Insomnia is a common type of sleep disorder which impedes a person from falling asleep despite feeling very tired at night and throughout the day. Insomnia inhibits a person from staying asleep for long enough periods of time, and/or causes a person to have very irregular sleep cycles. It can present itself in people of all ages and can be caused by many different things. Insomnia can also affect different people in different ways. Depending on the effect it has on an individual, the treatment can vary respectively.
The National Sleep Foundation (NSF) says that tens of millions of people suffer from sleep disorders in the United States alone. Due to the sudden rise in numbers of people suffering from sleep disorders, they are now considering it an epidemic. If you feel like you may be experiencing (or know you suffer from) a sleep disorder such as insomnia, you are not alone. There are many different ways you can get diagnosed and many ways to treat insomnia.
Types of Insomnia
There are 5 different ways to classify or categorize insomnia according to the National Sleep Foundation:
Acute insomnia is the mildest form of insomnia and it occurs usually in short episodes. It does not persist for more than a couple of nights or one week. The causes of this kind of insomnia are usually events in a person’s life that causes stress and anxiety. This kind of insomnia is considered normal and usually does not need to be treated in any form.
Chronic insomnia is more serious. The National Sleep Foundation classifies a patient’s insomnia “chronic” when it affects their sleep for more than 3 nights per week consistently for around 3 months. The causes of chronic insomnia are extensive so we will only mention one of each category. Insomnia is caused medical conditions such as chronic pain, mental health issues such as depression, lifestyles that don’t allow enough sleep, food or substance intake, and finally a fault in neurotransmitters in the brain that control sleepiness and wakefulness.
Comorbid Insomnia is a type of insomnia that appears alongside another medical condition. Some psychiatric conditions can cause or encourage insomnia; and conditions such as back pain or arthritis that cause pain or discomfort during the hours of sleep.
Onset insomnia is the condition which makes it incredibly hard to fall asleep. This kind of insomnia doesn’t usually cause a person to have trouble staying asleep. It is also a common experience for people with insomnia to face this kind of symptom. Another symptom they experience is restless legs syndrome.
Maintenance insomnia keeps a person from staying asleep for enough time to actually give the body rest. The individuals who suffer from this kind insomnia usually experience restlessness and sleepless nights on a daily to weekly basis. Maintenance insomnia really affects a person’s circadian rhythms and interferes with sleep on a high level.
What Are Circadian Rhythms and How Do They Affect Us?
The circadian rhythms are biological rhythms that occur on a molecular level in the human (and animal) body. They are responsible for keeping track of when to sleep when to wake up, when to eat and many other things that scientists are still discovering to this day.
These biological rhythms are affected mainly by light, food, and time queues like clocks. If a person knows that it is daytime or nighttime, that helps the circadian rhythms stay in sync. But when there are no external influences, these rhythms can be disrupted.
Scientists have been studying the circadian rhythms in detail since the 1990’s and have been able to understand them more as they dive deeper into the molecular studies of these. They have concluded that these rhythms run naturally on a 24-hour 11-minute circuit, and thus control many of the body’s functions (such as when the body needs sleep and how much sleep it has already gotten, and when to begin to secrete certain hormones, etc.).
The disruption of these circadian rhythms has a great impact on a person’s sleep cycle. This is most apparent in airline pilots. During a normal workday, pilots cross many different time zones and sometimes go from night to day several times within a 24 hour period. Since these rhythms depend greatly on external cues, they become a bit scrambled. Airline pilots then begin to feel much fatigue, have trouble establishing a stable eating schedule, and usually experience some form of insomnia.
People who travel to drastically different time zones also experience a form of this disruption which is known as jet lag. The different cues such as different times of daylight and nighttime take some time to get used to when the person first arrives at their destination.
Stay as hydrated as possible during the plane ride to help you feel better when you arrive at your destination. This may not help your individual circadian rhythms, but it will help you feel great when you arrive and will help you adjust to the time zone much quicker.
Causes of Insomnia
As we’ve mentioned, the causes of insomnia vary greatly depending on what kind of insomnia a person suffers from. Many causes of sleep problems include external factors such as food, pain levels in the body, stress, and anxiety, and brain activity.
Although there are 5 levels of insomnia we will be going over some common general causes, and we will go over some ways that may help you deal with them. Of course, we always suggest that you talk to your doctor who will be able to suggest you to a sleep specialist who can treat people with insomnia and hopefully help you get your sleep disorder under control for good.
Chronic pain is one of the main reasons people experience insomnia all over the world. Having chronic pain affects every aspect of the person’s life including when and how well they sleep (people with chronic pain usually experience chronic insomnia). Lower back pain or migraines are common types of chronic pain. The best way to deal with this is by taking doctor-prescribed medication for the pain in hopes of getting some hours of rest and peace.
Digestive issues such as acid reflux can cause insomnia since it either keeps the person from being able to go to sleep (onset insomnia) or causes the person to wake up throughout the night (maintenance insomnia). You can also treat this cause with medicine and remedies, but the best way to deal with it is by trying to alter your diet. Talk to your doctor about your diet and try and see if there is a diet plan your doctor can suggest helping you out with this.
Neurological conditions can also affect an individual’s sleeping patterns. Parkinson’s disease is a good example of this. Talk to your doctor about your insomnia, and they will know exactly how to help you.
Also, many different medications and medical treatments can have a big effect on your sleeping. So, if you are experiencing some of these problems with a medication, we suggest talking to your doctor about it.