Insomnia is a sleeping disorder in which the affected person is unable to sleep or stay asleep peacefully throughout the night (even though there is an opportunity to sleep well). In most cases, it is a temporary condition which affects almost every individual at some point in life, but in for some people this can be a chronic and serious problem, which may require treatment. According to latest estimates, approximately 30% of the general population suffers from chronic insomnia
Healthcare providers recommend that an average adult needs seven to eight hours of uninterrupted sleep each night; however, adequacy of sleep varies from person to person.
What are some Classic Insomnia Symptoms?
People suffering from chronic insomnia experience loss of productivity, constant feeling of tiredness, negative changes in mood and concentration and other related complaints that may pose a negative impact on day-to-day activities. Besides influencing your mood and energy levels, poorly managed insomnia is also believed to aggravate the risk of serious complications such as cardiovascular damage.
Some frequently reported insomnia symptoms include:
- Difficulty in falling asleep at night
- Frequent awakening at night without any alarm or distraction
- Waking up too early in the morning unintentionally
- Anxiety, depression and irritability
- Being tired and sleepy during day time
- Difficulty in focusing on important tasks
- Waking up unrefreshed and having feeling of not being well-rested
- Recurrent attacks of tension headaches
- Frequent accidents and errors due to lack of concentration
- Stomach and intestinal distress
What are some common Causes of Chronic Insomnia?
Sleep cycle is sensitive to our mental and physical stress levels. Being stressed about school, exams, work or family keeps your mind active and can causes difficulty in sleeping. Likewise, certain life events or ailments can further deteriorate your sleep cycle. Some common causes of chronic insomnia include:
- Depression: Depression is a serious mental health condition that is marked by excessive sadness and despair. Certain traumatic life events like divorce, death in family or job loss can aggravate the risk of developing depression in which either a person sleeps too much or becomes insomniac. According to a study reported in the Journal of Clinical Sleep Medicine, it was reported that 40% of all the chronic cases of insomnia are due to a recognized psychiatric condition.
- Chronic medical conditions like heart failure, stroke, cancer, overactive thyroid, Parkinson’s disease, Alzheimer’s disease, lung disease and gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD) are very frequently linked with insomnia.
- The urge for urinating frequently at night (common in diabetes) can also develop insomnia.
- Doing stimulating activities before going to bed or sleeping in an uncomfortable environment can also make you insomniac.
- Irregular sleeping schedule is also one of the common causes of chronic insomnia.
- Caffeine is a well-known CNC stimulant. Increased consumption of caffeinated beverages like tea or coffee before bedtime can keep you from falling asleep. Similarly, nicotine in tobacco can also aggravate the risk of developing insomnia.
- Although alcohol is a sedative but you can wake up in the middle of night because it interferes with REM stage of sleep.
- Certain medicines for allergy, heart and blood pressure may also interfere with sleeping. Stimulants like Ritalin, some antidepressants, corticosteroids and OTC medications, including weight loss medicines, pain killers and decongestants may also make sleeping difficult.
- Eating too much before bedtime can make sleeping difficult because its makes you physically uncomfortable when lying down.
Cure Sleepless Nights – Know your Risk factors:
Following risk factors can aggravate your risk of developing sleepless nights.
- Hormonal shifts during menstrual cycle and after menopause makes women more susceptible to insomnia.
- With age insomnia increases due to changes in the sleep pattern.
- Stressful events and mental disorders like depression, anxiety, post-traumatic stress disorder and bi-polar disorder also increases the risk for insomnia.
- Working during night or frequent changes in working shifts can also increases chances of having insomnia.
- Jet lag due to long distance travelling is a recognized risk factor for transient insomnia.
Why Cure Insomnia?
Untreated or poorly managed insomnia can lead to a wide range of complications. Some common complications of chronic insomnia are:
- High risk of becoming overweight or obese due to negative changes in the serum levels of endocrine hormones.
- Risk of developing heart diseases, high blood pressure and diabetes increases several-folds.
- Chronic insomniacs are at much higher risk of experiencing accidents while driving or operating machines.
- Psychiatric disorders are more common in chronic insomniacs.
- Drugs or alcohol abuse risk also increases due to high levels of stress secondary to sleep deprivation.
Treatments for Insomnia:
- Behavior therapies or Cognitive behavioral therapy
If insomnia is due to stress, depression or anxiety, this therapy will help you control your negative thoughts or worries which are preventing you from falling asleep.
- Relaxation techniques
Biofeedback, muscle relaxation and breathing exercises before bedtime can aid in maintaining healthy sleeping cycles as these techniques improve muscle tension, mood, heart rate and breathing.
- Sleep Restriction:
This therapy limits the time you spend in bed due to partial sleep deprivation and next night you will feel more mentally exhausted. Your time in bed will increase gradually, once your sleep is improved.
- Paradoxical intention:
Paradoxical intention means remaining passively awake. the purpose is to reduce the worries about going to sleep and instead of expecting to fall asleep, try to stay awake.
- Light box:
You need to push back your internal clock with the help of light, if you sleep and then wake too early. You can use light through a medical-grade light box or go outside when naturally there is light in the evenings.
- Prescription medications:
Usually doctors don’t recommend prescription medications for longer time but several medications are approved for long term use with minimal risk of dependence or tolerance. Prescription sleeping pills includes ramelteon, eszopiclone, zaleplon, zolpidem.
- OTC sleeping aids:
Antihistamines are nonprescription sleep medications that also induce drowsiness. However, these medications can reduce the quality of your sleep and also possess certain side effects like urinary retention, dry mouth, confusion, daytime sleepiness and dizziness. In older adults, these side effects can be worse. Moreover, antihistamines worsens urinary problems due to which you are more likely to wake up during night for urination.
- Natural sleep remedies
Alternatives like acupuncture, yoga and meditation can also help in treating your disorder.
- Sleep Aid Products:
Certain devices and products (such as night masks, ear plugs) can also help in improving the quality of your sleep
Still wondering how to cure sleepless nights? Check out our recommendations and steps to sleep better