What is Insomnia?

Every human being has a sleep-wake cycle. This cycle is regulated by various chemicals and other systems in the brain. They help the individual to fall asleep as well as maintain it. An average individual requires 6-8 hrs of sleep daily. The night sleep is the most important sleep which benefits the body and brain in numerous ways like enhancing memory.

Insomnia is defined as the inability to fall asleep and / or stay asleep. It can be due to a variety of medical and psychological reasons.

Also Read: Importance of Good Sleep for Older Adults

What are the causes of insomnia?

The causes of insomnia can be grouped under various categories:

1. Medical causes: There are various medical conditions that produce discomfort to the individual and make sleeping difficult. Some of these are –

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2. Lifestyle causes

  • Excessive stress
  • Using alcohol to sleep: When a person becomes dependent on alcohol, the withdrawal causes the inability to sleep
  • Aging

Also Read: 5 Foods Older Adults Should Avoid to Get Good Sleep

3. Psychological causes

What are the symptoms of Insomnia?

  • Inability to fall asleep at night
  • Early morning or late night awakening
  • Fatigue, drowsiness, headache
  • Irritability
  • Inability to concentrate

What are the investigations for Insomnia?

Insomnia is usually a diagnosis based on a person’s history to the doctor. The investigations are done to know the proper cause. For that, various medical investigations like blood tests, thyroid hormone levels, and other investigations specific to the suspected medical cause are advised.

If no medical or lifestyle-related cause is present, a psychological cause can be suspected. The doctor may ask several questions regarding the sleeping pattern of the individual to reach the cause. In hospitals where advanced facilities are available, a test called polysomnography or sleep test can be done.

What is the treatment for Insomnia?

The first aim is to treat the cause, so in case of a medical reason, the specific problem is treated.

The cases where the problem is only for a few days or so, treatment is not required. However, if the issue has been continuing for a long time, treatment must be sought. The treatment involves both medications and as well as some techniques and therapies to help sleep.

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Therapies and techniques

These are the modalities used to condition the mind and the body to sleep. These can include breathing exercises, a strict sleep-wake schedule, limiting the number of afternoon naps, listening to music, cognitive behavioural therapy, etc.

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Medical treatment

These are the medicines prescribed by the doctor to help the person sleep. Medicines like diazepam, alprazolam, zolpidem, zopiclone etc are usually prescribed.

These medicines have their own set of side effects like excessive daytime sleepiness, loss of concentration, slow reflexes, etc. Also, the individuals on the regular prescription of these pills can develop dependence i.e. their body depends on these pills to sleep and the inability to take them can significantly affect the individual. Given the dependence potential as well as the side effects of the medicines, it is better to first try the non-medical techniques properly as they work on the mind and body to sleep, without any external influence. If the techniques don’t work or the problem is severe, only then the medications should be taken.

Also Read: Yoga to Overcome Insomnia

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