What Is Insomnia?
Insomnia is a sleep disorder characterized by difficulty sleeping or falling asleep. About one-third of all adults will experience insomnia at some point in their life, while about 15 percent experience chronic insomnia over a longer period of time, according to the Mayo Clinic.
Insomnia can affect everything from work performance to overall quality of life, which is why it's essential to maintain proper sleep patterns and rituals so your body can get the rest it needs. The golden standard for the right amount of sleep is between seven to eight hours, while some people may be able to function better with less sleep. Young people and teenagers generally need more because of their changing and growing bodies.
A person with insomnia often wakes feeling unrefreshed and then has difficulty functioning throughout the day. Symptoms of insomnia include:
- waking several times during the middle of the night
- lying awake and unable to fall asleep at night
- trouble getting out of bed in the morning
- fatigue during the day
Women are more likely to suffer from insomnia than men, and rates of insomnia are particularly high among the elderly. Many things can contribute to insomnia, including:
- chronic pain
- personal loss
- other health problems
Management and Treatment
There are several lifestyle adjustments that will increase the liklihood of getting a good night's rest:
- going to bed and waking at the same time every day (if possible)
- avoiding caffeine and alcohol during the evening
- avoiding heavy meals and strenuous activity right before bed
- incorporating calming and relaxing activities into your bedtime ritual
- building a "sleep sanctuary" that is dark, quiet, and void of things non-sleep related: TVs, computers, work, etc
More severe cases of insomnia require medication or therapy, such as light therapy, melatonin, cognitive therapy, or stimulus control. There are several medications that can help initiate and maintain sleep in people who suffer from insomnia. Some popular trade names for these medications include Lunesta, Sonata, and Ambien. While these medications may be effective, they may lead to tolerance and long-term reliance. Be sure to talk with your doctor whether such medication may be appropriate in your case, and, if so, how to safely use sleep aid drugs.