|Insomnia – Sleep Disorder or Symptom of Another Problem?|
Published: Friday, 28 July 2006 04:37
Courtesy of Daniel Levy
Insomnia, which is Latin for “no sleep,” is the inability to fall asleep or remain asleep. Insomnia is also used to describe the condition of waking up not feeling restored or refreshed. Insomnia refers to an inability to get the amount of sleep you need to wake up feeling rested, according to Dr. Mark Mahowald, a professor of neurology at the University of Minnesota Medical School and director of the Minnesota Regional Sleep Disorders Center at Hennepin County Medical Center.
Insomnia is the most common sleep complaint among Americans. It can be either acute, lasting one to several nights, or chronic, even lasting months to years. When insomnia persists for longer than a month, it is considered chronic. According to the National Center for Sleep Disorders Research at the National Institutes of Health, about 30 to 40 percent of adults say they have some symptoms of insomnia within a given year, and about 10 to 15 percent of adults say they have chronic insomnia. Sleep specialist Dr. William Dement, director of the Sleep Disorders Clinic and Laboratory at the Stanford University School of Medicine, explains that people who have trouble sleeping every night without exception for months or years are fairly rare. More often, people experience chronic-intermittent insomnia, which means difficulty sleeping for a few nights, followed by a few nights of adequate sleep before the problem returns.
Insomnia can be a disorder in its own right, but often it is a symptom of some other disease or condition. Half of all those who have experienced insomnia blame the problem on stress and anxiety. In the case of stress-induced insomnia, the degree to which sleep is disturbed depends on the severity and duration of the stressful situation. Sometimes this may be a disturbing occurrence like the loss of a loved one, loss of a job, marital or relationship discord or a tragic occurrence. Anticipation of such things as weddings, vacations or holidays can also disturb sleep and make it difficult to fall asleep or remain asleep. Insomnia can also occur with jet lag, shift work and other major schedule changes.
If you have difficulty sleeping, it is essential to determine whether an underlying disease or condition is causing the problem. Sometimes insomnia is caused by pain, digestive problems or a sleep disorder. Insomnia may also signal depression or anxiety. Often times, insomnia exacerbates the underlying condition by leaving the patient fatigued and less able to cope and think clearly. For insomnia related to a medical condition or pain, ask your doctor about nighttime pain aids.
If your sleep trouble is confined to difficulty falling asleep, the time you are choosing to go to sleep may not be synchronized with your biological clock. The biological processes that initiate and maintain sleep in humans are active throughout the night. Opposing this sleep tendency, however, is the alerting action of the biological clock that is active throughout the day. When the biological clock is active at your scheduled bedtime, you will have sleep-onset insomnia.
The prevalence of insomnia is higher among older people and women. Women suffer loss of sleep in connection with menstruation, pregnancy and menopause. Rates of insomnia increase as a function of age but most often the sleep disturbance is attributable to some other medical condition.
Some medications can lead to insomnia, including those taken for: colds and allergies, high blood pressure, heart disease, thyroid disease, birth control, asthma, pain medications, depression (especially SSRI antidepressants).
Some common sleep disorders, such as restless legs syndrome and sleep apnea, can also lead to insomnia. Sleep is as essential as diet and exercise. Inadequate sleep can result in fatigue, depression, concentration problems, illness and injury.
SomniHealth works with the National Sleep Foundation (NSF) as a Community Sleep Awareness Partner® to help increase awareness about the importance of sleep and the treatment of sleep disorders. For more information, contact Daniel Levy at 864-4800 or www.somnihealth.com. This article is adapted from NSF’s Web site at www.sleepfoundation.org.