Insomnia

Insomnia is a sleep disorder characterized by the inability to fall asleep or stay asleep. It can drastically disrupt a person’s life, as well as affect one’s health both physically and mentally. The disorder can be caused by a variety of factors.

Causes of Insomnia

There are many potential causes of insomnia, which include physical, psychological, and environmental factors:

  • Physical – pain, sleep apnea, acid reflux, or being sick with the flu are some examples. Some individuals may also have nervous system disorder (abnormally active) which can make it difficult to fall or stay asleep.
  • Psychological – stress, anxiety, depression, and bipolar disorder.
  • Environmental – noise, temperature, or an overly bright sleeping environment.
  • Bad sleeping habits – activities which make it difficult to sleep such as eating hard-to-digest food, exercising, reading exciting books, or drinking caffeinated drinks before going to bed.
Insomnia can affect a person of any age, but usually affects people as they get older. Although insomnia doesn’t have serious health implications, it limits the efficiency of the brain and body which could potentially cause harm, for example, an accident when driving or operating machinery.

Insomnia can be categorized as follows:

  • Not getting enough sleep
  • Interrupted sleep
  • Taking too long to fall asleep
  • Light sleep, which comes with intense of dreams or nightmares
Insomnia can have an effect on a person’s mood and ability to concentrate or work efficiently; and if indeed a patient does notice that their insomnia is affecting their mood or concentration, consulting a doctor is advised.
 
During the consultation, the doctor will review the patient’s medical history and sleep habits, as well as ask the patient about any problems which may be causing them anxiety. The doctor may also carry out a physical examination to determine if there may be any physical factors responsible for the insomnia.
The course of treatment depends on the specific symptoms of the individual patient. If the insomnia is a result of poor sleep habits, the doctor will advise on more appropriate sleep practices. However, should the insomnia arise from a psychological or physiological issue, the doctor may prescribe medication.

Practicing healthy sleep habits will help with insomnia:

  • Go to bed and wake up at the same time every day — even on your days off
  • If you haven’t fallen asleep within 20–30 minutes, do something relaxing such as listening to music
  • Do things that relax you before bed and try to avoid thinking of anything stressful; doing something stimulating such as playing games or watching TV will keep you awake
  • Avoid taking naps during the day. If you do feel like taking a nap during the day, make sure it’s for less than an hour and never after 3 pm
  • Exercise regularly, but not before going to bed
  • Organize and prepare your bedroom in a way to help you sleep, such as ensuring it is quiet, dark enough, of a comfortable temperature
  • Do not drink caffeinated drinks such as coffee or tea after lunch
  • Practicing mindfulness exercises such as meditation or yoga can also be beneficial

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