Adults need seven hours of sleep or more every night in order to maintain their health and wellbeing. Insomnia can prevent you from getting the important sleep you need, putting you at risk for a number of physical and mental conditions.
What Is Insomnia?
Insomnia is a very common sleep disorder that is characterized by difficulty falling asleep and staying asleep. The condition can affect someone for only a few days or weeks, or last for months and even years.
Types of Insomnia
Insomnia typically falls under one of two types:
- Primary insomnia: When insomnia is not caused or associated with a medication, psychiatric problem, or medical issue, it is referred to as primary (or idiopathic) insomnia.
- Secondary insomnia: This type of insomnia refers to difficulty falling and staying asleep due to a known cause, such as chronic pain, COPD, or other medical or psychiatric problem. Medication use that inhibits sleep cycles is also a cause of secondary insomnia.
What Are the Symptoms of Insomnia?
Insomnia symptoms include:
- Excessive daytime sleepiness
- Difficulty concentrating
What Causes Insomnia?
While insomnia can affect anyone at any stage in life, seniors over the age of 60 are at a higher risk for the condition. Women are at a higher risk than men. Additionally, sensory disorders such as restless leg syndrome can also stand between you and the sleep you need.
In some cases, the causes of insomnia may be immediately apparent. Other times, the cause may be difficult to pinpoint. Some of the most common causes of insomnia include:
- Environmental factors: Sleep is easiest to achieve in a cool, dark, quiet room. When your bedroom is not a comfortable sanctuary reserved only for sleeping, it can cause problems falling asleep and staying asleep.
- Circadian rhythm disruptions: Your body’s natural internal clock, known as your circadian rhythm, let’s you know when it’s time to sleep. For most people, circadian rhythms involve sleeping at night and being awake during the day. This rhythm can be disrupted when traveling across times zones, working night shifts, and raising a newborn.
- Medical conditions: While medical issues such as heart disease, Parkinson’s disease, and arthritis can make it difficult to fall asleep and stay asleep, psychological problems such as depression, anxiety, and stress can also keep you from getting a good night’s rest.
- Medications: A number of medications can cause insomnia, from over-the-counter cold and flu medicine to prescription drugs for thyroid and heart problems. It’s important to note that people respond to medicines differently. Even drugs that should not have sleep-inhibiting side effects may keep some from proper sleep.
How Do You Treat Insomnia?
Insomnia treatments depend on the cause of the condition. For example, if a certain medication is responsible for your sleeplessness, insomnia treatment could be as obvious as switching your medication. In other cases, the cause of your insomnia may be less apparent. A doctor or sleep specialist can help determine the root of your disorder and recommend a treatment plan that can work for you.
Sometimes, there are steps you can take at home to make it easier to fall asleep and slumber soundly throughout the night. These include:
- Establish a bedtime ritual: With all the hectic demands of daily life, it can be difficult to unwind at the end of the day. Make a conscious effort to relax before bedtime by reading, listening to calming music, meditating, or enjoying a hot bath.
- Make your bedroom a screen-free zone: Don’t let tech keep you from getting the sleep you need. Not only can technology keep your mind occupied and stimulated, the light from your screen can trick your brain into thinking it is daytime. This results in a lower production of melatonin, making it harder to fall asleep. Keep the TV, phone, tablet and computer in another room.
- Avoid caffeine before bed: Caffeine can stay in your system for several hours and stop you from falling asleep. Avoid coffee and other sources of caffeine like soda and chocolate for at least four to five hours before bedtime.
- Maintain a consistent sleep cycle: Sticking to the same sleep cycle – going to sleep and waking up at the same time every day – may help you develop a routine and sleep better.
- Meet with a sleep specialist: A doctor or sleep specialist can provide insight into what may be harming your ability to sleep and offer recommendations for treatment.
- Keep a sleep journal: Recording your sleep patterns in a sleep journal can help you identify things that may be inhibiting your sleep and enable you to make necessary changes.
What Should I Write In My Sleep Journal?
A sleep journal, or sleep diary, can be beneficial in identifying and treating your sleep disorder. Your doctor or sleep specialist may ask you to track your sleep patterns for a few weeks. Items to include in your sleep journal include:
- The length of time it took to fall asleep
- The length of time you stayed asleep
- How well you feel you slept
- The number of times you woke up during the night
- The length of time it took to get back to sleep after waking up
- What you ate and drank before bed and what time
- Any emotions you experienced (anxiety, excitement, depression, stress)
Contact Us Today
If you struggle with not getting enough sleep because you suffer from insomnia, a sleep specialist can discuss your symptoms and recommend a treatment to help you fall asleep and get a good night’s rest.