What is Insomnia?
Insomnia is a disorder when a person cannot fall asleep, cannot stay asleep or can be up earlier than expected and cannot go back to sleep. This kind of sleeping pattern not only can harm one’s health but can also affect the daily life routine and activities including work performance. When a person has insomnia, they usually don’t wake up feeling refreshed, thus may lead to fatigue.
Acute or short-term insomnia has been experiencing by some adults which can last for days or weeks. While Chronic or long-term insomnia lasts for months or more. This is usually caused by a traumatic event or stress. Even though insomnia is the primary concern, this may also be an effect of a medical condition.
It is considered by doctors as insomnia if you are experiencing both of these:
- If you cannot sleep for at least three (3) times a week for the past three (3) months
- If poor sleep quality can affect your daily life
As per sleep foundation, having symptoms of insomnia for ate least three (3) times a week for the past three (3) months is called the chronic insomnia. When experiencing symptoms that lasts lesser than the chronic insomnia, it is called the short-term or acute insomnia. If a person is not experiencing both of these but has difficulty in sleeping, it can be considered as other insomnia.
There are two (2) categories of insomnia:
- Sleep-Onset Insomnia
This is the type of insomnia when a person is having a difficulty relaxing in bed which causes difficulty in sleeping. This may be due to irregular work schedules (shifting schedules), jet lag, etc.
- Sleep Maintenance Insomnia
This type of insomnia refers to a person which have difficulty in staying asleep. This is common to adults who take caffeine, alcohol and/or tobacco before going to bed. However, this can also be caused by sleep apnea and periodic limb movement disorder.
The above two (2) categories are also manifested in some people which is considered as mixed insomnia.
Insomnia is very common since it affects 70 million of Americans annually. Most of us need seven (7) to nine (9) hours of sleep daily but the amount of sleep needed for us to function properly varies depending on the individual. The amount of rest that we need is as much important as the quality of it since this also affects each and everyone’s health.
Common Causes of Insomnia
State of hyperarousal is believed to cause insomnia which can also affect sleep maintenance and sleep-onset. It can be mental, physical or both. Nevertheless, psychological, environmental and physiological factors can also be one of the causes for having the sleep disorder. Causes may be the following:
- Consumption of substances that can affect the sleep negatively
These includes nicotine, alcohol, caffeine and other drugs. Some medications for cold remedies and diet pills can also affect or hinder the sleep. Sleep-onset or sleep maintenance can also be experience when someone is having a withdrawal from finishing a medication or adjusting a body to a prescribed medication.
- Health problems
Some health conditions may affect sleep due to physical pain and discomfort which make it harder for a person to fall or remain asleep. These health conditions make it necessary for someone to have frequent bathroom session mostly at night such as enlarged prostate, pregnancy, etc. Sleep apnea, a disorder which has irregular breathing episodes (as known as apneas) that usually occur during the night. Heart and lung diseases, chronic pain, restless leg syndrome can also affect sleep which associated with insomnia.
- Behavioral and mental health disorder
Stress, depression and anxiety can cause insomnia. Bipolar disorder and excessive worrying can also cause insomnia.
Unhealthy lifestyle and poor sleeping habits can also cause insomnia. These habits were already present during childhood and were continued to practice until adulthood like different sleeping time, excessive napping during the day. Exposure to screens like computers, cellphones, televisions and other gadgets can also affect the sleep as well as different working shift. Other may be caused by inadequate exercise or too much noise or light in the bedroom.
Daytime impairments such as fatigue, difficulty in concentrating and memorizing, mood swings, irritability, aggression and hyperactivity are due to insufficient sleep.
Studies show that insomnia affects 30% to 48% of adults. This may be due to work schedules, medical conditions (prescribed medicines), stress and unhealthy habits. While 23.8% of teenagers are experiencing insomnia. For pregnant women, 50% are experiencing difficulty in sleeping.
Cognitive-behavioral therapy, medications and other formal type of treatment can be prescribed for chronic insomnia. For some, proper sleep hygiene and having healthy lifestyle can lessen the symptoms of insomnia and help patients to shave a better sleep.
