Chronic Insomnia – Do You Have the Symptoms, Do You Fit the Type, and Do You Have the Risk Factors?

This article informs the reader of the four main aspects of insomnia. The four aspects of insomnia are symptoms, types, causes, and risk factors. We will define insomnia and show you how it can affect a person’s life. We will look at the three types of insomnia, the criteria for each, and the causes of insomnia. Finally, we will discover some of the risk factors, who are more at risk, examples, and reasons for insomnia. With knowledge, there is power and the more you know about insomnia the more you are able to understand and take appropriate action in order to get a good night sleep.

Insomnia is one of the most common medical complaints and is often why people seek professional help. Most adults have experienced insomnia at one point or another during their life and roughly 10% experience chronic insomnia. Insomnia affects any age group and tends to increase due to age. In the year 2007, approximately 64 million Americans suffered from insomnia on a regular basis according to the Department of Health and Human Services. They also state that insomnia is more prevalent in women by 41% over men. Insomnia is prevalent in our society and many people have first hand knowledge by experiencing it.

Insomnia has a specific definition, several characteristics, and can have a detrimental effect on you. It is a symptom of a condition characterized by difficulty falling and staying asleep and/or by the lack of non-restorative sleep so much that the lack of sleep begins to impair your ability to function during waking hours. Chronic insomnia is determined by the duration of the symptoms rather than by a certain number of hours of sleep you get a night because each person varies on their individual sleep needs. Non-restorative sleep means you usually feel like you did not have a good night sleep and you awake feeling tired. You can also wake up too early in the morning or wake up frequently, during the night, and then have difficulty going back to sleep. This lack of restful sleep can effect your energy level, your mood, and ultimately your health, which effects your quality of life. Insomnia is more easily defined and harder to see the long-term affects it may have on you

How much sleep do we need, what is restorative sleep and when do we know we have had enough sleep? As a rule, most adults generally require seven to eight hours of restorative sleep a night. Restorative sleep is being able to attain the level of sleep, such that, you reach Stage 4 (deep sleep) of the sleep cycle and Stage 5 (REM or rapid eye movement) of the sleep cycle. Restorative sleep means when you wake up you feel refreshed, awake, and ready for the day. It is then you can say you have had enough sleep. If you are not getting enough restorative sleep each night and you do not address your insomnia issues, it can lead to chronic insomnia. Although the amount of sleep required may vary from person to person, restorative sleep is the key and you are the one who can decide if you feel like you got a good nights sleep or not.

There are three types of insomnia and each has characteristics and causes. The three types of insomnia are transient, acute or short-term, and chronic or long-term. Transient insomnia lasts less than seven days and acute or short-term insomnia can last from one to three weeks. The causes of these two types of insomnia can be similar and can be as simple as you drank too much caffeine, ate too much food to late in the evening, or simply a change in your normal routine. An example of a change in routine can be switching shifts at work, taking a trip from one time zone to another, both of which disrupt your body’s circadian rhythms. Sleeping in a place where there is too much noise, too much light or it is too hot or too cold can also keep you awake. Other examples for transient or acute insomnia might be a life stressor such as loss of or changing jobs, an acute illness, or having to move. Life stressors like fear and anxiety about something going on in your life-like an upcoming exam or an acute medical condition of your own or of a loved one, all of these can be the source of your insomnia. Some medications prescribed, or over the counter, can be a reason for acute insomnia and once discontinued the insomnia corrects itself. The third type of insomnia is chronic insomnia. Chronic insomnia last for three weeks or more and can be a primary disorder or a secondary disorder. Primary insomnia means that a person is having sleeping problems but unrelated to a physical or mental condition. Secondary insomnia means there is another condition in which insomnia is a symptom of that condition. These disorders can be an underlying psychological or physiological disorder. These three types of insomnia are generally discernible with diverse origins.

There are various psychological and physiological reasons for having chronic insomnia and they can have significant effects on you. The effects of chronic insomnia can vary depending on what the cause of the chronic insomnia happens to be. The persons overall health, both physical and mental health, plays a role. The most common psychological reasons for insomnia are anxiety, stress, and depression and insomnia is an indicator of depression. These psychological reasons can affect you and those around you and professional help is often essential. Some of the physiological reason can vary from chronic pain, diabetes, GERD, sleep apnea and other reasons. Besides being unable to sleep, mental and physical tiredness occurs with overall decreased alertness. This decreased alertness is similar to the effects of someone who has been sleep deprived and studies have shown sleep deprivation puts themselves, as well as others, at risk. The effects of chronic insomnia, due to various psychological and physiological components, warrant your attention.

