Have you ever had one of those nights whereyou just couldn't seem to fall asleepé While that happens to everyone every oncein awhile, people with insomnia have to deal with these symptoms night after night. Some people with insomnia have trouble fallingasleep, whereas others wake up throughout the night, and struggle to fall back asleep,and these disturbances typically happen at least 3 times each week. Acute insomnia lasts less than a month, whereaschronic insomnia lasts over a month. Insomnia affects both the quantity and qualityof sleep, which makes it hard for individuals
to reach the restorative levels of sleep whichcauses daytime sleepiness and fatigue, and over timeâ€”feelings of irritability, anxiety,and depression. This can lead to professional and personalproblems, as well as daytoday challenges like falling asleep while driving. Although insomnia can happen without an underlyingcause, it can also accompany and worsen other problems like pulmonary diseases, psychiatricconditions, and a whole variety of conditions that might cause pain. Insomnia is also a common side effect of stimulantslike caffeine, as well as depressants like
alcohol, which can both disrupt the regularsleep cycle. Finally, and probably most commonly, insomniacan be the result of daily stresses from work or relationships as well environmental factorssuch as having to work a night shift, or having a newborn baby. There are a number of biological factors associatedwith insomnia. Studies have shown that people with insomniamight have heightened levels of the stress hormone cortisol, which plays a role in theprocess of waking up every morning. People with insomnia are also more sensitiveto the effects of cortisol, typically waking
up at much lower levels of cortisol as comparedto the general population. In addition, insomnia is also associated withreduced levels of estrogen and reduced levels of progesterone, which can happen during menopause. Commonly, individuals with insomnia will selfmedicatewith alcohol and benzodiazepines, both of which can be extremely dangerous. Alcohol abuse can lead to a number of physicaland psychological changes that can rapidly worsen the sleepwake cycle and lead to dependence. Similarly, benzodiazepines, especially shortactingones, can also create dependence and have
a high abuse potential, which can actuallyworsen insomnia if someone tries to stop using them. One method of treatment is getting good sleephygiene, which includes going to sleep and waking up at the same time every day includingweekends, getting good exercise (but not right before bed), reducing alcohol intake, avoidingdaytime naps, avoiding caffeine and smoking in the evening, and not going to sleep hungry. Another potential treatment is stimulus controlwhich includes using the bed only to sleep rather than a place from which to watch television,text, or talk on the phone.
It also helps to keep the environment calmby removing bright lights like a computer or a phone screen, and minimizing noise. Sometimes, though, these are unavoidable inwhich case eye covers and earplugs can definitely help. It's also not helpful to try to force sleepto happen, which means that people that can't sleep after 20 minutes should simply leavethe bed and then return when they feel ready to sleep. These suggestions help the individual associatesleepâ€”and only sleepâ€”with the bedroom.