What Is Insomnia?

When considering disorders that affect sleep, insomnia is likely what comes to the forefront of most people’s minds. While most people are aware of insomnia, there are still misconceptions of what insomnia is, what causes insomnia and how to treat insomnia. Insomnia consists of one or more of the following symptoms: trouble falling asleep, trouble staying asleep and daytime sleepiness.

Types of Insomnia

The National Sleep Foundation has identified five types of insomnia.

Acute Insomnia

Most people experience acute insomnia at some point in their lives. Acute insomnia refers to a brief period of difficulty sleeping.

Chronic Insomnia

Chronic insomnia refers to long-term patterns of difficulty sleeping. To be considered chronic, insomnia must occur at least three nights a week for a minimum of three continuous months.

Comorbid Insomnia

Comorbid insomnia is insomnia that is a result of another disorder, most commonly, mental health disorders. Anxiety and depression are both known to cause comorbid insomnia. Medical causes of comorbid insomnia may include physical pain or frequent urination.

Onset Insomnia

Onset insomnia refers solely to the difficulty of falling asleep upon getting in bed.

Maintenance Insomnia

Maintenance insomnia refers to difficulty staying asleep. A person with maintenance insomnia may have no problems falling asleep but wakes up throughout the night.

Symptoms of Insomnia

Insomnia may be a symptom of other disorders. When looking at insomnia as the disorder, it may be difficult to tease out what are the symptoms of insomnia versus what the symptoms of other disorders are. Insomnia symptoms include the characteristic features of difficulty falling asleep, difficulty staying asleep and daytime sleepiness. Other symptoms of insomnia include waking excessively early, not feeling rested after sleeping, having low energy, mental confusion or difficulty concentrating and irritability. Insomnia may affect all area of a person’s life due to a lowered threshold for frustration tolerance and increased irritability.

What Causes Insomnia?

Insomnia may result from medical, mental health or behavioral difficulties. Medical insomnia causes include disorders such as acid reflux, which may flare up when laying down to sleep, or disorders that cause pain such as arthritis. Mental health causes of insomnia include disorders such as depression and anxiety. Most cases of insomnia caused by a person’s behaviors are unintentional, and increasing knowledge of what causes insomnia may help resolve it. Some common behaviors that prevent restful sleep include taking naps, attempting to recover from sleepless nights by sleeping in the following day, working night or rotating shifts and using electronics up until bedtime.

How Is Insomnia Diagnosed?

A doctor may check for signs and symptoms of insomnia to rule out other causes of sleeplessness and ensure an accurate insomnia diagnosis. There is no definitive insomnia test but instead a battery of tests to rule out other disorders and focus on the warning signs of insomnia. A doctor may conduct blood tests, perform a sleep study or request a patient to fill out sleep logs and inventories.

At some point in life, nearly everyone will experience at least acute insomnia. Occasional bouts of difficulty sleeping are normal in response to highly stressful and even exciting occasions.

Who is at Risk for Insomnia?

Anyone can experience insomnia in his or her lifetime. People diagnosed with a mood disorder or with a chronic medical condition may be at higher risk of developing chronic insomnia. Stressful life events such as divorce or death of a loved one may lead to the development of acute cases of insomnia.

Insomnia Statistics

The American Academy of Sleep Medicine has found that chronic insomnia affects as many as ten percent of adults, and on any given night, millions of people struggle with insomnia. Insomnia statistics indicate that while most people experience insomnia at some point, only approximately five percent turn to prescription sleep aids. A patient should carefully consider this medication because it can cause dependence.

In some cases, insomnia can co-occur with addiction. If you or a loved one is struggling with co-occurring insomnia and substance use disorder, The Recovery Village can help. Reach out to a representative today for more information.

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