What is insomnia?


Know the basics

What is insomnia?

Insomnia is the condition in which you find it extremely difficult to fall asleep, or hard to stay asleep or both. It can be a chronic condition that prevents you from sleeping even when you want to. When having insomnia, you usually wake up feeling unrefreshed, which can affect your ability to function during the day.

How common is insomnia?

A World Health Organization (WHO) study found that approximate 27% surveyed patients reporting “difficulty sleeping”. It affects female more than male because female are sensitive to changes and more prone to anxiety and depression. It can affect patients at any age, but being old can also increase your chance of getting insomnia. It can be managed by reducing your risk factors. Please discuss with your doctor for further information.

Know the symptoms

What are the symptoms of insomnia?

Insomnia is characterized by difficulty falling asleep. However, there are other symptoms that result from lack of sleep. The common signs and symptoms of insomnia are:

  • Difficulty falling asleep at night;
  • Waking up during the night, or waking up too early;
  • Not having the feeling of rested after sleeping;
  • Tired and sleepy during daytime;
  • Irritability, depression or anxiety;
  • Problems in paying attention, focusing on tasks or remembering;
  • Headaches or tensions;
  • Distress in the stomach and intestines;
  • Worries about sleeping.

There may be some signs or symptoms not listed above. If you have any concerns about a symptom, please consult your doctor.

When should I see my doctor?

If insomnia causes you to unable to function during the day, it is necessary for you to see your doctor to determine what might be the cause of your sleep problem and how it can be treated.

Know the causes

What causes insomnia?

Many things can lead to insomnia. Some mental conditions can cause insomnia such as anxiety and depression. Even in healthy people, your daily habits can lead to insomnia.

  • Stress: What you concern in your life like work, school, health or family can make your mind too active to sleep at night;
  • Anxiety: Anxiety contributes to insomnia because it may disrupt your asleep.
  • Poor sleep habits: Poor sleep habits means that you have an irregular bedtime, play or do some stimulating physical activities right before sleeping time, an uncomfortable sleep environment, and use of your bed for activities other than sleep or sex;
  • Caffeine, nicotine and alcohol: Drinking such fluids in the late afternoon and later can keep you from falling asleep at night because nicotine affects your brain. While alcohol prevents deeper stages of sleep and often causes you to awaken in the middle of the night;
  • Eating too much late in the evening: This cause you to feel physically uncomfortable while lying down, making it difficult to get to sleep. You can also go through heartburn, a backflow of acid and food from the stomach into the esophagus after eating, which may keep you awake;
  • Medical conditions: The other disease you are having can also cause your insomnia, such as chronic pain (fibromyalgia and arthritis), breathing difficulties (GERD and heartburn) or a need to urinate frequently (diabetes and nocturia);
  • Medications: Some types of medications can cause insomnia, such as antidepressants, corticoids or hypertension drugs as well as other over-the-counter medicines.

Know the risk factors

What increases my risk for insomnia?

There are many risk factors for insomnia, such as:

  • Gender: It is suggested that women are much more likely to experience insomnia. Hormonal shifts during the menstrual cycle and in menopause may play a role;
  • Age: Especially when you’re older than age 60 because of changes in sleep patterns and health, insomnia increases with age;
  • Mental problems: If you have a mental health disorder like depression, anxiety, bipolar disorder and post-traumatic stress disorder;
  • Your work: It’s the job that requires you to work at night or have changing shifts increases your risk of insomnia;
  • Travelling: you are at higher risk if you have to travel long distance. Jet lag from traveling across multiple time zones can cause insomnia.

Understand the diagnosis & treatment

The information provided is not a substitute for any medical advice. ALWAYS consult with your doctor for more information.

How is insomnia diagnosed?

Your doctor can ask you a number of questions to diagnose your condition. They might require you to complete a questionnaire to determine your sleep-wake pattern and your level of daytime sleepiness. Your doctor may give you a sleep diary to check in your sleep pattern.

If your doctor suspect other conditions that cause insomnia, they will request further medical test to determine the underlying condition. In some cases and with available equipment, they can require to monitor and record your body activities while you sleep, including brain waves, breathing, heartbeat, eye movements and body movements.

How is insomnia treated?

You might need to adjust your sleep habits and change your medications to restore restful sleep. Your doctor might introduce you to behavioral treatments, where you learn sleep techniques and ways to improve your sleeping environment.

If these ways don’t help your disease, your doctor may recommend medications for you to help with relaxation and sleep. You can be prescribed by the doctors with sleeping pills like zolpidem (Ambien), eszopiclone (Lunesta), zaleplon (Sonata) or ramelteon (Rozerem) to help you get to sleep. However, sleeping medicines are consider as the last choice, thus you need to make sure which drugs can be used short-term and which can be used for a long time.

Your doctor can give you non-prescription sleep medications. These drugs contain antihistamines that can make you drowsy but it also can cause side effects.

Lifestyle changes & home remedies

What are some lifestyle changes or home remedies that can help me manage insomnia?

The following lifestyles and home remedies might help you cope with insomnia:

  • Exercise and stay active;
  • Check your medications: If you take medications regularly, check with your doctor to see if they may be contributing to your insomnia;
  • Avoid or limit naps. A nap that is no more than 30 minutes is perfect. And don’t nap after 3 P.M.;
  • Avoid or limit caffeine and alcohol and don’t use nicotine;
  • Avoid large meals and beverages before bed.

If you have any questions, please consult with your doctor to better understand the best solution for you.

Hello Health Group does not provide medical advice, diagnosis or treatment.

Review Date: May 30, 2016 | Last Modified: January 4, 2017

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