by Kimberly Allen, RN
Insomnia is a sleep disorder characterized by the inablility to fall asleep or to stay asleep. Insomnia is not a disease on it’s own it is considered a sign and/or symptom of another condition. It can be a symptom of a medical or psychiatric condition as well as a sleep disorder. A recent sdtudy found that in the US 58% of adults experience insomnia either intermittently or on a regular basis. Insomnia can affect anyone at any age however, it’s prevalence increase with age. Women suffer from insomnia more frequently than men do. Insomnia is also more common in chronic alcoholics and mental health patients as well as people in lower income brackets.
Insomnia is generally classified into 3 categories, transient insomnia, acute insomnia and chronic insomnia. Transient insomnia is usually caused by another condition like depression, anxiety or stress, or by any changes in your sleep environment like sleeping in a different room. This type of insomnia usually lasts anywhere from a few days to a week and can cause symptoms of sleep deprivation. Acute insomnia is also refered to as stress related insomnia or short term insomnia. In acute insomnia, you will experience difficulty sleeping on a regular basis for a week to a month. This type of insomnia is characterized by the inability to fall asleep or maintain sleep. Also, if you sleep when you awaken you still feel like you haven’t slept. It is only considered to be acute insomnia if these symptoms occur, even though you’ve had sufficient opportunity to sleep. The symptoms must also cause difficulty with your activities of daily living.
Chronic insomnia can be either a primary disorder or caused by another condition and always last longer than a month. Drs have found that people with changes in levels of certain signal carrying cells know as cytokines as well as those with increased stress hormone levels are significantly more prone to experiencing chronic insomnia. Chronic insomnia can cause a wide variety of problems including muscle and/or mental fatigue as well as hallucinations. Chronic insomnia can lead to double vision.
The most common causes of insomnia are stress and anxiety as well as depression. In todays busy world people have many things going on between work, school, home and health then add the holiday hustle and bustle and the stress level just goes up which generally means sleep goes down. It’s especially important to try to get your sleep through the holiday season to keep up with all the extra demands of the season.
Treating insomnia involves first establishing good sleep habits as well as treating any underlying conditions. Establishing good sleep hygiene includes setting a consistant sleep/wake schedule , exercise at least 20 minutes a day, for best sleeping results you should exercise 4-5hours before bedtime. Avoid caffienated beverages later than mid to late afternoon and no alcohol or “night caps” before bedtime and establish a comfortable, quiet environment. Learning stress management techniques like relaxation and/or meditation can significantly reduce your stress level and improve your sleep. If lifestyle changes do not satisfactorily improve your insomnia there are medications available to help you sleep. However there have been reports of numerous side effects including driving and preparing food and/or eating as well as other unusual behaviors while sleeping. People 50 years of age and older tend to experience side effects more frequently than others. These medications are also only recommended for short term use.
Kimberly Allen is a registered nurse with an AND in nursing. She has worked in ACF, LCF and psychiatric facilities, although she spent most of her career as a home health expert. She is now a regular contributor to HealthAndFitnessTalk.com, dispensing advice and knowledge about medical issues and questions. You can reach her with any comments or questions at firstname.lastname@example.org.