Insomnia

Causes, Symptoms and Treatments

Insomnia is a condition characterized by a person's inability to fall asleep or to stay asleep. This sleeping disorder  includes difficulty falling asleep at the start of the night, awakening frequently during the night and then struggling to get back to sleep, and/or not receiving good quality sleep.

There are three different types of Insomnia. Transient Insomnia lasts only for a few nights. Short-term Insomnia usually lasts for one to three weeks. Chronic Insomnia is when the person is continually effected by poor sleep for longer than three weeks. It can be a very frustrating and debilitating condition, as it causes impairment, fatigue and irritable behaviour during the day.

Causes

There are multiple reasons as to the causes of Insomnia, which include a variety of medical, mental or physical factors. 

Causes of Transient and Short-term Insomnia

Causes of transient and short-term Insomnia include:

  • Loud, disruptive noises while sleeping
  • Jet lag
  • Room temperature is uncomfortable, i.e too hot or too cold
  • Illness (pain, fever, coughing, congestion)
  • Withdrawal from drugs, alcohol, sedatives or stimulants
  • Stress ( examples include unemployment, financial worries, divorce, exam stress, etc.)

Causes of Chronic Insomnia

Causes of chronic Insomnia can usually be linked to a medical or mental condition. These conditions can include:

  • Anxiety
  • Stress
  • Depression
  • Schizophrenia and/or bi polar disorder
  • Chronic Fatigue Syndrome
  • Chronic Pain Syndromes
  • Heart conditions
  • Acid Reflux
  • Sleep Apnea
  • Asthma

Symptoms

Insomnia symptoms are often linked together, with the problem arising in the beginning from a difficultly in falling asleep, or waking up during the night, which may be cause by a problem of stress or noises, but as the condition continues, sufferers begin to associate bedtime and sleeping with the anxiety of not being able to sleep properly, thus turning sleeping into a stressful, panic-driven fear. This can cause the Insomnia to become a chronic condition.

Sufferers of Insomnia will also develop symptoms that appear and effect them during the day. These include:

  • Impaired concentration and focus
  • Lapses in memory and difficult in remembering things.
  • Irritability and crankiness
  • Fatigue
  • Impaired motor coordination and function

Treatments

The first step in treating Insomnia is to identify the cause and attempt to manage, control and eventually eliminate it. By creating a proper sleeping routine and structure, you can alter and control your sleeping pattern and ultimately improve your quality of sleep. Some steps that can be implemented include:

  • Avoid forcing yourself to sleep.
  • Sleep as much as you need, without oversleeping.
  • Aim for 30 minutes of daily exercise, roughly 4-5 hours before bedtime.
  • Avoid caffeine and alcohol before bedtime.
  • Control your sleeping environment (minimal light and noises)
  • Don't go to bed hungry.
  • Go to bed when you feel sleepy.
  • Avoid taking long naps during the day.
  • Try relaxation therapies before bed (yoga, meditation, reading, listen to soothing music)

If these steps don't help address the condition, there are herbal remedies, over-the-counter medications and sleeping sedatives that can be prescribed. If establishing a sleeping routine and participating in relaxation therapies doesn't help eliminate the Insomnia, consult your doctor.