What is Insomnia?
Insomnia is a common sleep disorder that can make it difficult to fall asleep, difficult to stay asleep or cause you to wake up too early and not be able to sleep again. You can also feel exhausted at waking up. Insomnia will save energy level and mood as well as your health, work performance and quality of life.
How much sleep is enough varies from person to person, but it takes seven to eight hours a night for most adults?
A lot of adults experience short-term (acute) insomnia at some stage, which lasts for days or weeks. Typically the result of stress or a traumatic incident. But some people have long-term (chronic) insomnia that lasts for a month or more. Insomnia may be the main concern, or it can be related to certain medical problems or medications.
You need not put up with sleepless nights. Simple changes in your daily habits will also help.
Symptoms of Insomnia can include:
- Problem falling asleep at night
- Waking up at night
- Waking up too early
- Not feeling well-rested after a night’s sleep
- Daytime exhaustion or sleepiness
- Irritability, depression or anxiety
- Trouble paying attention, concentrating on tasks or remembering
- Increased mistakes or incidents
- Persistent worries about sleep
When to see a doctor
When insomnia makes it difficult for you to function during the day, see your doctor and find out what the cause your sleep disorder and how it can be handled. When your doctor suspects you may have a sleep problem, you could be referred to a sleep centre for special testing.
Insomnia may be the primary problem, or it may be related to other conditions.
Chronic insomnia is typically a result of stress, life activities or habits that disturb sleep. Treating the underlying cause can relieve insomnia, but it can also last for years.
Specific causes of chronic insomnia include:
- Stress: Concerns about work, school, health, finances or family can keep your mind busy at night, making it hard to sleep. Stressful life events or trauma — such as a loved one’s death or illness, divorce, or a work loss —may also cause insomnia.
- Timetable for travel or work: Your circadian rhythms serve like an inner clock, guiding such things as your sleep-wake cycle, metabolism and body temperature. Disrupting your body’s circadian rhythms can lead to insomnia. Causes include jet lag from travelling across multiple time zones, working a late or early shift, or frequently changing shifts.
- Poor sleep habits: Bad sleep habits include an irregular bedtime routine, naps, stimulating activities before bed, an uncomfortable sleep atmosphere, and using your bed to work, eat or watch television. Computers, televisions, video games, smartphones or other displays may interfere with your sleep cycle just before bedtime.
- Eating too much late at night: It is OK to have a light snack before sleep, but eating too much will make you feel physically uncomfortable when you lie down. Many people often suffer heartburn, a backflow of acid and food from the stomach into the oesophagus after eating, which may keep you awake.
Chronic insomnia can also be related to medical problems or the use of other medicines. Treatment of the medical condition may help improve sleep, but insomnia may continue after improvement in the condition.
Nearly everyone has sleepless night occasional. But your risk of insomnia is high if:
- You’re a woman: Hormonal changes may play a role during the menstrual cycle and in menopause. Night sweats and hot flashes frequently interrupt sleep during menopause. As with pregnancy insomnia is also common.
- You’re 60 years old: Due to changes in sleep habits and health, insomnia increases with age.
- You have a mental health disorder or physical health condition. Sleep can be disturbed by several things that affect your mental or physical health.
- You’re under a lot of stress. Stressful times and events can cause temporary insomnia. And major or long-lasting stress can lead to chronic insomnia.
- You don’t have a regular schedule. For example, changing shifts at work or travelling can disrupt your sleep-wake cycle.
Sleep is as important to your health as a healthy diet and regular physical activity. Whatever your reason for sleep loss, insomnia can affect you both mentally and physically. People with insomnia report a lower quality of life compared with people who are sleeping well.
Complications of insomnia may include:
- Lower performance on the work or at school
- Slowed reaction time while driving and a higher risk of accidents
- Mental health problems, such as depression, an anxiety disorder or substance abuse
- Increased risk and severity of long-term diseases or conditions, such as high blood pressure and heart disease
- Good sleep habits can help avoid insomnia and encourage healthy sleep:
- Keep the bedtime and wake time consiste nt from day to day, including weekends.
- Stay healthy and active — daily exercise helps promote good sleep.
- Check your prescription to see if it will support insomnia.
- Ignore or limit naps.
- Stop or limit caffeine and alcohol, and do not use nicotine.
- Avoid large meals and beverages before going to sleep.
- Make your bedroom convenient for sleep and only use it for sex or sleep.
- Establish a relaxing bedtime ritual, such as having a warm bath, reading or listening to soft music.