Insomnia is a very common sleep disorder, that affects millions of people globally. According to the National Sleep Foundation, approximately 50% of adults had some features of insomnia at one point of life. This type of disorder distinguish itself with difficulties in falling or staying asleep. It can last from few days (transient type) to several weeks (chronic condition). It may lead to several dangerous consequences, such as depression, irritability, memory loss and even cardiovascular diseases. This type of sleep disorder can be triggered on different ways and the most common ones include restless legs syndrome (RLS), use of certain drugs or medications, hormone levels abnormalities (potentially due to endocrine disorders) and painful conditions or injuries.
Human organism needs from 6 to 8 hours of sleep in order to rest and regenerate, assuming that sleep was high quality. According to the 3 major criteria provided by DSM-5, insomnia is a state, during which one cannot either fall asleep, maintain a sleep (due to frequent awakening) or stay asleep early in the morning. As a result, organism do not receive proper quality and quantity of sleep, which further may result in dangerous consequences, especially if insomnia is prolonged. What is interesting, some studies show higher prevalence of insomnia among females.
There are three major types of this sleep disorder:
- Transient insomnia ? this type lasts for a few days, but no more than one week. It can be caused by e.g. stress, change of sleeping environment or habits and depression.
- Acute insomnia ? also known as stress related or short term insomnia, which is present for at least one week, but no longer than one month.
- Chronic insomnia ? the most dangerous one, which lasts for longer than one month. Most of those incidents are caused by underlying condition, rather than psychological or environmental factors. It might lead to double vision (diplopia), fatigue, muscle weakness and even hallucinations.
Causes of insomnia
This type of condition can be triggered by many various factors or conditions, however, almost 50% of the cases do not have one particular cause. Nevertheless, most common ones include changes in everyday habits or sleep environment, stress and inadequate use of certain drugs or medications. Although insomnia can affect people regardless of age and sex, there are few factors that increase the risk. The disease is more prevalent in elderly above 60 years of age and among women. Mental disorders, work at night shifts, drugs abuse and travelling (especially between time zones) may trigger this condition as well.
Insomnia may appear as a consequence of:
- Circadian rhythm change ? for instance different sleep environment, work at night shifts, excessive computer or office work, noise and too high or low air temperature.
- Use of certain medications or drugs ? such as caffeine, alcohol, methylphenidate, corticosteroids, beta blockers and statins.
- Painful conditions or injuries ? which results in inability to fall asleep, lie in comfortable position or to sustain the sleep.
- Medical conditions ? they include e.g. restless legs syndrome, brain tumors, angina, asthma and certain endocrine disorders.
- Mental disorders ? such as bipolar disorder, generalized anxiety disorder, schizophrenia and ADHD.
In some cases, medical intervention is not required. Home remedies can be very helpful and include lifestyle adjustments, such as regular exercises, caffeine and alcohol restrictions, maintaining proper sleep schedule and avoiding television or working before bedtime. Regular skin exposure to sunlight might also be profitable, since it helps to produce melatonin, a substance which greatly improve sleeping.