Getting enough sleep everyday is an important aspect of healthy living. Sleep is quite essential for physical and mental restoration, and is a cycle with two states: rapid eye movement stage and non rapid eye movement stage.
Insomnia is a common condition affecting 30-50% of adults, and more than 10% of general population suffers from chronic insomnia. Transient or short-term insomnia is most common, and normally lasts for few days only.
Insomnia can affect the people of all age groups, and among adults, it is more common among women. There are many causes associated with insomnia, and some of the most common causes include illicit drug use, jet lag, cigarette smoking, certain medications, alcohol intoxication, caffeine, working different shift, stressful life situations or physical discomfort such as death of a loved one, loss of job, divorce, examination and so on.
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.
Steroids, asthma drugs and anti-depressants can also cause insomnia, and sleeplessness can be caused by appetite suppressants and nasal decongestants. A person suffering from insomnia does not feel refreshed in the morning, there is difficulty in falling asleep, or the person wakes up in the early hours and is unable to go back to sleep.
Physician performs general physical examination including neurological function, measurement of waist size and neck circumference and assessment of mental status. Unlike few medical conditions, insomnia can be easily recognized because people know when they are not able to get enough sleep.
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.
For most types of insomnia, the person will not be admitted in the hospital, but as it causes poor attention and coordination, accidents may happen. 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. Insomnia is not a stand alone disease, but maybe an indication of another underlying health problem. Other treatments include changes in behavior, body and mind relaxation, hydrotherapy, aromatherapy, herbal teas, dream pillows, light therapy, traditional Chinese medicine and so on.
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.