Insomnia: Symptoms, Types and Prevention


Many times, it’s possible that you are unable to fall asleep or stay asleep. This might be a result of uncomfortable bedding, extreme temperatures, or other influencing factors such as high consumption of caffeine. While this might be an occasional occurrence for most, there is a large part of the population who experience problems with sleep much more frequently. It becomes a large issue that is also capable of affecting a person’s lifestyle and the activities they engage in. This article aims to shed light on a common sleep disorder known to mankind, Insomnia. It provides a complete picture of the disorder, listing ways to prevent it, and also enabling you to trace it if you or someone close to you is experiencing insomnia.

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What is Insomnia?

Insomnia is a common sleep disorder that disrupts a person’s natural sleep-wake cycle. A person with insomnia finds it difficult to fall asleep, or in some cases, to stay asleep. The Centres for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) states that an average adult needs 7 to 9 hours of sleep in periods of 24 hours. As a result of insomnia, the individual’s overall well-being is affected, but in terms of physical, as well as mental health.

Many adults experience short-term insomnia, which might be due to stressful events in their lives. Acute insomnia usually lasts for a few days or a few weeks. People experiencing short-term insomnia are likely to be fatigued during the daytime. They might also find it difficult to concentrate, among other issues faced. When Insomnia becomes chronic, which means that it has been persistent for 3 months or more, there are larger risk factors attached to it, including that of developing other diseases.

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According to the DSM-5, 40-50% of people suffering from insomnia also have another co-existing mental disorder. The American Psychiatric Association (APA) states that at least one-third of adults report some symptoms of Insomnia, while 6-10% of the adult population meets the clinical diagnostic criteria of the disorder.

Symptoms and Effects:

Apart from the obvious symptom of being unable to fall or stay asleep, insomnia has many other effects on a person’s health, attitudes or behaviour that can be traced to recognize the possibility of occurrence of the disorder. An Insomniac is likely to wake up early and find it difficult to go back to sleep. Due to the lack of proper sleep, they constantly feel tired. They become more cranky or anxious.

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These people might also experience symptoms of depression. A person with insomnia finds it hard to focus. They are more likely to make errors while performing any task. People with insomnia are constantly occupied by concerns of sleep, occupying their brain, and preventing them from falling asleep. As it persists with time, it might influence one’s outlook on life, decreasing their motivation. Insomniacs might find themselves in a dark spot. These people also struggle to maintain social relationships, and their work performance might go down. People with insomnia are faced, as a result, experience tension. They might also have physical symptoms such as headaches. They lack coordination and are prone to accidents.

Types of Insomnia:

While acute and chronic insomnia have been discussed above, there are other ways in which it can be categorized. Insomnia can also differ in its severity and is thus classified as mild, moderate and severe.

  • Primary Insomnia: has no medical basis, and can be attributed to psychological factors.
  • Secondary Insomnia: a result of underlying health conditions such as chronic pain.
  • Onset Insomnia: When a person finds trouble falling asleep as a result of mental health symptoms, caffeine use, etc.
  • Maintenance Insomnia: Here, a person finds it difficult to stay asleep. After waking up in the middle of the night, they are likely to be lying down, worrying about not getting enough sleep.
  • Behavioral Insomnia (Childhood): When children consistently have trouble falling asleep, or when they refuse to go to bed by throwing tantrums more often.
Risk Factors Involved:

It is essential to understand risk factors that might cause insomnia to trace back your symptoms of the disorder, as well as to be able to effectively prevent it.

  • Persistent Stress: Stress, worry, or anxiety are the most common factors that risk the onset of insomnia.
  • Mental Disorders: Insomnia can be a symptom of an underlying mental disorder such as depression or anxiety.
  • Age and Gender: This disorder is more prevalent in older individuals, especially in women due to hormonal imbalance.
  • Lifestyle: How one leads their life can highly influence chances of having insomnia. This can be due to habits such as the use of a phone before sleep, alcohol addiction, excess caffeine, and irregular sleep patterns
  • Medical Problems: Sleep patterns can be disrupted due to physical problems such as chronic pain, arthritis, asthma, etc.
How can you Prevent It?

Now that you have looked into the risk factors that may trigger the onset of insomnia, you can work on avoiding those factors to prevent this disorder. By instilling a particular sleep-wake cycle in yourself, you are more likely to fall asleep quickly, or at least feel sleepy. Don’t use any devices before you go to bed. While exercising can be beneficial for sleep, avoid rigorous routines after dinner. Avoid consuming beverages with caffeine in large quantities, or before sleeping. Regular exercise can also help regulate sleep. But before any of that, try to decrease the main cause of sleep disorder in your life, which is stress. Avoid stressful situations and practice stress-relieving techniques such as meditation or breathing exercises, known to have relaxation properties.

While it is the most common sleep disorder, it can be prevented by leading a healthy lifestyle, both in mental and physical terms. If you are already experiencing symptoms of insomnia, and it’s also disrupting other daily activities, consider visiting a professional who is equipped to guide you with it. There is a range of treatments available for it. Depending on the severity and the causal factors, you might be suggested to undergo counselling or CBT (Cognitive Behavioral Therapy).

In more severe cases, your healthcare provider can prescribe medicines or over-the-counter aids. If you are unable to sleep, but it isn’t affecting your lifestyle, you can practice meditation and other relaxation techniques. You may also use melatonin supplements, although not suitable for long-term use. There’s also less evidence to support how useful it is. There’s a reason why a minimum amount of sleep is prescribed for adults. Prioritizing sleep can help maintain your well-being and also improve your quality of life.

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