies might as well be recommended to study your sleeping pattern.
5. Is it common for pregnant women to suffer from insomnia?
Yes, it is only natural for pregnant women to suffer from insomnia. During the time of pregnancy, you may experience back and cramps pain resulting in sleep loss. Your hormones keep fluctuating which is another reason for insomnia. Apart from them, you might experience stress and anxiety resulting in insomnia.