Insomnia is an illness characterized by persistent trouble with sleep onset, continuation, consolidation, or quality. People who have insomnia endure sleeplessness despite having adequate opportunities for sleep and exhibit other symptoms of drowsiness when they are awake. According to sleep experts, 10% to 30% of adults suffer from some sleeplessness.
Insomnia is treated by taking sedative medications, cognitive behavioral therapy for insomnia (CBT-i), or a combination of both. Lifestyle adjustments can also help some people. There is no “best treatment for insomniac.” The type of insomnia the patient has, as well as their medical background, will determine the most suitable therapy.
How is insomnia diagnosed?
A complete medical evaluation and questionnaire will be administered if you are diagnosed with insomnia. These methods allow your doctor to establish whether your sleeplessness is isolated or linked to an underlying sickness or condition. In addition, your doctor will be able to tell if something is wrong by looking at your sleep history, waking episodes, and alcohol and caffeine consumption for one to two weeks before your appointment.
Suppose the initial examination and questionnaire indicate that you have sleep apnea. Your doctor may suggest an overnight sleep study at home or in a specialized sleep center. In addition, various types of sleep tests may be carried out at any time during the day to assess your sleep latency, how long it takes you to fall asleep, and how you feel and perform throughout the day. Furthermore, your doctor may prescribe actigraphy, a monitoring test that requires you to wear a body sensor while sleeping for up to two weeks. Finally, blood tests can also be used to look for underlying medical problems that cause sleeplessness symptoms.
Chronic insomnia is defined as having symptoms that occur at least three times each week for more than three months. Acute or short-term insomnia is referred to as such until these criteria are met.
What causes insomnia?
Environmental, physiological, and psychological causes can all contribute to insomnia’s development, including:
- Most common life stressors: your job, marital problems, money issues, and so on.
- Unhealthy lifestyle and sleeping patterns.
- Anxiety, depression, and other mental health conditions.
- Chronic diseases
- Chronic pain caused by, i.e., arthritis
- Gastrointestinal disorders, i.e., heartburn.
- A hormone imbalance caused by menstruation, menopause
- Any medications you take
- Neurological disorders, i.e., Alzheimer’s disease, Parkinson’s disease.
- Sleep apnea or restless legs syndrome.
What are the risk factors for insomnia?
Women are more prone to sleeplessness than men. Pregnancy and hormonal changes may disrupt sleep. Hormonal fluctuations, such as premenstrual syndrome (PMS) or menopause can also alter sleep patterns. The accumulation of sleep deprivation can result in insomnia as people age. Older individuals are less likely to get a good night’s sleep due to physiological changes associated with aging and owing to possible medical issues or medicines that disrupt sleep.
What are the consequences of insomnia?
- When you can’t fall asleep, or your rest is fitful, you may:
- Be irritable, anxious, or depressed.
- Feel tired or low on energy throughout the day.
- Have memory problems or difficulty concentrating.
- Struggle at work, school, or in relationships.
Treatment for insomnia
Insomnia that lasts for a few weeks is typically self-correcting. However, for persistent insomnia, your doctor may prescribe the following:
Cognitive Behavioral Therapy for Insomnia
Therapy (CBT-I): CBT-I is a brief treatment for insomnia that helps you identify and change thoughts and behaviors that cause sleeping problems with habits that improve sleep quality. CBT-I can help overcome the underlying causes of your sleep problems.
CBT-I is more effective than sleep medications in the treatment of insomnia, according to most research.
CBT-I’s cognitive component teaches you to identify and modify beliefs that impact your ability to sleep. It might assist you in controlling or eliminating harmful ideas and concerns that keep you awake. It may also entail breaking the cycle of worry, which can cause you to worry so much about falling asleep before bedtime that you can’t fall asleep.
CBT-I’s behavioral component focuses on teaching you how to develop healthy sleep habits and avoid behaviors that prevent you from sleeping well.
Changing your lifestyle and behavior is the best choice to improve your sleep in the long term. However, sometimes taking sleeping pills in a short run can help you sleep. Sleeping pills can help you fall asleep or stay asleep. Doctors generally don’t advocate depending on prescription sleeping medicines for more than a few weeks at a time. Still, several drugs are authorized for extended use. Most doctors recommend taking sleep medication only for a short period. Sleeping pills are not the first choice for treating chronic insomnia.
Sleeping pills can have adverse effects, such as causing daytime drowsiness and raising the risk of falling, or they can become habit-forming, so discuss these drugs with your doctor and other possible drawbacks.
Over-the-counter sleep aids
Nonprescription sleep medications include antihistamines that may cause drowsiness, but they are not designed for regular use. Suppose you are older or prone to have higher blood pressure. Talk to your doctor before using these. Antihistamines might cause adverse consequences, including daytime tiredness, dizziness, forgetfulness, confusion, cognitive decline, and difficulty urinating in older individuals.
Can melatonin help me sleep?
Melatonin is a hormone your body produces that promotes sleep. Some people take over-the-counter medications with melatonin as a sleep aid. However, there’s no evidence of the effectiveness of these supplements. FDA’s regulations regarding supplements aren’t as strict as those regarding medications. You should see your doctor before taking any sleep supplements.
Lifestyle and at home tips
Stick to a sleep schedule. Keep your time of going to sleep and waking the same from day to day, including on weekends.
Stay active. Regular activity encourages a good night’s sleep. Exercise time should be at least a few hours before going to bed, and avoid stimulating activities before going to bed.
Check your medications. If you take any medications, you should ask your doctor if they may be aggravating your sleeplessness. Also, check the labels of over-the-counter medicines to see if they contain caffeine or other stimulants, such as pseudoephedrine.
Avoid or limit naps. It’s more challenging to fall asleep at night if you take naps. If you can’t do without one, make sure your nap is no longer than 30 minutes, and don’t nap after 3 p.m.
Reduce or avoid caffeine and alcohol, and don’t use tobacco. All of these might make it more difficult to sleep, with consequences lasting for hours.
Don’t put up with suffering. If you’re having trouble sleeping because of a painful disease, talk to your doctor about pain killers that are strong enough to alleviate pain while you sleep.
Large meals and drinks should be avoided before bed. A light meal may help to prevent indigestion. Drink less liquid before going to sleep so that you don’t have to urinate as often.
Tips to use before bedtime
Relaxation is a must. When you go to bed, try to unwind and think pleasant thoughts. Try taking a warm bath or getting a massage. Make your bedroom as peaceful as possible by reducing clutter and unwinding with a relaxing bath, reading, gentle music, breathing exercises, yoga, or prayer.
Sleep is a natural need that we all experience at one time or another. Avoid forcing yourself to sleep. The more you try, the more awake you become. Instead, read in another room until you’re sleepy, then go to bed to get some rest. Don’t go to bed before you feel tired.
When you’re not sleeping, get out of bed. Sleep as long as you need to feel refreshed, and then get out of bed. If you aren’t sleeping, don’t stay in bed.
Insomnia treatments can vary, both with prescription medications and over-the-counter sleep aids. However, before taking any sleep medication, it is essential to consult with your doctor to discuss the possible drawbacks, including adverse side effects or the potential for habit-forming. Several lifestyle changes can help you get a good night’s sleep, such as sticking to a sleep schedule, staying active, and avoiding caffeine and alcohol. If you observe troubles with sleeping after making these changes, talk to your doctor about other possible solutions.