Insomnia can be characterized by difficulty falling asleep, maintaining sleep or waking too early. Insomnia can be short term, lasting one night to a few weeks or chronic where it lasts several months. Causes of insomnia include stress, depression, anxiety, physical discomfort, pain, environmental factors (e.g. noise, light, temperature) and substances (e.g. alcohol, nicotine, caffeine or other medications). Poor sleep hygiene can also cause insomnia, which can include exercising immediately before bed, irregular bedtimes and taking naps.
There are two types of insomnia. Primary insomnia is a distinctive issue not attributable to another medical problem, while secondary insomnia is associated with another problem. Insomnia can be short-term (acute) or long-term (chronic).
The ‘first line’ of treatment for insomnia is ensuring proper sleep hygiene. This is achieved by modifying behaviours such as establishing a regular sleep schedule and avoiding the consumption of substances (nicotine, caffeine and alcohol), napping, exercise and dealing with stressors before retiring for the night. It is also recommended that your bedroom is quiet, dark and somewhat cool.
Insomnia is also treated using cognitive behavioural treatment (CBT), light therapy and pharmaceuticals such as zolpiclone. Cognitive behavioural treatment (CBT) is a type of mental health counseling that aims to reduce disruptive thoughts and behaviors that prevent sleep.
Sleep can also be perceived as light and of poor quality. Insomnia becomes a clinical problem when a person experiences trouble falling or staying asleep three or more nights per week, daytime functioning is impaired, and sleep difficulties have ersisted for more than one month.
Chronic insomnia lasts for a month or longer. Most cases of chronic insomnia are secondary, which means they are the symptom or side effect of some other problem. Certain medical conditions, medicines, sleep disorders, and substances can cause secondary insomnia.
Insomnia can cause daytime sleepiness and a lack of energy. It also can make you feel anxious, depressed, or irritable.
You may have trouble focusing on tasks, paying attention, learning, and remembering. These problems can prevent you from doing your best at work or school.
Insomnia also can cause other serious problems. For example, you may feel drowsy while driving, which could lead to an accident.
Treating the underlying cause of secondary insomnia may resolve or improve the sleep problem, especially if you can correct the problem soon after it starts. For example, if caffeine is causing your insomnia, stopping or limiting your intake of the substance might make the insomnia go away.
Lifestyle changes, including better sleep habits, often help relieve acute insomnia. For chronic insomnia, your doctor may recommend medicines or cognitive-behavioral therapy.
Some over-the-counter (OTC) products claim to treat insomnia. These products include melatonin, L-tryptophan supplements, and valerian teas or extracts. How well these products work and how safe they are isn't well understood. Evidence supporting efficacy is variable and insufficient.
Some OTC products that contain antihistamines are sold as sleep aids. Although these products might make you sleepy, talk to your doctor before taking them.
A physical exam, sleep history, notes from a sleep diary, medical history, and results from a sleep study may be required to confirm a diagnosis of insomnia.
Merrell Clinic works closely with your family medical doctor and other medical specialists. Should we suspect your insomnia is of a medical nature, rather than a breathing/snoring disorder; a prompt referral to the appropriate medical professional will be recommended,
Insomnia patients who do not treat their disorder increase their risk of:
Higher work absenteeism
Reduced life expectancy
Contact Merrell Clinic today!