Insomnia - Overview
Insomnia is the inability to fall asleep or remain asleep for an adequate length of time.
It is commonplace for several people to suffer at least an occasional night of almost non-existent sleep.
It is when the occasional night here and there becomes a pattern of several nights in a row that you are faced with a sleeping problem.
The causes of insomnia differ from person to person. What made a student insomniac varies from what caused a shift worker or a traveler or an employee to acquire such sleeping disorder.
Insomnia, which is the inability to sleep satisfactorily or to have any sleep at all, is one of the most common sleep disorders. It is characterized by restlessness, sleep interruptions, decreased sleeping time than the usual, or sometimes complete wakefulness.
Insomnia is the perception or complaint of inadequate or poor-quality sleep because of one or more of the following:
- Difficulty falling asleep
- Waking up frequently during the night with difficulty returning to sleep
- Waking up too early in the morning
- Unreflecting sleep
Types of Insomnia
Insomnia, by itself, is not a disease. It may be a symptom of a physical and emotional imbalance or just manifestation of fatigue caused by lack of sleep.
This condition is manifested by any of the following:
- Light, interrupted sleep that one is still tired upon waking up,
- Not being able to sleep, even if fatigued,
- Lack of sleeping hours.
Although this condition is usually temporary, insomnia may be classified based on the length of time it has affected the patient.
Acute Insomnia Vs. Chronic Insomnia
Insomnia also varies in how long it lasts and how often it occurs. Insomnia can be short-term (acute insomnia) or can last a long time (chronic insomnia). It can also come and go, with periods of time when a person has no sleep problems.
Acute insomnia can last from one night to a few weeks.
Insomnia is called chronic when a person has insomnia at least three nights a week for a month or longer.
The transient and short-term insomnia comes under acute insomnia.
1. Transient insomnia
This condition remains only for a few days. Transient insomnia is commonly caused by stress or as a direct response to change
The disorder may develop after a traumatic event or even during minor changes such as traveling or weather changes. In most cases, treatment for transient insomnia is not necessary. It usually resolves after a few days once the person was able to adjust to the new situations or surroundings.
2. Short-term insomnia:
Short-term insomnia lasts for three weeks or less. Short-term insomnia and transient insomnia are almost similar in their causes.
Female hormonal changes can affect sleep patterns. One of the female hormones, progesterone, promotes sleep. During menstruation, when its levels are low, women may experience insomnia. On the other hand, during ovulation, the increase in progesterone levels increases sleepiness.
Changes in working conditions, such as shifting schedules, also cause short-term insomnia. Also, people who tend to overwork get less sleep than the average. In one study, insomnia was also observed in people doing much computer work.
Light can also affect one's sleep. Too much light at night can disrupt sleep or even prevent sleepiness. Likewise, less light during the day, as in disabled or elderly patients who rarely go out can also cause short-term insomnia.
3. Chronic insomnia:
When a person couldn't sleep, has interrupted sleep, or is still tired after sleeping; and the condition recurs for more than two nights every week for more than one month.
Also, it is characterized when the patient is fatigued and believes that his daily activities are affected by this sleeping condition. Based on the causes, chronic insomnia may be further characterized into primary or secondary:
a) Primary chronic insomnia - when the insomnia is not caused by any physical or mental imbalance. It refers to a sleep disturbance that occurs without any specific underlying condition. Primary insomnia is largely due to learned maladaptive sleep patterns and represents the most common form of insomnia.
Things like stress, environmental noise, extreme temperatures, and changes in surrounding environment, disruptions to an individual's normal sleep/wake schedule (likejet lag), and medication side effects can cause primary insomnia. Behavioral factors such as excessive use of drugs, alcohol or caffeine, shift work, chronic stress and napping may also contribute to insomnia.
b) Secondary chronic insomnia - Secondary insomnia is a sleep disturbance caused by a specific physical or psychological condition. Types of secondary insomnia include insomnia from sleep apnea, restless legs syndrome and circadian rhythm sleep disorder.
Additionally, other physical and mental conditions that might cause insomnia include depression, arthritis, kidney disease, heart failure, asthma, sleep apnea, narcolepsy, restless legs syndrome, Parkinson's disease and hyperthyroidism.