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What is Insomnia?

april 26 insomnia staring at clockINSOMNIA IS A VERY common sleep-related complaint in the United States. In fact, about  30 percent of American adults have reported struggling with some insomnia symptoms. If you’re dealing with sleepless nights, you don’t necessarily have to suffer any longer since it can be treated once diagnosed.

What is Insomnia?

Insomnia is a condition in which you have a difficult time falling or staying asleep – or both. You might also regularly wake up too early.  Your lack of sleep or poor-quality sleep may leave you feeling unrefreshed in the morning.

You can have insomnia that is:

  • acute (short-term), or
  • chronic insomnia (continuous)

Acute insomnia. Situations like family pressures, stress at work, or a traumatizing event can bring on acute insomnia. This type of insomnia can last for one night,  several days, or several weeks. It usually passes once the “event” is over.

Chronic insomnia. Chronic insomnia, on the other hand, can last as long as a month or longer. Chronic insomnia can be secondary —  meaning it’s a symptom of another problem. Certain medicines, substances, biological factors, sleep disorders, and medical or psychiatric conditions can bring on secondary insomnia. Researchers have recently begun thinking that it could be an issue with your brain regulating your sleep cycle. You have both an asleep and a wake cycle, where one is turned off when the other is on. With insomnia, it can affect either cycle.

How Do You Know if You Have Insomnia?

young man with insomnia.jpgLook for these common insomnia symptoms, which include:

  • Difficulty either falling or staying asleep
  • Being sleepy during the day
  • Variable sleep (you have sleep issues for several nights and then a couple nights of good sleep)
  • Difficulty concentrating
  • Reduced energy or feeling fatigued
  • Forgetfulness
  • Depression
  • Anxiety
  • Worrying about sleep
  • Irritability
  • Increased accidents or errors while performing everyday tasks
  • Falling asleep while driving

If you experience more than a couple of these symptoms, particularly not being able to fall or stay asleep, consult with your doctor for a possible diagnosis. Your doctor will ask about your sleep habits to get a better idea of your sleep issues. She may ask you things like how long you have been experiencing a lack of sleep, how long it takes for you to fall asleep, if you are fatigued during the day, or what time you go to bed and wake up on both your days off and workdays. He may schedule you for a sleep study to see if you’re experiencing a sleep disorder that is the culprit of your insomnia.

How is Insomnia Different from Just Having Trouble Falling Asleep?

Everyone has an occasional sleepless night. This is usually because you stay up too late or wake up too early, but it doesn’t necessary indicate insomnia. With chronic insomnia, however, you’re constantly having trouble falling or staying asleep. During a month’s time, if you notice it for at least a few times a week it takes you 30 minutes or longer to fall asleep, it’s safe to say you’re likely struggling with insomnia.

How Can you Get Over Insomnia?

Once you receive a diagnosis, your doctor is able to devise a treatment plan to address the underlying cause of your insomnia. Your treatment may involve one or more various types of behavioral and medical treatments. Your physician may have you try things like:

  • Relaxation techniques
  • Improved sleep hygiene (keeping a regular sleep schedule, avoiding caffeine before bed, etc.)
  • Cognitive therapy
  • Sleep restriction (deprive your body partially of sleep to increase your tiredness the next night)
  • Stimulus control therapy (go to bed only when tired, avoid reading, watching TV, etc. in bed)

Your doctor may suggest medication like sleep aids (typically on a short-term basis) or antidepressants if home remedies are not working.

You don’t have to suffer from insomnia. Even a few little changes in your lifestyle can help. Once you receive your diagnosis, you can begin your treatment and ongoing care.

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