Woman in her bed with insomnia

If you have been suffering from a lack of sleep lately, you are not alone. According to research, over 60 million Americans currently suffer from insomnia.  Having a good night’s sleep is not only essential for your mental well being, but it is also crucial for your overall health.

We all know what it feels like to have one night of bad sleep, so imagine this problem extending for weeks, months, or even years! The causes of insomnia vary from situational reasons to hormonal and other physiological changes in the body. The problem is, you cannot properly treat insomnia without knowing what the root cause is. 

Thankfully, we’ve created this guide to teach you everything you need to know about insomnia. We will walk you through the causes, symptoms, treatments, tips, and more. Keep on reading to learn how you can solve your sleeping disorder problems once and for all, and start living your life with energy again! 

What is Insomnia?

Insomnia is characterized as both difficulty falling asleep or staying asleep. Insomnia is not something that affects you for the short term, rather it is a sleeping disorder that can last for months or even years. 

People who suffer from insomnia have trouble falling asleep, which takes them hours to eventually get only a couple of short hours of sleep. Other people can easily fall asleep, yet they wake up in the middle of the night, struggling to fall back asleep again. 

The severity of insomnia can vary from very little sleep to only 30 minutes less of sleep than someone who does not struggle with the sleeping disorder. Some people who suffer from insomnia can get a decent amount of sleep, however, they suffer from anxiety about sleeping and have poor sleep efficiency (time in bed compared to the total amount of sleep).

There are two main types of insomnia:

  1. Primary insomnia, illustrated by no underlying medical causes, it is a condition in itself.
  2. Secondary insomnia, caused by a more serious health condition including pain, alcohol abuse, cancer, stress, depression, asthma, sleep apnea, and more. 

Within those two types, there are three classifications of insomnia:

  1. Initial insomnia (difficulty falling asleep)
  2. Middle insomnia (difficulty staying asleep)
  3. Terminal insomnia (waking up early)

Each classification and type of insomnia can have the same effects and symptoms on the body. It is important to understand the difference first to know the best route of treatment. 

Insomnia Symptoms

There are many different symptoms of primary insomnia, and there is no one-size-fits-all symptom to diagnose it effectively. The different symptoms of insomnia are:

  • Depression or anxiety
  • Irritability and change of mood
  • Easily frustrated, shorter patience 
  • Increased accidents or errors at work
  • Sleepiness or tiredness at work during the day
  • Waking up too early
  • Fatigue
  • Waking up in the middle of the night and trouble getting back to sleep
  • Difficulty falling asleep
  • Waking up multiple times per night
  • Anxious thoughts about sleeping at night
  • Happens three times per week, for at least three months
  • Inability to relate it to another condition, such as sleep apnea, hyperthyroidism, etc. 

Some of these symptoms may not seem too severe, however, as insomnia gets worse, you could increase your chances of something disastrous happening. According to research, approximately 72,000 motor vehicle accidents happen per year due to drowsiness. 

If you feel that you suffer from one or more of these symptoms, contact your doctor for an appointment immediately. 

What Are the Causes of Secondary Insomnia? 

Man frustrated awake CPAP in BedSecondary insomnia is a bit different than primary insomnia, as it is caused by other causes, while primary insomnia is a condition in itself. The causes of secondary insomnia vary a lot, from small situational changes to major health concerns. 

Some of the causes of secondary insomnia are:

  • Substance abuse, such as drugs, alcohol, tobacco, medications
  • Stress that is related to life events, such as financial worries, job situations, uncertainty, relationships, and family struggles
  • Depression, both chemically and situationally
  • Anxiety- unfortunately, anxiety causes secondary insomnia, then worrying about insomnia causes more anxiety. 
  • Cancer
  • Sleep apnea
  • Asthma
  • Uncomfortable mattress
  • Caffeine, sugar, or other diet-related causes
  • Chronic pain such as arthritis, fibromyalgia, injuries, trauma, etc.
  • Noise while sleeping
  • Excessive light while sleeping
  • Changes to sleep patterns, such as a different job schedule from day to night shifts 
  • Medications for colds, allergies, blood pressure, depression, asthma, etc. 
  • Hormonal disorders such as hyperthyroidism or hypothyroidism
  • Restless leg syndrome

As you can see, there are numerous possible causes for insomnia. The best way to discover what is causing your sleeping issues is to take a close look at your lifestyle and see where there is room for improvement or any possible underlying health concerns.

How is Insomnia Treated and Diagnosed?

If you are suffering from insomnia, it is best to see a doctor as soon as possible to have an examination and discover the best route of treatment for you. 

Insomnia Diagnosis

The first thing your doctor will do is a full physical examination, and ask you questions such as your sleep history, medical history, and other possible symptoms of related causes. If you feel that you are suffering from any mental health conditions such as anxiety or depression, this would be the perfect time to talk about that. 

From this moment on, you will need to have a sleeping diary for the next couple of weeks to record anything sleep-related. If you have a partner who shares your bed, this is a great time to include them in your observations.

Record everything including:

  • The time you fall asleep
  • Each time you wake up
  • What you ate before bed and the time you consumed it
  • How you feel during the day
  • How much caffeine you are consuming, and when
  • Any notes from your partner, including movement in bed, snoring, etc.

The more detailed you are, the better of a chance your doctor will have with helping you to become insomnia-free. 

Insomnia Treatments

Treatment for insomnia can be quite difficult to determine, as there are so many possible causes for it in the first place. If the insomnia is acute, due to life or situational changes and stress, then you must deal with the stressful situation to cure insomnia. The same goes for insomnia that is caused by substance abuse, you must remove the poison to sleep properly again.

If the insomnia is ongoing and your doctor is unable to dictate the cause, then there are a few possible routes to take for treatments.

Medications

Man looking at his medicineYour doctor can prescribe you sleeping medications that will help you to sleep better for a short time. That being said, stay away from the over-the-counter sleeping medications, as they have many negative side-effects.

You do not want to live your life relying on sleeping medications for the rest of your life, however, they can help you in certain times of need. Sleeping medications may help you sleep better, yet they do not allow for the full rejuvenation (deep REM sleep) as natural sleep will provide. 

Some side effects of sleeping medications are; hallucinations, sleep-walking, memory-loss, odd behavior, and rebound effects where insomnia will become more severe. 

Changing Sleeping Environment

Sometimes all you need to do to reduce your symptoms of insomnia is to change up the environment that you are sleeping in. If you have bright lights peering into your room at night, or have the sounds of traffic in the background, it can be hard to fall asleep.

Try investing in black-out blinds, or covering up the light sources that peer into your room. You can also get a pair of comfortable earbuds that will help you remove the background noise while you are sleeping. 

Another simple cure is to change your mattress. Many people have sleeping problems because they are using the wrong mattress to sleep on. The best action you can take in this situation is to do a mattress match and find the perfect mattress for you to sleep comfortably on. 

Complications of Insomnia

Unfortunately, insomnia does not stop at a poor night’s sleep. Multiple complications can develop over time as your body struggles to get enough rest. 

Some of the complications of insomnia are:

  • Grumpiness
  • Shorter attention span
  • Less patience
  • More chances of falling
  • Increased chances of accidents, both at work and motor vehicle
  • Anxiety
  • Extreme fatigue
  • Lowered immune system
  • Obesity
  • High blood pressure
  • Depression
  • Delayed reaction time

These are just a few of the complications or secondary symptoms of anxiety. The sooner you seek medical help, the fewer chances you have of developing any issues due to poor sleep.

Learn More About Insomnia

Insomnia is something that you never want to experience. However, since it happens to so many people, it is important to stay informed and know how to identify it and treat it.

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