Insomnia can be defined as the difficulty of falling asleep, staying asleep, waking up too early without being able to go back to sleep, or even a combination of all three.
For a person to be diagnosed with insomnia, they must have difficulty falling asleep at least three times a week, even when they are in conditions conducive to sleep. These difficulties must also negatively impact your daily life, for example, if you feel exhausted or if you find yourself or if you find yourself dozing during the day.
It is impossible to tell if you have insomnia based on your number of hours of sleep, as this varies for each person. It is also customary to sleep less and less as you get older. So if you sleep less than when you were younger, that doesn’t necessarily mean you have insomnia.
Insomnia is one of the common medical conditions. About 10% of adults are prone to permanent insomnia and 20% to 25% to occasional insomnia. Insomnia is a more common condition among women, seniors, shift workers, and people with medical conditions and mental disorders.
Insomnia usually has an underlying cause. Some of the top known causes of insomnia are:
- Air travel, especially in the west-east direction (jet lag);
- Anxiety or depression;
- Conditions such as gastroesophageal reflux disease, enlarged prostate, Parkinson’s disease, Alzheimer’s disease, or stroke;
- Medicines such as decongestants, stimulants (e.g., methylphenidate *), and some antidepressants;
- Nicotine, caffeine, and alcohol;
- Lack of activity during the day;
- Pain caused by arthritis or other health conditions;
- Poor sleeping habits;
- Shift changes;
- Sleep disorders such as sleep apnea;
- Stress-related to work, family life, the occurrence of death or illness in the family or friends, or even financial difficulties;
- Exercising right before going to bed
- Environmental nuisances such as noise, light, and inadequate temperature;
- Mental conditions such as anxiety or depression;
- Watching television or other types of screens late at night;
Symptoms and Complications
Insomnia can manifest itself by the following symptoms:
- Difficult sleepiness;
- Intermittent sleep;
- Waking up too early in the morning;
- Feeling fatigued when you wake up, despite having slept a sufficient number of hours;
- Fatigue and drowsiness during the day; irritability or anxiety;
- Difficulty concentrating during the day.
People who do not sleep for several days in a row may experience symptoms such as hallucinations, but this is a fortunately rare occurrence. However, insomnia is often the cause of poor concentration, memory loss, and fatigue, negatively impacting relationships and work and school performance. It can also raise the risk of accidents. People who have insomnia are also more likely to suffer from depression or anxiety.
Worrying about not being able to sleep correctly can often make insomnia worse. It is essential to seek treatment so as not to find yourself caught in this vicious circle.
To render a diagnosis, your doctor will ask you how you sleep and if you go to bed at the exact time every day. Your doctor may ask you to keep a diary in which you write down information about your sleep for a week or two.
You will need to tell her if you are taking any medicines (including herbal remedies and over-the-counter medication) and whether you smoke or have coffee and alcohol. If there are any sources of stress in your life that could affect your sleep, you might want to let them know.
By giving you a general checkup and writing down your medical history, your doctor will be able to tell if you have any health problems, such as depression, anxiety, or arthritis, which can cause or cause insomnia. to contribute. In some cases, the medical doctor may order blood tests to show you any underlying medical problems.
Some patients may refer for a visit to a clinic specializing in sleep disorders, which offers a test such as polysomnography to support the diagnosis of insomnia. It consists of recording, using electrodes placed on the body of the sleeping person, the various phases of sleep, from stage I (light sleep) to stage IV (deep sleep), as well as paradoxical sleep (associated with dreams). Polysomnography can also diagnose sleep apnea.
Treatment and Prevention
Treatment for insomnia can include several components: treating the condition that caused it, improving sleep hygiene, changing behavior, and taking medication. If insomnia is caused by a conditon such as arthritis or depression, it should first treat it as its improvement will likely lead to insomnia.
Sleep hygiene has simple steps you can take to increase your chances of a good night’s sleep. You could, for example, change certain behaviors. As part of your treatment plan, your doctor may recommend the following sleep or behavioral hygiene measures:
- Regulate your bedtime by deciding to follow practices that will help you fall asleep regularly;
- Avoid sleeping in or lying around in bed, as well as spending long periods in a horizontal position or taking naps during the day; these activities usually reduce the quality of sleep the next night;
- Reserve the bedroom for sleep and intimate activities;
- Refrain from consuming drinks with caffeine (e.g., coffee, tea) after the midday meal;
- Try not to think about stressful or work issues before going to bed; read a little if this activity helps you relax;
- Think about positive things; this will prevent you from worrying about your sleep;
- Make sure the bedroom is dim, quiet, and not too hot; a white noise generator can mask traffic noise or the noise of the snoring partner;
- Drink a glass of warm milk or take a hot bath before going to bed;
- Avoid heavy, spicy, or delightful foods between 4 and 6 hours before going to bed; instead, try eating a light, low-carbohydrate snack (e.g., crackers and hot milk);
- Exercise during the day; if a physical activity performed in the evening prevents you from sleeping, then practice it earlier;
- Try to reduce your consumption of cigarettes and alcohol, especially at night;
- Avoid looking at the time; after setting the alarm, turn the clock radio so that you cannot see the dial;
- If you can’t fall asleep after spending 20 minutes in bed, get up and do something that relaxes you. Try to fall asleep again once you feel sleepiness.
- Put your phone away when it comes to bedtime;
- Try to practice relaxation techniques.
- Cognitive behavior therapy to treat insomnia is also an option and incorporates many of the suggestions offered above.
Your doctor may prescribe medication for sleeping, mainly if your insomnia is caused by severe stress or if non-drug methods have not been helpful. These medicines can help you in the short term (that is, for a few weeks) and are to be used on an ad hoc basis, not every night.
However, they will not cure insomnia and may even make it worse if you use them for a long time. Indeed, when the treatment stops, insomnia can reappear, even more, marked than before.
Many sleeping pills can also cause tolerance (a decrease in effect over time). This is why doctors do not like to prescribe them for long periods except failure with other treatments or in the absence of tolerance to benzodiazepines. Their use should never combine with alcohol. Zopiclone and zolpidem, which are not in the benzodiazepine family, are sometimes used to treat insomnia.
If your medical doctor has prescribed medication to help you sleep, you must use non-medication methods.
If you have an erratic work schedule that disrupts your sleep pattern, the best way to lessen the effects is to expose yourself to direct light in the morning. It has been found that this method is much more effective in setting the biological record straight than taking melatonin, a widely advertised supplement. Indeed, natural light causes the brain to produce melatonin, a posteriori when we find ourselves plunged into darkness.
The L-tryptophan is another supplement that may be effective against insomnia, but its effects are not as predictable as other drugs.
Finally, there are also over-the-counter medications that contain diphenhydramine. However, these should not use without first discussing them with a healthcare professional. If you think you are having trouble sleeping, it may be best to see your doctor for a thorough evaluation.