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Insomnia: Causes and Treatment

Introduction

Insomnia refers to a sleeping disorder where someone struggles to fall and stay asleep or both. It is a challenge that affects millions of people across the world. Studies have shown that people with this disorder often complain of fatigue because they do not feel refreshed from sleeping. This phenomenon is necessitated by the fact that an insomniac may consistently wake up too early or sleep very late, thus not having adequate rest. The American Psychiatric Association (APA), argues that a third of all adults exhibit symptoms of insomnia at some point in life (Montgomery-Downs, 2020). According to the Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), depending on one’s age, an adult requires a minimum of 7-9 hours of sleep every day (Sateia and Buysse, 2016). Research has shown that nearly 25% of Americans experience insomnia every year, although most of the people do not experience any long-term challenges (Montgomery-Downs, 2020). Short-term effects of insomnia may include daytime sleepiness, mood swings, irritability, and difficulty in concentrating, while on the long-term it can increase someone’s vulnerability to various lifestyle conditions such as diabetes and obesity.

Discussion

Insomnia is a disorder that can affect anyone at any point in life. Its triggers involve an array of both environmental factors and lifestyle-related elements. Doctors advise that whenever someone starts to experience difficulties sleeping and notices significant changes in daily life activities, seeking medical attention should be highly prioritized. Research has shown that it is very prevalent among pregnant women, especially during the first and third trimesters (Sateia and Buysse, 2016). This observable fact is necessitated by the bodily changes such as nausea, hormonal imbalances, and a heightened urge for urination. Other elements that often keep pregnant women awake for long include cramps discomfort caused by back pains, as well as the anxiety that comes with the inevitable responsibilities of parenthood (King, 2016).

Insomnia is a sleeping disorder that affects millions of people across the world, regardless of one’s age, gender, ethnicity, religion, level of education, as well as social or economic status. This health condition can be managed through making lifestyle changes such as maintaining a healthy diet, staying well hydrated, and keeping a consistent sleeping schedule. Diagnosis of insomnia involves an assessment of one’s medical conditions, social environment, sleep history, as well as psychological or emotional condition (Solomon, 2019). In order to achieve an accurate diagnosis, a doctor may ask a patient to keep a sleep log, which helps in understanding the sleeping pattern. An insomnia diagnosis is made once a doctor notices a considerable degree of inconsistency in the time when one sleeps and wakes up.

Causes of Insomnia

Insomnia is categorized into two, acute or short-term and chronic or long-term depending on the period it lasts. Acute insomnia normally lasts for a few weeks while chronic involves sleeping difficulties experienced at least three nights in a week for a period of three or more months. According to psychologists, insomnia can be caused by an array of factors, both physical and psychological (King, 2016). In most cases, the causative factor could be a temporary challenge, while in some extreme situations the trigger can be an underlying medical condition.

Some of the causes of acute insomnia include stress, change in sleeping patterns, jet lag, and physical pain. Stressful life events such as job loss or change, divorce, death of a loved one, or moving house can cause one to have difficulties falling or staying asleep (King, 2016). Change in sleeping patterns caused by factors such as a new shift at work, newly acquired habits, as well as sleeping in a hotel or a new home can also cause insomnia. Chronic insomnia can be either primary or secondary depending on the factors that act as triggers. While primary insomnia does not have a particular known cause, the secondary one occurs when an underlying condition that acts as a trigger (Montgomery-Downs, 2020). Some of these conditions include depression, substance use, bipolar disorder, schizophrenia, and diabetes. Research has established that in some cases, symptoms of other health issues can also lead to sleeping difficulties (Solomon, 2019). For example, menopause leads one to experiencing night sweats that easily interrupt sleep.

Symptoms of Insomnia and its Treatment

Some of the notable symptoms exhibited by people suffering from this disorder include trouble falling asleep, inability to stay asleep for long, and waking up too early. During the day insomniacs experience difficulties concentrating on tasks, mood changes, grumpiness, and fatigue (King, 2016). In most cases, insomnia is self-diagnosed, where someone starts experiencing changes in their sleeping behavior and the associated effects. In treating insomnia, both pharmaceutical and non-pharmaceutical options apply. According to the American College of Physicians (ACP), adults with chronic insomnia are recommended to try the Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT) as the first treatment option.

Another strategy used in treating insomnia in an effective manner is sleep hygiene therapy. This involves training an insomniac on ways of changing disruptive behaviors that trigger the disorder. Some of the changes suggested during the training include avoiding caffeinated beverages before going to bed, avoiding physical exercise before bedtime, as well as minimizing the time spent in bed that does not involve sleeping. Research has shown that people who spend a substantial amount of time in bed doing activities such as watching television and surfing the internet tend to experience insomnia (Sateia and Buysse, 2016). However, doctors recommend their patients to find things that aid them in sleeping such as reading or listening to soothing music as long as there is no light involved. In order to manage insomnia effectively, lifestyle changes coupled with home remedies are options worth considering.

