According to research, 10% to 30% of people1 suffer from sleep difficulties. This sleeplessness condition is defined by persistent trouble2 in falling asleep or remaining asleep on a nightly basis. The symptoms and signs of insomnia are different for each person. However, they are largely determined by the length of time that the disorder persists.
Types of insomnia
Two main types of insomnia differ from each other by symptoms and course of the disease. The first type is short-term insomnia, acute insomnia, or adjustment insomnia, a short episode of difficulty sleeping. The other type of insomnia is chronic insomnia. It is a long-term pattern of sleeplessness. It is considered when a person has trouble sleeping at least three nights per week for three months or longer.
What to Do When You Can’t Sleep?
Symptoms of chronic insomnia
In a chronic insomnia diagnosis, a patient must have symptoms at least three times per week for at least three months. Chronic insomnia is diagnosed when a patient’s symptoms persist despite adequate sleep opportunities and resulting daytime limitations.
Insomnia is a condition in which it is difficult to fall asleep or stay asleep. Sleep onset insomnia refers to difficulties falling asleep, whereas sleep maintenance insomnia refers to problems staying asleep. People who have insomnia may have trouble sleeping both fall and stay asleep at times. Sleep onset and maintenance difficulties have been observed in all age groups. Chronic insomnia might be defined as a periodic occurrence of the length of time it takes to fall asleep and wake up during the night, totaling more than 20 minutes for children or 30 minutes for adults.
Those who have chronic insomnia may also wake up before they want to. Many sufferers, particularly children, and elders who require caregiver assistance, avoid the idea of following a healthy sleep regimen. People who have insomnia frequently suffer from one or more of the following problems during the day after suffering from sleeplessness:
- Miserable, exhausted, and weary are all physical or emotional exhaustion symptoms.
- Concentration difficulties, attention problems, or memory impairments
- Disabilities in their social, professional, and academic performance
- Irritability and mood swings
- Excessive daytime drowsiness
- Behavior difficulties include hyperactivity, aggressiveness, and other issues.
- Higher chance for mistakes and accidents.
Symptoms of short-term insomnia
The symptoms of short-term insomnia are similar to those for chronic insomnia. Still, there is one significant distinction: the condition has been experienced by patients for fewer than three nights per week or less than three months.
It’s also vital to distinguish between acute insomnia and circadian rhythm disorders associated with temporary environmental causes and long-term sleep issues caused by external elements. For example, jet lag, shift work sleep disorder (often those who work at night), and other factors can induce sleep deprivation. Insomnia is not a disorder in and of itself. It’s more often caused by a combination of mental health issues or relationship problems. Sleep onset and maintenance difficulties are common. However, insomnia is only a symptom rather than the underlying cause. Despite poor circadian alignment, short-term sleeplessness occurs.
Short-term insomnia can be a one-time occurrence, but an underlying condition frequently causes it. For example, short-term insomnia may sometimes be comorbid with a mental health issue, a medical problem, or drug abuse. Symptoms can also manifest in the absence of an immediate cause, such as night shift work. In addition, certain medications or herbal supplements have been shown to induce sleepiness and drowsiness. However, short-term insomnia is more prevalent than previously believed. Workday stressors linked with job or family life may also cause short-term symptoms.
Symptoms of insomnia tend to lessen over time in most people who have short-term insomnia, particularly if their sleeplessness was brought on by a distressing event or a passing illness. However, short-term sleeplessness might transform into a persistent problem that requires additional treatment if left unaddressed.
Consequences of insomnia
Insomnia can have a significant impact on one’s overall health and well-being. It might raise your risk for medical issues and exacerbate pre-existing conditions, such as:
- Respiratory and breathing issues
- Cardiovascular diseases such as arrhythmia, high blood pressure, heart disease, and heart failure
- Anxiety, depression, and mental issues
- Drug and alcohol abuse
- Chronic pain
- Higher risk for pregnancy complications, i.e., premature birth and low birth weight for the baby
- Higher risk for inflammation
- Lower immunity
- Metabolic issues
- Hormonal imbalance
See a doctor about insomnia
If you’re having problems sleeping despite trying different things, or if your lack of sleep is causing other problems in your life, talk to your doctor or another qualified physician. You can get a short-term insomnia diagnosis if you haven’t experienced symptoms three times a week or for at least three months.
Use your sleep diaries to assist your doctor. Take notes on your time asleep and awake, sleep latency patterns, wakefulness episodes, and other aspects of your nightly sleep cycle for a few weeks before your visit. It would be best if you also tracked how you feel throughout the day, how often you exercise, and how much coffee or alcohol you consume.
A medical examination and questionnaire are usually the first step in determining whether someone has insomnia. Your physician might utilize the following components to determine whether your sleeplessness is due to an isolated condition or if you’re dealing with symptoms as a result of other underlying problems. They may also utilize these exams to exclude other sleep problems, such as sleep apnea.
Your doctor can suggest one of the following tests after these initial steps have been completed:
Sleep studies that follow a whole night measure sleep latency, wakefulness, and other metrics. Depending on the doctor’s advice, you may do these tests at a sleep center or home. A sleep study may include a variety of tests, including multiple sleep latency exams, which measure how long it takes you to fall asleep during a series of naps, and daytime maintenance of wakefulness assessments, which evaluate your mood and performance throughout the day.
This is a night-time monitoring test that evaluates how well you sleep daily. You’ll need to wear a tiny body sensor for this research for three to 14 days.
A doctor may request these tests to check for thyroid conditions and other ailments that cause sleep loss as an extra safeguard to rule out an underlying condition.
Treatment for insomnia
Insomnia is treated differently depending on the cause. Chronic insomnia can be treated with cognitive-behavioral therapy (CBT) for six to eight weeks, which helps you fall asleep quicker and sleep all through the night without waking up. Therapies such as this one can be done online, over the phone, or in-person with a doctor, nurse, or therapist. Benzodiazepines and other sleep medications may also be prescribed. Instead, your doctor may prescribe over-the-counter medicines, such as melatonin supplements or antihistamines with sleep aids.
Improving sleep hygiene can help some individuals with short- or long-term sleeplessness alleviate their symptoms dramatically. Maintaining a healthy bedroom conducive to sleep, going to bed at the same time each night (including weekends), avoiding daytime naps, and abstaining from caffeine, alcohol, and cigarettes before bedtime are all steps toward good sleep hygiene.
The cause of insomnia can be an underlying condition or be a side effect of medication or another issue. There are many tests that can be done to determine the cause of insomnia, and there are effective treatments available. Insomnia can be treated with cognitive-behavioral therapy, sleep medications, over-the-counter medicines, or improved sleep hygiene.