All about insomnia
Insomnia is a relatively common medical issue. About 50 percent of all primary care patients report occasional insomnia, and about 19 percent report chronic insomnia. It is a common problem for many college students and can lead to impaired daytime function, decreased physical and cognitive performance, and impairment in quality of life. Insomnia can lead to decreased quality of life issues including fatigue, sleepiness, confusion, tension, anxiety, and depression.
The criteria for insomnia include:
- Difficulty falling asleep or maintaining sleep, or waking too early without being able to return to sleep
- Sleep difficulty occurs despite enough time and good conditions for sleep
- Sleep difficulty results in less-than-optimal daytime function
Types of insomnia
Short-term insomnia, also known as adjustment, acute, stress-related, or transient insomnia, is typically related to an identifiable stressor, lasts less than three months, and resolves with removal of the stressor.
Chronic insomnia consists of at least three episodes of insomnia per week for at least three months that is unrelated to an inadequate opportunity for sleep or to another sleep disorder. It can also be a symptom of a more serious problem such as depression or anxiety.
Individuals whose sleep problems meet the criteria for insomnia but do not meet criteria for either short-term or chronic insomnia are considered to have other insomnia.
Causes of insomnia
Insomnia may be an independent disorder, but quite often can be the result of coexisting medical or psychological conditions; or even abrupt changes in daily routine, such as staying up much later than usual for more than one night in a row for studying or going out. Other common causes of insomnia include:
- Illness that causes pain, nausea, or breathing problems
- Stress that causes muscle tension, headaches, or indigestion
- Consumption of too much caffeine (coffee, tea, soft drinks, energy drinks, chocolate, and many over-the-counter headache medications)
- Using over-the-counter cold medications containing decongestants or other stimulant-containing medicines such as diet pills or medicines to help concentration such as Adderall or Ritalin
- Eating heavily too close to bedtime
- Exercising intensely too close to bedtime
- Excessive napping during the daytime
- Use of sleeping pills, alcoholic beverages, or other sedatives that can produce rebound insomnia when they wear off
- Insufficient activity during the day