1) What is Insomnia?
Insomnia exist in various forms: many suffers experience difficulty in getting to sleep, others have interrupted sleep, some wake up too early in the morning and a few simply have poor quality sleep and do not feel rested. If insomnia lasts for more than 3-4 weeks, it is termed chronic.
2) What are the problems associated with insomnia?
Individuals vary in their need for sleep: we all know of individuals who can ordinarily function well with less sleep than others. However, for people with insomnia, it causes distress and affects their everyday lives. Poor sleep result in daytime drowsiness and can impair attention and motor coordination when driving or operating machinery. This can be dangerous. Poor attention and memory also affect studies and work productivity. A person deprived of sleep will tend to be irritable and this can impair his relationship with others. Hence an individual with a sleep problem may have an impaired quality of life. It is also important to note that in many cases, insomnia can be a symptom of a psychological disorder such as an anxiety disorder or depression, and these disorders should be treated. Some individuals with chronic insomnia attempt to treat themselves by consuming cough syrup or alcohol. Unfortunately, such an abusive pattern of drug use will not only compound the sleep problem but also cause damage to physical health and create addiction problems.
3) What are the causes of insomnia?
Insomnia is a very common condition, and most people would have experienced it a few times in their lives. Sleep disturbances can happen in normal people simply due to situational influences. For example, excessive noise or an unfamiliar environment can affect sleep. It occurs in jet-lag, when the person travels across different time zones, and also when a person engages in shift work. Correction of these situational influences will usually improve sleep. Certain physical symptoms such as pain and shortness of breath in patients with medical problems can disrupt sleep.
Transient insomnia also occurs in response to stress or worry. It is common to have poor sleep when one is undergoing stress in studies, workplace or relationship. When the stress is overcome, sleep will usually improve.
However many individuals also suffer from chronic insomnia, where sleep problems persist for more than a few weeks, because the stressors are persistent or overwhelming. Insomnia occurs commonly in adjustment disorders, where one’s coping strategies to stress are overwhelmed. Others may have a psychological disorder such as depression, which needs prompt medical treatment.
Insomnia, especially early awakening, occurs commonly in depression. Other accompanying symptoms of depression that one should look out for include depressed mood, loss of appetite, loss of drive or interest, frequent negative thinking, feelings of worthlessness and even suicidal thoughts. Depression is a disorder that can severely affect an individual’s life but effective treatments are abailable. Another group of disorders commonly associated with insomnia are the anxiety disorders. These disorders are characterized by persistent and excessive anxiety and worry. Some may also have panic attacks, whereas others have persistent bodily complaints. Yet others have compulsive cleaning or checking rituals, which are symptoms of an obsessive-compulsive disorder. Finally, insomnia is also experienced by an individual developing a major mental disorder like schizophrenia. In this disorder, one experience hallucinatory "voices" and has strange behaviours and beliefs.
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