Insomnia is a sleep disorder that can manifest itself in many ways, including difficulty falling asleep and frequent awakenings. Insomniacs might also tend to wake up too early and feel tired upon awakening. When it comes to defining insomnia, however, there are no general criteria. The frequency of episodes is what matters.
Symptoms of insomnia
Insomnia is characterized by:
- Difficulty getting to sleep;
- Premature waking;
- Frequent awakenings during the night;
- Persistent sense of fatigue;
- Daytime concentration problems;
- Daytime irritability.
However, doctors diagnose insomnia only when these problems occur frequently and prevent patients from taking part in their daily activities.
Causes of insomnia
Sleep disorders can be caused by a variety of factors:
- Stress and anxiety;
- Excessive use of stimulants (tea, coffee, chocolate, nicotine, etc.) or using them too late in the day;
- Irregular schedules;
- Pain related to certain health problems like arthritis;
- Excess weight or obesity;
- Some medications;
- Abuse of alcohol or cannabis;
- Hormonal changes;
- Excessive computer work;
- Some disorders like sleep apnea;
The percentage of people with insomnia increases with age. Changes in the natural sleep cycle means people will sleep more lightly in later years. For many, aging also brings on chronic health problems that can cause insomnia.
Changing your lifestyle habits might help treat your insomnia. Here are a few suggestions.
- Sleep only the number of hours your body needs to feel refreshed.
- Exercise regularly.
- Go to bed and wake up at the same time everyday so that you have a regular sleep schedule.
- Take part in activities that promote relaxation.
- Avoid heavy meals before bedtime.
- Dim the lights and keep noise to a minimum.
- Reduce or eliminate the use the stimulants, like caffeine, nicotine and alcohol. Use your bedroom only for sleep and sex.
- Don’t try to make yourself sleep and don’t watch the clock. The harder you try to fall asleep, the harder it is to actually find sleep.
- Avoid taking naps.
- If you are still awake after 30 minutes, get out of bed; go to another room and relax for 20 minutes or so or until you begin to feel sleepy again.
A variety of medications to help promote sleep are available for short-term use. But these drugs often lead to dependency and do not treat the underlying cause of insomnia. Treatments that have a better chance of delivering long-lasting results are those involving changes in lifestyle habits
Do you have questions about insomnia and its treatment? Talk to your pharmacist. He’s there to help!