Alaska Sleep Education Center

Insomnia Facts: Symptoms, Causes & Treatment of Poor Quality Sleep

Posted by Jennifer Hines

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on Jul 17, 2018 10:45:00 AM

Woman cannot get to sleep.

Do you ever find yourself awake in the middle of the night staring at the ceiling for hours, willing to sleep to come? Do you sometimes lay in bed dwelling on troubles of the past, worries of the present, or concerns for the future, all the while struggling to fall asleep? Or maybe you have difficulty staying asleep and constantly find yourself waking multiple times in the middle of the night and have trouble getting back to sleep, or you simply wake up earlier than you'd like but find it impossible to go back to sleep.

If any of these examples sound like something you've experienced, chances are that you've had some form of insomnia, and depending on how often this happens to you, your restless nights could be a sign of a serious sleep disorder.

What is Insomnia?

 Insomnia is a sleep disorder characterized by poor sleep quality. People that suffer from insomnia express difficulties of:

  • Going to sleep at night.

  • Waking often in the middle of the night and having trouble going back to sleep.

  • Waking up earlier than planned, but was unable to fall back asleep.

Symptoms of Insomnia

Aside from the symptoms listed above. Many people with insomnia report daytime problems such as:

  • Symptoms of insomnia.

    Feeling as if sleep was un-refreshing (non-restorative).

  • Experiencing excessive daytime sleepiness.

  • General lack of energy.

  • Difficulty concentrating.

  • Mood and behavior disturbances such as irritability, aggression, and impulsive behaviors.

  • Difficulty concentrating.

  • Forgetfulness.

  • Decreased performance at work or school.

  • Troubles in personal and professional relationships.

  • Having accidents at work or while driving fatigued.

  • Decreased quality of life.

  • Depression.

Types and Causes of Insomnia

Classifying insomnia depends on two different factors: duration, as in how long it typically lasts and how often it occurs, and discovering the underlying cause of insomnia, as in whether it is directly associated with another health condition or not.

Acute Insomnia and Chronic Insomnia

woman with insomniaAcute insomnia is experiencing sleep loss over a short period of time. It can last from one night to a few weeks. The causes of acute insomnia can vary but may include:

  • Excessive worry

  • Stress

  • Receiving bad news

  • Life circumstances

  • Jet lag

  • Shift-work

  • Illness

  • Emotional or physical discomfort

  • Environmental factors such as noise, light, or temperature

  • Stimulants such as nicotine, caffeine, and alcohol
  • Poor sleep hygiene practices

  • Certain medications including some that are used to treat nasal/sinus allergies, colds, depression, high blood pressure, and asthma.

Chronic insomnia is when symptoms of poor sleep quality occur on 3 or more nights per week for a month or longer. Causes of chronic insomnia include:

  • Depression

  • Anxiety

  • Chronic Stress

  • Pain or discomfort at night

Causes of insomnia can also be classified as either primary insomnia (not directly related to a medical condition), or secondary insomnia (associated with an existing medical or psychiatric condition).

Medical and Psychiatric Conditions Related to Insomnia

  • Man up all night and miserable.Nasal/sinus allergies

  • Gastrointestinal problems

  • Hypothyroidism and other endocrine problems

  • Neurological conditions including Parkinson's disease

  • Chronic pain

  • Arthritis

  • Asthma

  • Other sleep disorders including sleep apnea, restless leg syndrome, narcolepsy, and circadian rhythm disorders.

  • Depression. The risk of severe insomnia is higher for people with depressive disorders. Insomnia can also cause depression and vice versa.

  • Anxiety including tension, worry, overwhelming responsibilities, and overstimulation.

Prevalence of Insomnia and Insomnia Facts

  • Insomnia is one of the most common sleep disorders with approximately half of adults reporting having symptoms of insomnia occasionally.

  • About 10 percent of people have experienced chronic insomnia.

  • Insomnia is more likely to occur in women than in men.

  • Insomnia is more likely to affect elderly adults. One of the possible causes of insomnia in the elderly is due to changes in the circadian rhythm, most notably advanced sleep phase disorder which causes elderly people to go to sleep earlier and rise earlier than most people.

  • Insomnia is reported more among adults with children than those without

  • Insomnia can be more likely in people who nap during the day, making sleep more difficult at night.

  • People who are naturally more awake and alert may be more likely to suffer from insomnia.

  • People that regularly use stimulants and alcohol may report symptoms of insomnia more often.

  • People with poor sleep hygiene practices are more likely to report insomnia.

Treatments for Insomnia

Acute insomnia often requires no treatment and symptoms usually go away on their own or can be cured by practicing better sleep habits. People who regularly suffer from insomnia and feel that their symptoms are impacting their daily lives should seek treatment by scheduling an appointment with their primary care physician. Oftentimes treatment for secondary insomnia requires treating the underlying medical/psychiatric condition that is causing insomnia as a side effect.

Cognitive and Behavioral Therapy for Insomnia

Cognitive and behavioral approaches may be taken that help a person change behaviors that are causing insomnia and others that help promote better sleep practices including relaxation and meditation techniques, breathing exercises, learning to associate the bedroom with sleep and sex only, keeping a regular bedtime/wake schedule, and other sleep hygiene practices.

Medical Treatments for Insomnia

There are over-the-counter and prescription sleep aid medications available to help with symptoms of insomnia. However, it is not recommended to use over-the-counter medications as their effectiveness and side effects may vary and be undesired. It is best to discuss possible sleep aids with your primary care physician. Typical medications for insomnia include benzodiazepine hypnotics, non-benzodiazepine hypnotics, and melatonin receptor agonists.

If another sleep disorder is the underlying cause of your poor quality sleep troubles, a sleep study may be necessary to diagnose and treat the sleep disorder.

If you live in the state of Alaska and believe that a sleep disorder such as sleep apnea, restless leg syndrome, or narcolepsy made be causing you to experience insomnia, schedule a call for a free consultation by clicking the link below with Alaska Sleep Clinic.

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Topics: insomnia, sleep disorders

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