April Is Insomnia Awareness Month

DSC_0001Insomnia is the most common sleep complaint among Americans. Polls taken by the National Center for Sleep Disorders Research at the National Institutes of Health revealed that about 30-40% of adults experience periodic symptoms of insomnia, and about 10-15% of adults report experiencing chronic insomnia.

Polls taken by the National Sleep Foundation in 2005 found the following statistics relating to symptoms of insomnia:

  • 38% report waking in the morning without feeling restored or refreshed.
  • 32% have experienced wakefulness during the night.
  • 21% have had difficulty falling asleep and awoke too early in the morning.

What Is Insomnia?

Insomnia is used to describe the inability for an individual to get the necessary amount of sleep to feel refreshed and well rested.  Insomnia may be an acute or persistent disorder that can make it difficult to fall asleep, stay asleep or both.

Types of Insomnia and Possible Causes

Insomnia may be diagnosed as a primary or secondary condition.  Secondary insomnia is the most common, presenting symptoms of sleeplessness as a side effect of certain medications or some other underlying problem. Secondary insomnia may be caused by a variety of factors including:

  • Excessive stress, anxiety, worry or other emotional disturbance
  • Anticipation of life events
  • Chronic pain, such as arthritis
  • Digestive problems
  • Other sleep disorders, such as sleep apnea or restless leg syndrome
  • Metabolic disorders
  • Hormonal imbalances

Primary insomnia is much more rare and is not identifiably caused by any other medical, psychological, or environmental factor.  The International Classification of Sleep Disorders  identifies three types of primary insomnia:

  1. Psychophysiological insomnia – a learned or behavioral condition, often associated with worried thoughts about not being able to fall asleep.
  2. Idiopathic insomnia – lifelong sleeplessness linked to abnormal neurologic control.
  3. Paradoxical insomnia – also called “sleep state misperception,” is characterized by complaints of severe insomnia without any objective physical evidence of sleep disturbance.

Effects of Insomnia

Because sleep is an essential physical need, insomnia can very negatively impact one’s body and mind.  The effects of insomnia on physical health can include:

  • Weight gain and obesity
  • Impaired motor skills and reduced task performance
  • Increased risk of accidents
  • Increased chances of developing heart disease
  • Stunted height and growth
  • Weakened immune system

Insomnia also effects mood and mental clarity.  Inadequate sleep can cause irritability, fatigue, poor memory and reduced concentration.  Insomnia can also intensify symptoms of depression.

Treatment of Insomnia

Insomnia is often linked to behavioral or environmental factors; these recommendations can significantly improve insomnia symptoms.

  • Alter habits that can disrupt sleep including caffeine intake or exercising late in the day.
  • Evaluate your sleep schedule and try to synchronize your bedtime with your biological clock.
  • Learn to neutralize anxiety about sleeplessness with Cognitive Therapy
  • Try relaxation techniques such as meditation, yoga, or guided imagery
  • Practice good sleep hygiene by creating an environment that promotes restfulness

If insomnia persists, consult your physician about other treatment options.  A sleep test may reveal an underlying condition that could be causing your symptoms.

For more information about insomnia or to schedule a sleep test, please contact us today.