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What is Insomnia?
Insomnia is a common sleep problem that has been shown to be associated with a wide range of health problems, including heart disease, obesity, depression, and anxiety.
Insomnia affects around two-thirds of adults in the US and Europe every night and causes nocturnal wakefulness to interfere with health and well-being, and has been linked to negative behaviours that may lead to higher health risks such as drinking too much or eating unhealthy food.
One surprising aspect of the disorder is the negative impact it can have on mental and physical health. Insomnia affects women more than men and people who are overweight or obese are more likely to suffer from the disorder, as are those who have ADHD or bipolar disorder, among others.
All types of insomnia are not created equal; each type has a distinctive set of symptoms. Symptoms of insomnia can differ between genders, as well as between people with different biological and social conditions.
The most common signs of insomnia are difficulty falling asleep, waking up multiple times while sleeping, and having difficulty waking up in the morning. If symptoms of insomnia are so severe that a person can’t get through a night without falling asleep, they might be diagnosed with a sleep disorder.
However, while symptoms of insomnia have a very clear symptom profile, many insomnia cases are difficult to diagnose. For example, sleep deprivation may pose as a risk factor for insomnia, but in patients who have trouble sleeping, fatigue is also common. Many people who feel tired are experiencing sleepiness rather than insomnia.
In the case of insomnia, constant wakefulness is often the first symptom to trigger a visit to the doctor. Insomnia is not as common as many medical professionals believe, but it is still a legitimate problem and a big health concern.
Causes of insomnia
For some people, insomnia may result from a sleep disorder that involves problems in other parts of the body. People with sleep apnea are also more likely to develop insomnia due to daytime sleepiness, but women are more likely to have undiagnosed obstructive sleep apnea. These are just a few examples of possible causes of insomnia.
Difficulty sleeping, however, can be caused by a number of different reasons, especially genetics. For instance, untreated bipolar disorder may be associated with insomnia, but people with both mood disorders often report nocturnal symptoms. Unravelling the causes of insomnia is the focus of a new book by journalist Holly Voss, whose research into insomnia and the health problems it can cause showed up in the book My Night So Slow: The Insomnia That Changed my Life.
Management of insomnia
The best way to manage insomnia is to spend more time in bed. However, many people struggle to do this. People with untreated insomnia are more likely to fall asleep later in the night and may not be able to reach sleep at all. If you can’t sleep more hours, try to increase light exposure in the middle of the night and try to relax.
If you are tired during the day, try to be aware of this by taking time during the day to sit quietly in your favourite place or walk in nature or use your computer in an isolated place. As the temperature and light level gets lower, try to take a nap or take a 10-minute stroll during the day to keep your energy levels up. The best way to treat insomnia is to not avoid sleep and other sleep behaviours.
There are many types of insomnia medication available, including some that are recommended for insomnia and some that can be used as stand-alone therapies. While the exact definition of insomnia is up for debate, there are multiple types of insomnia medication and a wide range of possible side effects.
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