The following practice can help improve the sleeping hygiene:
- Eliminating late naps or taking a nap in the late afternoon
- Controlling or restricting the intake of alcohol, tobacco, caffeine and other similar products during the night
- Avoid late night meals
- Lessen or limit the screen time for gadgets before sleeping
- Having a regular exercise and healthy diet
- Making and following a consistent sleeping schedules (same bedtime and wake up time daily)
Improving the sleeping habits and treating medical conditions including stress, depression and anxiety that are associated to insomnia can help in improving one person’s sleep. If these treatments cannot resolve or improve a person’s sleep, the doctor may recommend having a therapy, taking medicine or both.
Cognitive behavioral therapy is the first in line when it comes to insomnia therapy. It can help in eliminating and controlling negative thoughts and actions which is causing a person not to sleep soundly at night. This therapy is believed to be a better treatment than medications. It also teaches to eliminate the cycle where worry develops that someone cannot fall asleep. Strategies of this therapy includes the following:
- Stimulus control therapy
In this method, the factors which makes the mind unable to sleep were remove. An example is coaching the patient to use the bed for sleeping and sex in a consistent schedule. Leaving the bedroom if cannot fall asleep and return once sleepy.
- Relaxation technique
This technique helps a patient to relax before bedtime. Exercises include control of breathing, heart rate, mood and muscles which may reduce stress and anxiety.
- Sleep restriction
This strategy lessens the daytime naps and avoid the time to spend in bed. This deprivation makes someone to be more tired which in result will make it easier to fall asleep. Once sleeping habit has improved, bed time will slowly increase.
- Remaining passively awake
Also called as paradoxical intention which reduces the anxiety on not having enough sleep or not able to sleep at all. This therapy will aim someone to stay awake rather than trying to fall asleep.
- Light therapy
This therapy uses light box or lights to get back to an internal clock thus getting back to sleep if was awaken too early.
Aside from the mentioned therapies, doctors may recommend other strategies related to a certain lifestyle or sleeping environment that will improve the sleeping habit.
Best Insomnia Medication over the counter
Sleeping pills can help someone fall asleep, stay asleep or both but most doctors only recommend these pills for a period of time. However, there are medications which are already approved to use on a long-term basis. Since medications can have side effects such as grogginess, it is recommended to consult your doctor before taking any pills.
Some medications that may be prescribed are the following:
This medication is included in the classification of drugs called sedative-hypnotic. Generally, help a person to fall asleep and have a better rest. It works by promoting a calming effect on the brain. Usually prescribed to use one (1) to two (2) weeks or less. This works quickly which is why this should be taken right before bed. It is recommended to take this medication not more than 10 milligram per day. Dosage for women is lesser than in men since it was secreted slower in women’s body. Sudden stop of taking this medication can result to withdrawal. The doctor may prescribe a decreasing dosage. Some may find it more difficult to sleep a few nights after you stop taking this medication (rebound insomnia). Sleep will go back to normal after one (1) to two (2) nights.
This medication is included in the classification of drugs called sedative-hypnotic. Generally, help a person to fall asleep and have a better rest. It works by promoting a calming effect on the brain. Usually prescribed to use one (1) to two (2) weeks or less. It is recommended to take a dosage of 1 milligram before bedtime or as prescribed. Dosage may vary depending on your medical condition, age and response to treatment. Proper dosage can help you to sleep more and faster without interfering on the daytime activities which requires alertness. Just like other medications, sudden stop of intake can give you withdrawal syndrome.
This medication is included in the classification of drugs called sedative-hypnotic. Generally, help a person to fall asleep and have a better rest. It works by promoting a calming effect on the brain. Usually prescribed to use one (1) to two (2) weeks or less. This drug can rarely cause memory loss for a short period of time. To lessen this effect, this drug should be taken if you will be having a full night sleep form seven (7) to eight (8) hours. Just like other medications, sudden stop of intake can give you withdrawal syndrome.
Over-the-counter sleep aids contain antihistamine which can make someone drowsy. This is why it is not intended for regular use. Ensure that these are consulted to your doctor before intake since there might be side effects of taking these pills like drowsiness, sleepiness, dizziness, confusion, having difficulty in urinating and cognitive decline. These side effects may also be worse for some adults.