Some of the natural sleep enhancers that someone can use at home include drinking warm milk and herbal tea. One should avoid going to bed hungry, and it is advisable that eating should take place at least two hours before sleeping (Media, 2020). It is also important to wind down an hour before going to bed by taking a bath, which helps one to freshen and relax various body muscles.

Counseling is also another effective strategy used in treating insomnia. However, studies have shown that the best treatment approach is highly dependent on the underlying triggers and the type of insomnia being treated (Media, 2020). Counseling is very effective when treating an insomniac suffering from health conditions such as depression. The ability to help someone change his or her thought patterns from being negative to develop a positive outlook improves one’s sleeping behavior (Montgomery-Downs, 2020). This mainly involves meditation, which is one of the natural methods applied in treating this disorder. It helps in dealing with symptoms of underlying health problems such as stress, anxiety, and depression (Sateia and Buysse, 2016). Prescription medications such as sleep aids are also used in treating insomnia.

Complications of Insomnia

Lack of enough sleep can affect one’s health to an extent of increasing the risk of suffering certain conditions. Chronic insomnia has negative effects on the physical, mental, and emotional health of a patient, thus affecting one’s overall wellness. Studies have shown that cases of chronic insomnia that go untreated for long, often predisposes a patient to a higher risk of health complications such as depression and hypertension (Upson, 2018). Insomniacs are highly vulnerable to health conditions such as obesity, stroke, seizures, diabetes, high blood pressure, and asthma attacks among others (Solomon, 2019). Insomniacs experience weight gain because lack of adequate sleep alters metabolism. The same effect is noticeable with the nervous system, which fails to function properly when someone has irregular sleeping patterns. Insomnia has also been found to increase the rate of accidents on the roads because lack of enough sleep affects the ability of a driver to concentrate (King, 2016). Insomnia can also lead to low sex drive, mainly because the body is always fatigued.

The ability of the body to build a strong immunity to fight any forms of attack is highly affected when someone develops insomnia. Recent studies have shown that insomnia also predisposes one to the risk of suffering cancer, owing to the fact that lack of adequate sleep lowers the number of killer cells that provide immunity against the disease in the body (Upson, 2018). When someone fails to get enough sleep hours over a prolonged period, the body struggles to perform crucial functions such as detoxification, digestion, regulation of blood sugar, and repairing damaged tissues. In addition, studies have also established that the ability of the body to fight viruses such as the common cold often decreases by a considerable degree whenever someone does not get adequate sleep (Media, 2020). Physical exercise and keeping a strict sleeping pattern helps to improve the ability of someone to fall asleep with ease, thus improving the body’s immunity towards any form of attacks.

Conclusion

Many people have reported instances where they have struggled to either fall or stay asleep. Insomniacs complain of consistently waking up too early than expected. There are two types of insomnia, namely acute and chronic. Some of the common causes of insomnia include sleeping in an uncomfortable environment, stress, lack of adequate physical exercise, substance abuse, and underlying health conditions among others. People dealing with health challenges such as depression, bipolar disorder, and schizophrenia are highly vulnerable to suffering insomnia at some point in life. Some of the notable symptoms of this disorder include sleepiness, anxiety, low energy levels, poor concentration, and tension headaches among others. Treatment options for insomnia include counseling, cognitive behavioral therapy, prescription medications, as well as lifestyle changes such as getting adequate physical exercise and eating at least two hours before going to bed. Doctors advise people not to sleep hungry, and ensure that one sticks to a healthy and varied diet for the sake of boosting the body’s immunity. Some of the complications that one can develop from suffering insomnia include depression, obesity, and inability to concentrate for a prolonged period.

References

King, S. (2016). Insomnia. Simon and Schuster.

Media, M. (2020). The power of natural remedies: Home remedies for weight loss, insomnia, fatigue, cold, flu, digestion, oral health, arthritis, throat infection, headaches, diarrhea, anxiety. Independently Published.

Montgomery-Downs, H. (2020). Sleep science. Oxford University Press.

Sateia, M.J., and Buysse, D. (2016). Insomnia: Diagnosis and treatment. CRC Press.

Solomon, P. (2019). Extensive guide to the perfect CBD oil for insomnia: Therapeutic effect of CBD oil on sleep disorder and understanding the health benefits of medical cannabis. Amazon digital services LLC-KDP Print US.

Upson, H.S. (2018). Insomnia and nerve strain. Creative Media Partners, LLC.

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StudyKraken. (2022, August 22). Insomnia: Causes and Treatment. Retrieved from https://studykraken.com/insomnia-causes-and-treatment/

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StudyKraken. 2022. "Insomnia: Causes and Treatment." August 22, 2022. https://studykraken.com/insomnia-causes-and-treatment/.

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