Insomnia: Understanding Sleep Disorders and Treatment Options
Insomnia is the most common sleeping disorder in the world; one in ten American adults has chronic (long-term) insomnia. It can also affect children and adolescents, although it is usually acute (short-term).
What Is Insomnia?
Insomnia is a sleep disorder characterized by difficulty falling, staying asleep, or constantly having poor quality sleep. This condition varies, with acute symptoms lasting a few days and chronic symptoms lasting several weeks to even years. A few circumstances that may cause insomnia include:
- Environmental disturbances, like noises or unpleasant sensations
- Chemical stimulants, like coffee or alcohol
- Changes in your environment or habits
- Difficulty breathing during sleep
- Psychiatric conditions
- Increased stress
- Genetic factors
Many individuals with chronic symptoms receive an insomnia disorder diagnosis. However, diagnosis depends on if they have primary, secondary, or comorbid insomnia.
Primary insomnia is a sleep disorder on its own. Its presence has no relation to any other condition and exists regardless of otherwise generally good health.
Conversely, secondary insomnia is a symptom of another mental or physical health disorder. For example, a person with chronic leg pain may have insomnia from the pain.
Comorbid insomnia is both an individual disorder and exacerbated by another ailment. For example, roughly 75% of people with depression also have this sleep disorder. In some cases, the individual would have insomnia regardless of their depressive episode, and the two conditions worsen each other.
What Are the Symptoms of Insomnia?
Insomnia increases stress and affects physical and mental health. Some symptoms include:
- Increased irritation
- Daytime sleepiness
As insomnia symptoms continue and the disorder becomes chronic, its danger increases. People with chronic insomnia may experience:
- Chronic fatigue
- Increased blood pressure
- Memory loss
- Decreased concentration
- Decreased mobility
- Decreased immune responses
Chronic insomnia treatment becomes increasingly necessary the longer a person experiences its symptoms. They may become sick and stay sick longer than someone without insomnia. They could also develop additional mental or physical health conditions because of chronic insomnia.
This condition can also be deadly for the person and those around them. Whether chronic or acute, the sleepiness insomnia causes may lead to accidents if operating heavy machinery. Studies have shown that driving while tired incapacitates a person like drunk driving does.
How Is Insomnia Treated?
The physical and mental strain caused by insomnia reduces an individual’s quality of life. Physicians evaluate their patients to ensure whether the condition is primary, secondary, or comorbid. If the sleep disorder is secondary, they will treat it as the primary ailment to help alleviate insomnia symptoms.
Primary and comorbid insomnia treatment often includes therapeutic methods, like cognitive-behavioral therapy (CBT), lifestyle suggestions, and personal monitoring. Professionals may also ask their patients to keep a sleep journal and record what actions or behaviors increase or decrease the quality of their sleep.
Psychiatrists may prescribe sedative-hypnotic medications like Ambien, Lunesta, or Belsomra to soothe any neurologic reactions from chronic insomnia. The medicine works best when combined with therapy and other lifestyle changes.
To schedule an evaluation and learn about insomnia treatment, please complete Crescent City Psychiatric’s online New Patient Intake Form. Our staff carefully reviews each submission and will help you schedule a new patient appointment. You can also call us at (985) 249-1322.