Insomnia is a very serious problem. Sleep disorders are a problem that affects human functioning as a whole. Sleep is shallow, interrupted, and too short for a person to rest. This is also associated with increasing mental tension and stress, which can lead to very serious health problems. What should you know about insomnia? Keep reading!
In the past, insomnia was mainly associated with older people. This was related to a lower need for sleep or natural changes that occur in the human body as it ages. However, sleep problems are now reported by more and more younger people.
Insomnia has plagued humanity for centuries. In today’s world, it is becoming an increasingly serious problem. The pace of life has changed, people now live in greater stress and rush, which has a negative impact on their natural and biological sleep rhythms.
Under the influence of increasingly diagnosed insomnia, there have also been changes in its understanding. Today, insomnia is no longer treated only as a problem associated with other illnesses. It is considered a separate disease entity. There are even specialized centers that focus on treating all kinds of sleep disorders.
INSOMNIA – CAUSES
Sleep disorders are divided into those that have something in common with somatic diseases or diseases of the nervous system. Americans, on the other hand, divide insomnia into primary and secondary. However, it is best to categorize insomnia based on its duration as a criterion. From this point of view, you may have to deal with insomnia:
- Transient – lasting for several days
- Short-term – lasting up to four weeks
- Chronic – lasting more than four weeks
In the first two cases, insomnia is most commonly associated with lifestyle changes or as a reaction of the body to a high level of stress. It can be caused by changing time zones due to traveling, moving, work problems, school problems, or home problems. It also happens that short-term insomnia is associated with some somatic illness – such as various infections or pain that prevents you from falling asleep.
However, if insomnia lasts for more than four weeks, which means it transitions into chronic insomnia, the problem becomes much more complex. Such insomnia may be associated with very serious somatic diseases – neurological diseases, musculoskeletal disorders, depression, anxiety disorders, chronic painful conditions, and many others. In the case of primary insomnia, its causes can also be extremely difficult to diagnose.
Cognitive-behavioral therapy (CBT) brings the best results in treating insomnia. It is the most well-known treatment for primary insomnia. This therapy is very important because patients with chronic insomnia tend to approach sleep issues in a way that only perpetuates the problem instead of helping themselves. This can cause insomnia to become a permanent issue.
Factors that can contribute to chronic insomnia include:
- Lack of physical activity
- Napping during the day
- Staying in bed too long
- Drinking alcohol before bedtime
- Taking sleep medication for too long and too often
- Excessive focus on sleep quality
CBT allows you to change your approach to insomnia. The most important factors in this approach are:
- Adequate sleep hygiene – patients must refrain from consuming caffeine six hours before planned sleep. It is also very important to avoid alcohol and smoking. Heavy, fatty meals are also not recommended. It is also important to establish a sleep routine – go to bed and wake up at specific times. Avoid bright light – including computer screens, TV, or phone screens – and focus on physical and mental activity during the day.
- Stimulus control – developing healthy habits through conditioned learning is very good for improving sleep quality. Patients first learn to use their bed only for sleep and sexual activity. All other activities – studying, reading, watching TV, browsing the internet – should be done outside the bed.
- Sleep time control – it is very important to control the time spent in bed. If a person sleeps for five hours, they should stay in bed for a maximum of five and a half hours in the initial period. The time spent in bed depends on many things and it is worth tracking and controlling it in a sleep diary. The rest of the time should be spent as actively as possible outside the bed. During psychotherapy, a person also learns various types of relaxation techniques that can help achieve adequate sleep quality.
Pharmacotherapy is also used in the treatment of insomnia. A doctor can prescribe hypnotics, and over-the-counter herbal remedies are also available in pharmacies and stores. Medication can help you fall asleep, but it does not solve the underlying causes of insomnia – it only fights the symptoms. If used for too long and without medical supervision, it can worsen sleep and exacerbate the problem of insomnia. Therefore, medication should not be used as a substitute for psychotherapy.