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What You Must Know About Insomnia

Insomnia, also known as sleeplessness is a condition wherein a person has difficulty falling asleep. Due to this condition, some people manifest impaired level of functioning when awake due to inadequacy of rest. This is a problem commonly experienced by middle-aged women in their menopausal period. Furthermore, this could also exist secondary to other conditions experienced by an individual such as depression.

There are three classifications of insomnia, namely:

Transient- this is the type of insomnia that lasts for less than a week. This may be due to environmental change or depression

Acute- this lasts for less than 30 days

Chronic- this lasts for over a month. This could be a primary condition or may be due to other conditions such as hallucination, physical and mental fatigue.

Insomnia has different patterns. Insomnia wherein a person has difficulty sleeping early at night is called the sleep-onset type. Nocturnal awakening, on the other hand, is finding it hard to sleep after waking up at night (middle-of-the-night insomnia). Furthermore, there are some individuals who wake up too early in the morning (terminal insomnia).

What causes insomnia?

Symptoms of insomnia can be caused by:

  • Taking in stimulants such as caffeine (found in coffee, tea and chocolates), psychoactive drugs and nicotine (found in cigarettes)
  • Use of antibiotics such as fluoroquinolones
  • Physical fatigue- this includes discomfort experienced by an individual such as aching legs, headache and pain sensation on parts of the body.
  • Hormonal changes secondary to conditions such as menopause or menstruation
  • Emotional fatigue such as grief, anxiety and other reactions of an individual to stress
  • Mental illnesses which include schizophrenia, anxiety disorders or even dementia
  • Changes in circadian rhythm such as change in environment or shift at work
  • An underlying medical condition such as osteoarthritis or hyperthyroidism
  • Rebound insomnia due to dependence to sleeping pills

How is it diagnosed and treated?

A branch of medicine known as Sleep Medicine specializes in diagnosing and treating sleep disorders such as insomnia. Through identifying the possible causes of this condition, an individual’s condition may be treated. The nature of the condition should be identified (e.g. for a person who suffers from anxiety, counselling should be done).

Non-pharmalogical treatment for insomnia does exist and are more preferable compared to pharmacological ones such as the use of hypnotics. The later could cause dependence which could lead to rebound sleeplessness. Examples of non-pharmacologic treatments are controlling stimuli in the environment that hinders sleep, sleep hygiene and meditation.

On the other hand, if the more natural ways are ineffective, the use of pharmacologic substances such as hypnotics is next in line. These drugs are commonly called sleeping pills. Benzodiazepines are of the famous agents used for insomnia. The problem with continued use of the agents could be rebound insomnia and dependence.

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