Insomnia is a common problem. Most people suffer from an occasional sleepless night. There are also a number of other problems which can affect the length and quality of your sleep.
An accurate diagnosis will mean giving some time and thought to the problem. This is often difficult as you are usually trying so hard to sleep or wrestling with invasive thoughts, that ‘not sleeping’ is the last thing you want to think about with any clarity!
‘Difficulty in getting to sleep and not being able to stay asleep’ is the simplest way to explain insomnia. A medical diagnosis of insomnia will require the condition to have been present for at least three nights a week and be affecting the sufferer in other ways. The condition will have been present for at least 6 months and will be causing the sufferer distress.
It is important to assess whether the condition is, or is likely, to be short term or if it has become a long term problem. Life changes such as moving, a new baby, worries, illness or even changes in diet may cause short term sleep problems. As these are resolved or become more settled, sleep may return on its own accord.
Insomnia is also determined by the length of sleep. Part of the night is spent awake and this will often mean that the sufferer will be suffering from Sleep Debt which will affect their ability to cope during the day. Insomniacs will be feeling the affects of their lack of sleep and may be irritable and unable to concentrate. Long term insomnia will cause physical and mental health problems.
Years of Suffering
There is often a considerable delay before seeking help for Insomnia. Many people go undiagnosed for years, believing it to be something they have to ‘put up with’. This may be for a number of reasons. Most people complain of being tired, or unable to sleep from time to time, so this makes it difficult for individuals the evaluate if they have a genuine problem or if it’s just part of life. Doctors also find it difficult to provide a solution. They are reluctant to hand out medication as they are aware of the problems, but have little time and limited resources to find a long term solution.
Many sufferers only seek help when they are suffering the consequences of insomnia. When their lack of sleep is causing strain at home or work they may realise that they need to take steps to confront the causes of their insomnia.
Primary Insomnia is the name given to the condition where there is no other known reason for the sleep problem. It will affect the mind and body and result in wakefulness and difficulty in falling asleep.
Many people actually sleep more than they think they do…Although they appear to sleep reasonably well, they report sleep problems and feel as though they are not having enough sleep. They experience similar symptoms to those who are having longer periods of wakefulness.
Pain and illness make it difficult to sleep. Arthritis, back pain, cancer, heart and respiratory disease all make it difficult to fall and stay asleep. Medications can also affect sleep. Psychological problems such as stress, anxiety and depression also cause insomnia and other sleep problems.
Tackling the Cause
Defining the problem may take time and require professional help. A Sleep Diary will help you assess your problem and you might seek the help of a partner or member of your family to help you assess how you sleep.
There are a number of ways of tackling insomnia. It is likely that your insomnia has taken some time to develop, so it is worth investigating the causes and developing a plan. This may mean making changes to your home and the way you live, but by improving your sleep you will be making a long term investment in your health and wellbeing.