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What is insomnia? Some revealing statistics
Any and everyone we meet have experienced insomnia sometime in their lifetime. Sleeplessness is perhaps one of the most prevalent casualties of modern lifestyle – where almost everyone is racing against time and leading lives filled with stresses, anxieties and tension. The worst part is that insomnia may be a night-time ailment but it can severely impact the daytime activities and completely jeopardize the personal, social and professional life of the sufferer.
Insomniacs would invariably be overtly tired and fatigued during the day; irritable and edgy; have frequent mood swings; show anti-social behaviors and most frequently be depressed. In fact, depression and insomnia are kissing cousins, so to speak, as one cannot exist without the other in most of the cases.
If you are curious to know about the seriousness and prevalence of this sleeping disorder in America, look at these revealing statistical information:
- Over 30 million Americans suffer from some form of insomnia. This translates between 20 and 40% adults in this country could be affected by this condition at least once in any year.
- More than half of the people suffer from insomnia related to stress or anxiety.
- Women are doubly prone to be affected than men.
- Close to 35% insomniacs have a history of insomnia running in the family.
In fact, there are more revealing facts about insomnia that could give anyone sleepless nights!
What is NOT insomnia?
However prevalent the condition may be, it is common to confuse this term with occasional or transient sleeplessness. In fact, most people use the term ‘insomnia’ rather loosely. To get your perspectives right, perhaps it makes more sense to know what may not be insomnia at all!
It is not insomnia when you are sleepless for a few nights, ranging from less than a week to 2/3 weeks. Such sleeplessness could be caused by several transitional phases like loss of a loved one, anxiety caused by any impending event like a job interview, frequent travel leading to jet lag and so on. Such sleeping problems get cured by the natural course of time and may not need any treatment at all.
What is insomnia?
Originating from a Latin term meaning ‘no sleep’, insomnia is when sleeplessness persists more than 3 to 4 weeks. In this condition, you would not only have problems falling asleep but also remaining asleep for a long period of time. You would wake up frequently during the night and have problems in falling asleep again.
The definition of insomnia often has its roots in the description of sleeping patterns as reported by the patient. This can also give rise to confusion, as the ‘perception’ of good sleep may vary from one patient to the other. This is because sleep needs vary. Also, perception regarding the time of falling asleep could differ. Someone may feel that he or she only slept for 4 hours, whereas in reality, the person slept for a full 8 hours.
Therefore, insomnia is confirmed by way of sleep studies, polysomnogram tests as well as assessing the extent to which the daytime activity of the individual is affected. If the sleeplessness is causing severe impairment to someone’s daily living and obstructing his or her normal lifestyle, chances are that it would be diagnosed as insomnia.
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What causes insomnia?
Though stress, depression and anxiety are the most known and common causes of insomnia, it can be caused by a variety of factors. While transient insomnia could be caused by factors like emotional stress, erratic sleeping habits, frequent travel, etc., chronic insomnia may have its roots in psychological, physiological, physical and medical factors.
Some of the medical reasons for insomnia include some disease conditions like suffering from GERD, chronic pain, congestive heart failure, Parkinson’s or Alzheimer’s or brain trauma like stroke or injury etc.
Some medications could also cause insomnia including some OTC drugs for cold or allegories, hypertensive drugs, anti-depressants or anti-anxiety medication, etc. Then there are several lifestyle factors that could also cause insomnia like excessive consumption of alcohol, tobacco, caffeine, etc.
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Insomnia Symptoms: how to foretell?
Insomnia could either be a stand-alone condition or it could be the fallout of some underlying disease condition. This means that the insomnia symptoms could at times be directly linked to the latent disease condition and could well be related to the causes.
Some of the common insomnia symptoms are:
- Difficulty in falling asleep and remaining asleep for a long time.
- Excessive daytime sleepiness hampering daily activities.
- Inability to focus, concentrate or even remember people, events and situations.
- Irritability, mood swings and reluctance to socialize.
- Feeling of overpowering tiredness and fatigue.
Understanding the insomnia symptoms and to what degree it is impeding the daytime activities is critical to assess the severity of the condition. In fact, many activities like driving or operating machinery could be prohibited if insomnia symptoms are persistent enough.
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Insomnia cures: many options to choose from
Though there is no dearth of insomnia remedies available, it could be entirely up to you to manage and control the situation, if you think that the situation is caused by transient factors like temporary emotional upheaval, stress or anxiety. In fact, there are plenty of natural remedies for insomnia treatment that may not need any medication, not even herbal treatments!
Most of these natural remedies involve changing lifestyle choices, regularizing sleeping schedules and changing habits that interfere with sleep.
Of course, depending on the severity and duration of the problem, your doctor may also prescribe insomnia medications including benzodiazepine based drugs, melatonin supplements, or anti-depressants. The choice of medication is really dependent on the doctors’ individual assessment of the condition.
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