Insomnia is a common sleep disorder that makes it difficult for people to fall asleep, stay asleep, causes them to wake up too early and tough to get back to sleep. As a result, one doesn’t feel fresh when they wake up. Though, the hours of sleep one needs varies from person to person, most adults need seven to eight hours of sleep every night. While, Insomnia may be the primary problem for sleepless nights, it may also be associated with other medical conditions or medications.
The symptoms that indicate that a person is suffering from insomnia are:
- Difficulty in falling asleep at night
- Waking up during the night
- Waking up too early
- Not feeling fresh and rested after a night’s sleep
- Daytime tiredness or sleepiness
- Difficulty paying attention, focusing on tasks or remembering
- On-going worries about sleep
- Irritability, depression or anxiety
Insomnia is often associated with other medical conditions. Chronic insomnia is usually a result of stress, life events or habits that tends to disrupt sleep. Treating the underlying cause can resolve insomnia, but sometimes it can last for years.
The common causes of chronic insomnia are:
- Travel or work schedule like jet lag from traveling across multiple time zones or working in shifts
- Poor sleep habits
The other medical conditions that cause sleeplessness are:
- Mental health disorders: Anxiety disorders, such as post-traumatic stress disorder, may disrupt your sleep. Awakening well ahead of your routine time can be a sign of depression. Insomnia often occurs with other mental health disorders as well.
- Medications: Many prescription drugs can interfere with sleep, such as certain antidepressants and medications for asthma or blood pressure. Many over-the-counter medications like pain medications, allergy and cold medications, and weight-loss products contain caffeine and other stimulants that can disrupt sleep.
- Medical conditions: Examples of conditions linked with insomnia include chronic pain, cancer, diabetes, heart disease, asthma, gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD), hyperthyroidism, Parkinson’s disease and Alzheimer’s disease.
- Sleep-related disorders: Sleep apnea causes you to stop breathing periodically throughout the night, thus interrupting your sleep. Restless legs syndrome causes unpleasant sensations in your legs and an almost irresistible desire to move them, which may prevent you from falling asleep.
- Caffeine, nicotine and alcohol: Coffee, tea, cola and other caffeinated drinks are stimulants. Drinking them in the late afternoon or evening can keep you from falling asleep at night. Nicotine in tobacco products is another stimulant that can interfere with sleep. Alcohol may help you fall asleep, but it prevents deeper stages of sleep and often causes awakening in the middle of the night.
Insomnia becomes more common with ageing. However, children and teens also find it difficult to get sleep or resist a regular bedtime as they want to go to bed later and sleep later in the morning. Sleep is an important ingredient of life just like a healthy diet and regular physical activity. Whatever your reason for sleep loss may be, insomnia can affect you both mentally and physically. People with insomnia report a lower quality of life compared with people who are sleeping well. By following these simple steps regularly one can prevent insomnia.
- Waking up at the same time everyday
- Limiting daily in-bed time to the usual amount present before the sleep disturbance
- Discontinuing central nervous system (CNS)-acting drugs (caffeine, nicotine, alcohol, stimulants)
- Avoiding daytime naps
- Establish physical fitness by means of a regular exercise early in the day
- Avoid evening stimulation; substitute television with radio or relaxed reading
- Try very hot, 20-minute, body-temperature-raising bath soaks near bedtime
- Eat at regular times daily; avoid large meals near bedtime
- Practice evening relaxation routines like meditation
- Maintain comfortable sleeping conditions
If insomnia persists for more than weeks and makes it hard for you to function during the day, it is important that one should opt for medical aid.