Insomnia is a sleep disorder. Individuals who suffer from insomnia find it difficult to fall asleep, stay asleep, or both. They don’t feel refreshed when they wake up from sleeping. This can lead to fatigue and other symptoms. Insomnia can be diagnosed as short-term, acute, or long-term, also referred to as chronic.
Why Should we Care about Insomnia?
The implications of insomnia are widely felt. In older adults, fall rates are substantially higher in those prescribed sedative-hypnotic medications to treat insomnia. This has been consistently identified as an important public health concern. Decreases in leisure time and physical activity in the elderly have been strongly associated with insomnia symptoms and may be predictive of other coexisting illnesses like major depression, dementia and anhedonia, which is a lowered ability to experience pleasure.
Furthermore, insomnia occurs in 60 to 90 percent of adults with post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) and is an important target for early intervention and suicide prevention, especially in those suffering from combat-related PTSD. Chronic pain sufferers have a very high incidence of coexisting insomnia, and recognition and treatment of primary insomnia can decrease opiate pain medication utilization and improve quality-of-life scores. Those with chronic insomnia are four times more likely to report marriage and relationship problems. One interesting study from 2011 demonstrated that insomnia in women significantly increased the number of negative interactions with a spouse, while insomnia in men had no impact on relationship conflict.
Treatment of insomnia
There are both pharmaceutical and non-pharmaceutical treatments for insomnia. Your doctor can talk to you about what treatments might be appropriate for you. You may need to try a number of different treatments before find the one that is the most effective for you.
Sleep hygiene training may be recommended. Sometimes, behaviors that interfere with sleep are causing insomnia. Sleep hygiene training can help you change some of these disruptive behaviors, such as:
Avoiding caffeinated beverages near bedtime.
Avoiding exercise near bedtime.
Minimizing time spent on your bed when you’re not specifically intending to sleep, such as watching TV or surfing the web on your cell phone.
If there is an underlying psychological or medical disorder contributing to your insomnia, getting appropriate treatment for it can alleviate sleep difficulties.
Sometimes, medications are used to treat insomnia. An example of an over the counter medication that can be used for sleep is an antihistamine, such as diphenhydramine (Benadryl). Medications like this can have side effects, so it’s important to talk to a doctor before starting yourself on an over-the-counter medication for insomnia.
Talk with your doctor before using any of the following to treat your insomnia:
There might be dangerous side effects or drug interactions. Not every “sleep aid” drug is appropriate for everyone. Many cases of insomnia can be much more effectively managed by lifestyle changes or other remedies.
Insomnia isn’t just a nuisance or a small inconvenience. It’s a real sleep disorder, and it can be treated. If you think you have insomnia, talk to your doctor. By exploring possible causes, you can get the appropriate and safe treatment you need.
What is insomnia? (n.d.). Retrieved from https://sleepfoundation.org/insomnia/content/what-is-insomnia