Insomnia: Symptoms, Causes, Diagnosis & Treatments

Shakespeare had penned classics, and still a celebrated author because he portrayed the human minds. Greed, anger and what not? All emotions are seen with the complications. One perfect example is the play Macbeth, where Lady Macbeth suffers from insomnia, due to her greedy actions. The mind is the master of all activities. The human mind needs some relaxation, and this is not going to happen only with hobbies or activities of interest. Sleep is the only way to ensure the body and mind both are rejuvenated. Lots of people claim that they do not get enough sleep, or they suffer from sleep disorders. While most of the time, it can be corrected with a few lifestyle modifications, insomnia does not fit into this category.

This is a condition, where one feels it is very difficult to fall asleep. Even after sleeping for a few hours, when they wake up they do not feel fresh or revitalized. While it can simply be thought of as a problem with sleep, a lot of complications might arise in the future. Insomnia can be categorized into acute, short-term and chronic insomnia.

Types of Insomnia:

Transit insomnia is where the condition of sleep deprivation can last up to 3 nights. When the symptoms persist for several weeks, this condition is called acute insomnia. When the same condition tends to last for months or years, then it is called chronic insomnia. The primary problem has to be treated to ensure that one can find solace from this condition.

What is Risk factors of Insomnia?

Various causes are responsible for insomnia. It is also essential to know about these risk factors. It is seen that insomnia can affect women more than men. Again, hope that this is why Lady Macbeth became insomniac rather than Macbeth. Here are the other risk factors apart from the gender.

  • Stress: High levels of stress can lead to insomnia. One cannot easily come out of high levels of stress, and this can lead to various hormonal imbalances.
  • Emotional disorders: Loss of loved ones, loss of job, distress, depression, separation or other traumatic incidences in life have a huge impact on the mind. They would not let one sleep peacefully.  Gradually, they can disturb sleep leading to insomnia.
  • Financial problems: One’s own finances can damage the emotions to the core. Lower income is not only going to lead to debt and poor money management but can also cause a deep impact on one’s mental health.
  • Travelling in different time zones: If one has to travel to different time zones, it is not going to be easy to fall asleep. Imagine, one keeps awake after getting into a flight that carries to Asian countries from Europe, again there is going to be the morning. It is not easy to come out of the time zone differences. The same impact at times can be felt by people who work for the organizations in the other time zone.
  • Medical conditions: Chronic pain or other medical conditions can lead one to suffer from insomnia. This can also be the effect of medications at times.
  • Sedentary lifestyle: Desk job or lack of physical activities can lead to obesity, diabetes and various disorders. Often insomnia is not given the same significance.

Causes of Insomnia:

The causes of insomnia are multiple. The causes can be different or intense for chronic insomnia compared with acute insomnia. The causes of acute insomnia include stress and any emotional upheaval. This can last for weeks. Various causes can be associated with insomnia. They can be physiological and psychological. Transit insomnia is caused by recent events or occurrence.

  • Disruptions in circadian rhythm: High altitudes, changes in the environment can lead to insomnia. However, getting used to these can help in coming out of this condition faster.
  • Psychological issues: Various psychological disorders that include anxiety disorders, psychotic disorders, and depression can lead to insomnia.
  • Medical conditions: Chronic fatigue syndrome, GERD, asthma, sleep apnea, heart failure, angina, hyperthyroidism, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, Alzheimer’s disease, Parkinson, stroke, tumours, and diabetes that is not controlled can lead to various medical conditions.
  • Hormones: Shift in the hormonal levels can lead to insomnia. Especially, in women who are in the menopause stage, where the estrogen levels dip, insomnia is experienced. This is one of the reasons, why more women suffer from this condition compared with men.
  • Pregnancy: Pregnant women too, find it difficult to sleep, especially in the third trimester. This is because the baby tends to move a lot at night, or the posture is not comfortable, and there is heartburn.
  • Various other factors: Parasites, genetic conditions, sleeping to next to the person who snores, and the mind that is too active can lead to insomnia

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Symptoms of Insomnia:

Insomnia in the majority of the cases is not a disease by itself. It can be caused by an underlying medical condition and hence can be called a symptom. However, there are several symptoms this condition causes.

  • Falling asleep or staying asleep is almost impossible
  • Waking often during the night happens and this sounds irksome
  • Getting up early is on the cards. However, this poses no good because one might end up getting early in spite of disturbed sleep throughout the night. And also this might not be intended.
  • Fatigue or tiredness persists even after sleeping. Usually, sleep refreshes the individual
  • Fatigue that is present all through the day. Also, one tends to feel very sleepy throughout the day
  • Depression, anxiety or overreacting
  • The concentration of focus can be lost. This happens because of lack of sleep. Sleep time is when the brain tends to refresh itself, and when there is lack of sleep, one might not end up doing bodily functions meant to be performed at night.
  • The lack of sleep can lead to errors in the workplace or even in the kitchen. Unfortunately, several accidents can be caused due to insomnia. If someone often meets with slips and accidents, insomnia can be found to be the reason.
  • The pain around the head, like a tight band pressing the forehead, can be experienced
  • One also feels irritable when socializing. The socializing skills are affected due to lack of sleep
  • Gastrointestinal troubles can be experienced. This is because proper digestion needs perfect metabolism which is affected due to insomnia.
  • One also experiences lots of worries related to nothing but sleeping when affecting ted by insomnia.

