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Insomnia: An Irritable Sleep Disorder That Can Be Tamed With Healthy Sleep Habits

India holds the second spot among the sleep-deprived countries in the world. Well, with over 10 million Insomnia cases a year, one can hardly be surprised. 

The human body is a machine that can work tirelessly for long hours. But sleep is that restorative drug it requires to strike the ideal equilibrium. Sadly, many people get robbed of this blessing, thanks to a familiar culprit, Insomnia. A stubborn foe that goes beyond a simple lack of sleep scenario. 

Insomnia penetrates deep into our very existence. It puts us through extreme mental and physical turmoil. You are also at increased risk of falling prey to a host of related problems. Lack of concentration, depression, anxiety, irritation, and many more. So, to stop the disorder from controlling our lives, we need to know its underlying mechanisms. 

Here is a comprehensive guide to Insomnia that can help you regain your lost sleep. 

What is Insomnia?

Insomnia is a prevalent sleep illness that affects about 10% of the population in the world. In this, you face difficulty falling and staying asleep. It is usually not dangerous or life-threatening. But minimal sleep/ sleepless nights for too long do have detrimental health consequences. More so given that adults on average need around 7-9 hours of sleep to function optimally. 

Types of Insomnia

The sleep disorder is mostly classified into two types:

  • Primary Insomnia - Here the sleep issues of the insomniac are not linked to other diseases.

  • Secondary Insomnia - In this, the person suffers the sleep difficulties due to a health condition. 

There are some other variations too:

  • Sleep-onset Insomnia (trouble falling asleep)

  • Sleep-maintenance Insomnia (trouble staying asleep)

  • Mixed Insomnia (difficulty both falling and remaining asleep)

  • Paradoxical Insomnia (the insomniac feels they sleep less than they actually do)

Does Insomnia Go Away?

Insomnia may last for the short term as well as get chronic and make the individual a victim for a long time. In the previous case, the sleep disturbances take place for 1 night to a few weeks. Whereas, in chronic scenarios, the trouble continues at least 3 nights weekly for 3 months or more. 

Insomnia Symptoms

The signs and symptoms of Insomnia include a variety of sleep-related concerns. You may find yourself in the below-mentioned circumstances:

  • Finding it hard to fall asleep

  • Consistent pattern of broken sleep

  • Walking up very early

  • Sleepiness throughout the day

  • Cranky, depressed, and tired all the time

  • Trouble concentrating

  • Becoming more prone to mistakes and accidents

  • Constant tensions about sleep

Why Insomnia Occurs? - Insomnia Causes

Sleep complications can originate from a variety of factors. The most common causes include:

  • Extreme stress (death in the family, job loss, divorce)

  • Unfavorable sleep surroundings (noise, humid temperature, too much light)

  • Sleep schedule changes (jet lag, change in work shift)

  • Negligible or no physical activity

  • Genes 

There are a few other Insomnia reasons that are worth considering too:

  • Depression/ Anxiety

  • Certain medicines (allergies, high blood pressure, asthma)

  • Intake of tobacco, caffeine, illicit drugs and alcohol

  • Hyperthyroidism (the thyroid gland produces excessive hormones)

  • Pregnancy

  • Alzheimer's disease/ Dementia (memory loss)

  • ADHD (lack of attention)

  • Menopause

How to Diagnose Insomnia?

Insomnia diagnosis is usually done using a combination of methods. The physician will start by taking your medical records and your sleep history. They might even ask you to maintain a sleep diary for a few days to track your sleep pattern. 

Following that, you may have to undergo some tests to rule out similar conditions. 

  • Polysomnography (it involves recording multiple body systems while sleeping)

  • Actigraphy (it requires you to wear a device known as an actigraph to measure your movement)

How to Cure Insomnia? 

A few lifestyle changes or dealing with issues leading to Insomnia can work to end the illness. But if things are too serious for you to get relief from simple remedies, then doctors may consider an alternate Insomnia treatment. 

  1. Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT)

CBT is an effective Insomnia therapy, often suggested as a first treatment. It helps get rid of or better control negative emotions or actions that do not let you sleep. The process involves altering your beliefs and overcoming the worrying cycle. 

Here are some strategies that work:

  • Stimulus Control Therapy (training mind and body to not fight sleep)

  • Relaxation methods (breathing experiences and controlling muscle tension to relax)

  • Sleep limitation (reducing the hours you spend in bed to make you more tired for the next night)

  • Passive method (removing your focus from sleep to let sleep naturally come to you)

  • Light therapy (this Insomnia therapy uses light to control the internal clock)

  1. Medications

Many people rely on sleeping pills to handle the condition. But Insomnia drugs are not the most recommended path by doctors. Even if they advise you to take medicines, they do it by weighing all the pros and cons. 

For patients who find it hard to fall asleep:

  • Eszopiclone

  • Ramelteon

  • Temazepam

  • Triazolam

  • Zaleplon

  • Zolpidem tartrate

For those who can't stay asleep, get up too early, or can’t get back to sleep again:

  • Doxepin hydrochloride

  • Eszopiclone

  • Suvorexant

  • Temazepam

  • Zolpidem tartrate

Besides the above-mentioned Insomnia drugs, there are other options available without a prescription. They have antihistamines (which treat allergies) and cause sleepiness and other side effects. So, they should not be taken regularly. Also consulting an expert on the same is an absolute must.

Final Thoughts - Insomnia Can Be Prevented

Insomnia can pose unnecessary hindrances in day-to-day life. But the good news is that while you cannot avoid the issue entirely, you may be able to prevent it. Discipline is the key point here. 

Good habits can beat Insomnia. Here are some sleep hygiene practices for Insomnia prevention:

  • Maintain a proper sleep routine. In other words, have a fixed time to go to sleep as well as to get up from sleep every day. Also, try not to take naps in the daytime. 

  • Refrain from using your mobiles, laptops, or e-books just before going to bed.

  • It’s best to stay away from caffeine and nicotine later in the day. Even drinking alcohol at night can lead to too many toilet breaks, which may hinder sleep.

  • Exercise 3 to 4 hours before sleep regularly.

  • Try to eat lighter meals before bedtime. 

  • Keep your bedroom cool, quiet, and cozy.  

  • Get involved in relaxing activities before going to bed. Listening to music, taking a bath, for instance. 

  • If lack of sleep is bothering you in the middle of the night, get up and calm yourself. Reading books might help.

  • If worries keep you awake, maintain a to-do list before sleeping.

Last, but not the least, be in constant touch with an experienced professional. Follow their advice and try to keep stress away from your life as much as possible.  


The Author : Dr. Sunil Khattri 

+91 9811618704

Dr. Sunil Khattri MBBS, MS(General Surgery), LLB, is a Medical doctor and is a practicing Advocate in the Supreme Court of India and National Consumer Disputes Redressal Commission, New Delhi.

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