Many, many people say that they have insomnia.
Adults going through a stressful time in their lives, or who have a history of depression, may diagnose themselves with insomnia as a way to explain the symptoms of sleep deprivation that they’re experiencing. Women may think they have insomnia when they’re actually going through menopause. Some even report pre-travel or "first night in a hotel" insomnia.
The truth is that chronic insomnia is a complex and not very widely understood sleep disorder. It affects almost a third of American adults and an even bigger proportion of patients worldwide. It’s a condition that can drastically diminish a person’s quality of life.
There’s a lot of evidence that ties insomnia to serious clinical conditions, such as Parkinson’s disease and sleep apnea.
But what are the facts? How much do we actually know about chronic insomnia?
According to the National Sleep Foundation, insomnia is the inability to fall asleep at night or to stay sleeping throughout the night. Insomnia can come and go at certain period of a person’s life while he or she is feeling particularly stressed or taking certain medications. It can occur as a result of jet lag or after getting assigned the night shift at work.
Fun Fact: People who just happen to be fully functional after getting only 2 or 3 hours of sleep every night (1-3% of the general population) are not necessarily insomniacs. Everybody requires a different amount of sleep every night in order to function; it is only when the quality of your sleep is being compromised that insomnia may be a real issue.
Although nearly 50 percent of Americans claim to be affected by insomnia, less than 10 percent of the population actually experience insomnia as a chronic condition. The most common misconception about insomnia is that it’s a disease when it is actually a symptom of various other medical conditions.
Insomniacs experience symptoms of sleep deprivation during the day, including:
Problems falling asleep and staying asleep originate in a variety of different causes, but one of the most prevalent is the presence or depression or anxiety in a patient. The three conditions have been very closely tied in studies. Insomnia has also been cited as a side effect of medications used to treat dementia and coronary heart disease, among other conditions.
How little we know about this symptom can simply be traced back to the idea that most temporary medical conditions are a shock to the body, which needs time to adjust to changes. As such, seeking treatment for the underlying condition will most likely improve a person’s insomnia.
If you think you may be an insomniac, and your symptoms last for longer than one month, you may need to consult a medical doctor or a sleep center for help with your insomnia. A trained sleep specialist will surely take you through your options for temporary insomnia treatment.
However, in the presence of chronic insomnia, more serious measures must be taken to preserve one’s quality of rest. A doctor will first work at properly diagnosing the underlying cause of insomnia. Then, he or she may suggest moving forward with a number of different insomnia treatment techniques or a combination of several techniques:
Reversing chronic insomnia is not a small feat—it may take years before your body feels the benefits of a full night’s rest. However, with proper diligence (and perhaps the help of a sleep professional), the symptoms of insomnia can be significantly reduced so that the person affected can enjoy life to its fullest.