What is insomnia?
Insomnia is a sleep disorder, where the patient complaint that he is not able to sleep despite adequate opportunity for sleeping is available. Insomnia is used to describe any impairment in the various properties of sleep like duration and depth. There may be difficulty in falling asleep or one may wake up too early or any of the combinations may occur. Some form of sleep complaint is frequently present in 20-40% of the population at any given time. Most of them are elderly people and women. Only a small proportion of people seek medical help for insomnia.
What are the types of insomnia?
There are two types of insomnia. One is the primary insomnia where the patient has a disturbance in the sleep mechanism in the brain. Another is the secondary insomnia where the sleep disturbance is due to various other medical condition of the patient. Insomnia is said to be chronic if it lasts for a long time.
What is primary insomnia?
The term primary insomnia is used to describe where the patients are not getting sleep for a long period of time and they have no other medical or psychiatric illness. In some patients the problem is life long. This primary insomnia should be quickly diagnosed and treated.
What is secondary insomnia?
Secondary insomnia is usually temporary. The common causes for this condition are:
- Patients with depression or anxiety.
- Drug or alcohol abuse.
- Patients with pain in the joints.
- Spinal disorder causing pain.
- Abdominal pain due to ulcer problem.
- Patients with cancer.
- Patients with prostate disorder.
- Individuals suffering from carpal tunnel syndrome
- Headache, particularly cluster headaches.
- Business or domestic worries.
- New surroundings (like while going to tour).
- Drugs like steroids, bronchodialators (used for asthma patients) and caffeine
Some patients have jerk movements of the legs (restless leg syndrome), which delays their sleep. Once these problems are corrected, the patient gets a good sleep.
What are the treatment options available for insomnia?
It is a common practice to take sedative or hypnotic drugs for insomnia. But it should be taken only for a short period of time and under the supervision the physician. Commonly used drugs are flurazepam, triazolam and zolpidem. The cause for insomnia should be found and treated. The following suggestions are helpful for getting a good sleep.
- Patients should be encouraged to regularize their bedtime schedules.
- Physical activity during daytime must be encouraged.
- Watching television in the late evening should be avoided as it disturbs the onset of sleep.
- Excess food intake in the night should be avoided.
- Replace the mattress if it is not providing enough support.
- It is better to avoid daytime naps and should go to the bed only during bedtime.
- Bedroom should be adequately ventilated and should be clean.
- Dim light and pleasant soothing music may be helpful.
- A glass of warm milk before retiring to bed will be helpful in inducing sleep.
- One must avoid coffee and alcohol if he suffers from insomnia.
- Relaxation techniques like yoga can be practiced.