Around 40 percent of adults will experience insomnia at some point in their life. Insomnia should not be confused with the gradual lessening of sleeping that occurs as a person ages. It is quite common for people over the age of 60 to sleep less. They also experience more of light sleep than deep sleep. But as long as your sleep pattern doesn’t leave you feeling exhausted, it is not insomnia.
What is Insomnia?
Insomnia typically leaves a person feeling tired. They experience mood swings and their productivity at work is also majorly affected. They have trouble concentrating and any decision-making process becomes a huge hurdle to be overcome.
Insomnia can be one of two types. Acute insomnia—usually occurs in response to stressful life situations and eventually gets resolved without medical intervention. Chronic insomnia—requires treatment, could be a result of another medical condition.
What causes Insomnia?
Insomnia can be caused by a host of different factors. Everything from a medical condition to your lifestyle could be a contributing factor.
Insomnia could be a result of another underlying ailment. It is your body’s way of letting you know that something is not right. Chronic pain syndrome, asthma, sinus, chronic fatigue syndrome, and acid reflux disease are all some conditions that could cause insomnia.
Insomnia could also be a direct result of the medication that you take. Certain over-the-counter drugs and antidepressants have been shown to lead to insomnia.
As far as lifestyle choices are concerned, predictably enough, caffeine and nicotine have been associated with insomnia. Alcohol is another sleep deterrent, but is ironically consumed by many a people to ensure a good night’s sleep.
Common Symptoms of Insomnia
- The most obvious one—difficulty falling asleep
- Tendency to wake up too early in the mornings
- Constant fatigue and uncoordinated movements
- Mood swings and sudden behavioural changes.
- Low concentration and low productivity
- Issues with colleagues and in personal relationships
- Memory loss
1. Although there are medical treatments available for insomnia, cognitive and behavioural treatments have been steadily gaining popularity in the last decade. Cognitive Behavioural Therapy (CBT) stresses positive thinking and approaches insomnia as a mind over matter kind of an issue. CBT has had positive results, with people claiming that it helped improve their sleep.
2. Sleep hygiene is a treatment method that involves making appropriate changes to your bedtime practices to improve your sleep.
3. Stimulus control is a treatment that focuses on limiting the stimulus in the bedroom. According to this approach, a person is to use the bed only to sleep. So he or she is only supposed to go to bed when sleepy and should make it a point to stay away from the bed if they’re not sleepy. This slowly breaks the association between the bed and being awake and replaces it with a new relationship wherein the bed is associated with sleep.
4. Relaxation techniques such as meditation, breathing exercises, and yoga are all taught as a part of treatment for insomnia. The results have been encouraging. People who engage in such relaxation techniques experience better sleep patterns and deeper sleep in the long term.
Such behavioural treatments cannot be adopted for a specific period. To be fully effective, they have to be integrated into one’s lifestyle and eventually become a way of life.
There are also medications available to treat insomnia. There are different dosages available, and you should consult your doctor to find out which strength is appropriate for you. Never self-medicate as you will do more harm than good. One criticism of such medication is that they develop a dependency in the user and render them incapable of ever weaning away from them.
Herbal treatments, acupuncture, and yoga have also been widely used to treat insomnia. While patrons of each treatment claim to have experienced brilliant results, there haven’t been any conclusive studies to prove the same.
Before you panic about insomnia, carefully analyse whether you have acute insomnia or chronic insomnia. Acute insomnia lasts anywhere from a week to three weeks. But it mostly goes away on its own. But chronic insomnia lasts for more than three weeks and requires treatment. Go to a doctor and get diagnosed. If it is acute insomnia, try some meditation and breathing exercises to calm your mind. If the doctor diagnoses you with chronic insomnia, then you would do well to chart out a more intensive treatment plan in consultation with the doctor. Sleep deprivation is not a lifestyle, so wake up and get help and get better!