A Guide to Insomnia

Inability to get good quality or adequate amount of sleep is referred to as insomnia. Difficulty in initiating or maintaining the sleep is defined as insomnia, and this can lead to impaired daytime functioning. Insomnia is a common condition affecting 30-50% of adults, and more than 10% of general population suffers from chronic insomnia. If the symptoms last less than a week, it is classified as transient insomnia, if symptoms last between 2-3 weeks, it is termed as short term insomnia and if the symptoms last for more than three weeks, it is classified as chronic insomnia.

Chronic or long term insomnia lasts for more than three weeks, increasing the chances of injuries at home or workplace due to decreased concentration and daytime sleepiness. Chronic insomnia can also cause conditions like anxiety and depression. Sleep hygiene is very important in insomnia, and poor sleep hygiene such as exercising or eating prior to sleep, using bedroom for things other than sleeping, doing work in bed, sleeping in the room with too much light or sound and going to bed hungry can cause insomnia. Some of the psychiatric and medical conditions contributing to insomnia include congestive heart failure, acid reflux, obesity, breathing problems, chronic pain, obstructive sleep apnea, fibromyalgia, hyperthyroidism, parkinson’s disease, dementia, mania, psychosis, depression, anxiety, and so on.

Some of the common symptoms of insomnia are impaired daytime functioning, daytime sleepiness, fatigue, mood swings, headaches, anxiety, poor attention, poor social function, and increased mistakes and errors. There are several specialized doctors who can evaluate and treat any kind of sleep disorder, including insomnia. Physician performs general physical examination including neurological function, measurement of waist size and neck circumference and assessment of mental status. Insomnia treatment largely depends on the cause, and in case of obvious situational factor, removing or correcting the cause usually cures the condition.

If insomnia lasts more than 3-4 weeks, the person needs medical attention. The diagnosis is mainly based on the reported signs and symptoms of the patient, and physician also reviews the health history of the patient or suggests some tests to find out if there is any medical condition causing insomnia. It is a good idea for the patient to maintain daily record of sleep pattern, use of alcohol, food intake, exercise, nicotine, medication or any other information for almost two weeks. Most doctors are able to recognize and treat insomnia, but if the patient of chronic insomnia does not respond to any treatment, more extensive testing is done by the sleep specialist.

Usually patients will have the choice of more than one medication and option. Usually, the treatment of insomnia combines non-pharmacologic and pharmacologic aspects. Some of the simple methods to get good sleep are to take the warm bath, get a massage, drink warm milk, listen to music, or drink herb tea. To prevent insomnia, balance recreation and rest, get regular physical examinations, walk, avoid caffeinated drinks, maintain comfortable room temperature, eliminate light, reduce noise and avoid watching television before bed time.