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How Insomnia is diagnosed?

A specialist will ask about the sleep patterns and get to know about what are the difficulties faced. The doctor also would be inquiring to know all about the symptoms. The doctor then would ask to go for a urine culture test and a blood test. This is because most of the times, medical conditions that are underlying are causes of insomnia. Getting to know them is the key to treat this condition. Psychiatric disorders too are looked for.  But, this cannot be done with tests in the laboratory. The doctor would speak and analyze the conditions and throw various conditions to find about them. This is done with high intensity if the problem is seen persisting for more than several months. In such a stage, the condition can be causing lots of disturbance and distress.

The doctor also asks to maintain a diary about the sleep patterns. This would help the doctor to know about the condition’s intensity. There are lots of devices that help in recording the sleep patterns. They can be used. A polysomnography test is one that records the sleeping pattern and is often used in chronic insomnia. Also, an actigraphy is conducted. This is a device that can be worn in the wrist, similar to a watch, and this records the sleep-wake patterns.

If there is the usage of drugs or alcohol is involved, rehab treatment is suggested by the doctors.  Even smoking can lead to lack of sleep. In such cases, it is the willpower of the individual that is needed to quit the habits.

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Treatment of Insomnia:

Treatments for insomnia can be divided into pharmaceutical and non-pharmaceutical treatments. The key is to try a cluster of them. This is because medications play only a small role in treating insomnia.  Changes in lifestyle to play a huge role.

Doctors recommend sleep hygiene to deal with this condition. Insomnia can lead to disruptive behaviours, and there are a few things that are advised to stay off from disturbed sleep.

  • Caffeine, alcohol, beverages that are aerated should be avoided after the noon. This is because they tend to cause a disturbance in various functions of the body, sleep and digestion included.
  • Exercise increases the flow of blood to all parts of the body and improves the thinking pattern. When exercising strenuously in the evenings,  this can cause hindrance in the sleep pattern.
  • Mobile phone and laptop should be kept off during the nights. Also, one should not use them too much, as they are capable of causing sleep disturbances. Most of the times, the people who are affected by insomnia start with addicting to the gadgets.
  • Bedroom and bed should be used only for sleeping. This means that one should not use these for eating, reading and other purposes. A mood to sleep has to be created, and this cannot happen when one frequents the bedroom for various reasons. A bedroom should remind of peaceful sleep.
  • Sleep difficulties are aggravated when there are medical conditions affecting the patient. For instance, one who faces trouble in sleeping due to travelling in different time zone, when affected by GERD will have trouble in sleeping

To treat insomnia, medications that are available over the counter are used. Drugs, medicines and supplements to are used. But one should rely on the sleep aid drugs available, as not every pill will work for everyone. Behavioural treatments are also prescribed. There are multiple therapies that can help in treating the condition efficiently along with the medications. The medicines used can be:

  • Antidepressants, especially when the affected are suffering from stress and depression
  • Sleeping pills to aid the affected to sleep comfortably. Most of the times, these pills can also help in soothing the mind
  • Sleep aids are available online too. There are lots of apps that help in following sleep hygiene
  • Antihistamines are prescribed to sooth any condition that can be the underlying cause of insomnia
  • Melatonin and ramelteon

A few things should be tried at home if one has to come out of this condition.

Concentrating on improving the sleep hygiene is essential. One should not force sleep for this. Stopping vigorous exercising, and limiting to moderate everyday exercises is a good habit to come out this condition. Eating at the right time every day, and finishing off dinner 2 hours before bed is also mandatory. But one should never go to bed with an empty stomach. Hunger can trigger waking up. Smoking and taking tea and coffee 3 hours before bed is recommended. Alcohol and smoking should be avoided if possible. Also, ensuring that the sleeping environment is comfortable can help in undisturbed sleep. Too soft or too hard beds should not be the choice. Avoid bright lights in the bedroom.

Meditation and muscle relaxation techniques should be tried. Try avoiding watching TV before going to bed. Reading, eating, and worrying about the bed too should be avoided. Wake up and sleep at the same time every day. Do not deprive the body of sleep. These steps when followed meticulously can help in coming out of insomnia faster.

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Prevention of Insomnia:

It is essential to track the sleeping pattern, even when the sleep is disturbed for a few days. One has to think about maintaining sleep hygiene. Eat and sleep at the same hour daily. Restrict intake of high-calorie foods or caffeine during dinner hours. When depressed find a solution immediately. Engage in new hobbies when suffering from intense stress. Be part of an engaging group, and try to understand losses are parts and participle of life. Take things easy, and cope with them. Do not associate with negative people or emotions.

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Last updated on : 20-12-2018

Disclaimer : Docprime doesn’t endorse or take any guarantee of the accuracy or completeness of information provided under this article and these are the views strictly of the writer. Docprime shall not be held responsible for any aspect of healthcare services administered with the information provided on this article.

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