Insomnia

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Overview

Most adults require 7-8 hours of sleep at night to maintain physical and mental well-being. A sleep disorder in which it is difficult for a person to fall or stay asleep is known as insomnia. It is common and may be short term after a stressful or traumatic event, or may last for a month or more. It can also exist as a solitary problem or may be a manifestation of some other disorder.

Causes

Common causes of chronic insomnia that lasts a month or even up to years are:

  • Stress
  • Travel or work schedule
  • Poor sleep hygiene
  • Late-night snacks or recreational activities
  • Medical condition (depression, anxiety, PTSD, sleep apnea, restless leg syndrome etc)
  • Medication or drugs(caffeine, stimulants etc)
  • Caffeine, nicotine or alcohol

Insomnia is also common with increased age and changes in lifestyle, sleep patterns or habits.

Symptoms

Insomnia can present as:

  • Difficulty in falling asleep at night
  • Waking up during the night
  • Waking up too early and inability to sleep after
  • Feeling tired and not rested enough the following day
  • Daytime sleepiness
  • Difficulty in focus or concentration
  • Anxiety or irritability
  • Depression

Insomnia can have adverse effects on a person’s academic or professional performances, and on their interpersonal relationships. In any such scenario it is important to get appropriate treatment for this sleep disorder.

Diagnosis

Usually, a thorough history and physical exams, along with sleep habits review and sleep studies can be used to diagnose insomnia. Tests can also be conducted to rule out other medical conditions.

Treatment

Lifestyle modification and correction of habits that interfere with healthy sleep patterns are very helpful. Alternatively, counseling (cognitive behavioral therapy)  and the following drugs can be used:

  • Zolpidem
  • Ramelteon
  • Eszopiclone
  • Zaleplon

Underlying factors that may be responsible for insomnia also need to be explored.

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