Several groups and situations increase the risk factor of developing chronic insomnia and one such group are the people ages 60 and up. Regardless of their age, this segment of the population requires the same amount of sleep as the rest of the population but, because of certain factors, common to this group, they often get less sleep. This age group generally has more medical issues then younger populations and these issues can create stress and anxiety. They can come in the form of aches and pains you feel during the day that transmit to your sleeping hours making it impossible to get a full, restful nights sleep. As a result, of medical conditions, this group may take one or more medications and these medications may have side effects that disturb sleep. This group may be more sedentary then they use to be and just are not sleepy at their usual bedtime. Drinking alcohol also contributes to lack of restful, restorative sleep. Lack of sleep at night can lead to excessive sleepiness during the day. Taking frequent naps during the day may mean less sleep at night. If you are not asleep long enough then it is more difficult to reach Stage 4 and Stage 5 during the nighttime hours. More illnesses and deaths of family or friends occur typically the older a person gets. Chronic insomnia can result from the stress of a long-term illness or death of someone close. Increasing awareness that people age 60 and up have a greater risk of developing chronic insomnia is informative and beneficial for ourselves and those around us.

Another such group that is at greater risk, for numerous reasons, of sleep disturbances leading to chronic insomnia is women. One reason, women are at greater risk of chronic insomnia is because of the flood of hormones she receives during her lifetime. Females have hormonal changes starting very early in their life. The influx of hormones begins with the premenstrual cycle prior to the onset of the menstrual cycle. Women, in their childbearing years also have hormonal changes that affect their sleep. A woman, once a child is born, often has a heightened awareness to the noise their child may make and can awaken easily. Although waking up easily is a learned behavior, some women are unable to unlearn that behavior even after the child is grown and out of the house. Later in life when a woman is going through menopause, she has hormonal changes with hot flashes and night sweats that can be a source of sleep disturbance. Once a woman’s is through menopause, she can have decreased estrogen levels, which can contribute to a woman’s lack of restorative sleep. Although insomnia does tend to be more prevalent in women, restorative sleep decreases equally in men and women as they age.

The final group, discussed in this article, that are at greater risk of developing chronic insomnia are people who suffer from mental disorders. This population is at risk of chronic insomnia by the mere fact they have a mental disorder. These mental disorders include (but not limited to) anxiety, depression, bi-polar and PTSD (Post Traumatic Stress Disorder). Women, in this group, have two strikes against them, one for being a woman and the second for having a mental disorder. Insomnia is a known symptom for depression and since women are more prone to depression, they are more disposed to insomnia.

People who are under continual stress have an increased risk factors for developing chronic insomnia. There are different types of stress known as “good” stress and “bad” stress. The good stresses are short-term, and are not damaging to the immune system however, they can cause short-term or transient insomnia. The bad stress is the long-term stress, or chronic stress, which can damage the immune system and cause chronic insomnia. The bad stress is the topic of discussion here. The amount of continual stress in your life increases the risk factor for developing chronic insomnia. There are many reasons a person may feel stressed and each person responds different to the stresses in their life. What is stress to one person may not be stress to another person. Examples of stress that can lead to chronic insomnia can be your own illness or your loved ones illness or their death. Stress can come in the form of conflicts with someone at work or a fear of being laid off or fired from your job. If you have been laid off work or fired, you have the stress of worrying about how you will pay your bills or put food on the table. This stress can increase when you have more than yourself to feed. Conflicts at home, a separation, or a pending divorce are stressful situations that can cause chronic insomnia. You may feel overworked or feel pressured to perform at work or at home. The stresses of being in a lower economic class or being unemployed can also increase your risk factor for developing chronic insomnia. With the persisting current economic environment, it makes sense that chronic insomnia could increase right now. Stress and anxiety can affect every part of your being from your digestive system, to headaches, fighting off infections even your sex drive. Stress can make it harder to do the things you know would be beneficial to your health like quitting smoking or changing your diet. Constant stress has many negative health effects and chronic insomnia is one of them.

In conclusion, chronic insomnia is prevalent in today’s society. Insomnia that lasts less than three weeks and rights itself within that period is generally of less concern. When insomnia lasts longer than three weeks this long-term chronic condition requires attention. Monitoring your sleep patterns, how much sleep you are getting and how you feel when you wake up in the morning is vital to your health. People age 60 and up, women, people with mental disorders and people under constant stress need to be vigilant in monitoring the amount of sleep they get. This group especially needs to attend to any psychological or physiological issues going on for them. Chronic insomnia is a symptom and those symptoms are a signal to you that you need to do something different because what you have been doing is not working. You can rid yourself of chronic insomnia, sleep restfully again, and wake refreshed ready for the day.

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