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Insomnia: General Overview of a Debilitating Disorder

Insomnia is one of the most common sleeping disorders known to man, and is thought to affect millions and millions of people worldwide each year. If you sometimes have difficulties falling asleep or remaining asleep throughout the night, there is a high chance you are suffering from some form of this sleeping disorder. 


While not dangerous by itself, this disorder can lead to worsening sleep deprivation, which in turn can cause a whole series of different health problems. Don't underestimate the effects of insomnia on your health. Therefore, it is important to understand the signs and what causes this disorder, as this is important in either effectively managing or treating it.

This disorder covers a wide range of disturbances to sleeping patterns, including the inability to fall asleep (latent sleep onset) or the inability to sleep for more than a few hours at a time. It can also include waking up too early, the inability to fall back asleep once awake (even in the middle of the night), and a lack of refreshing sleep that results in waking up feeling incredibly tired even after a full night's sleep.

What Causes Insomnia?

This disorder is categorized into two different forms. Primary insomnia is that which is unrelated to any other physical or psychological disorder, while secondary insomnia is where the sleep patterns are disturbed as a result of various health problems, taking certain medication, stress, depression, pain, etc. 

Some conditions known to cause this secondary form include arthritis, asthma, cancer, anxiety disorders, bi-polar disorder, and many others.

what is insomniaFurthermore, this sleeping disorder is also categorized based on how long the sleep disturbances occur. When the problems only last for a few weeks or less, it is considered acute insomnia. While chronic insomnia refers to sleeping problems that last for longer periods, possibly even permanently without proper help and treatment.

On the other hand, chronic insomnia is usually related to persistent pain, anxiety disorders, depression, and stress, while acute causes of insomnia are more likely to be caused by one of the other factors listed above.

Symptoms of Insomnia

Most people can probably guess what the most common insomnia symptoms are, as anyone who has ever had a lack of sleep has most likely experienced at least a few of these symptoms. When the problem first begins, the individual will begin to feel incredibly tired or fatigued immediately upon waking up, usually no matter how many hours they were able to sleep.

One of the most common symptoms of insomnia is the inability to fall asleep, even when the person feels absolutely exhausted. A lack of sleep will also lead to irritability and can make it much more difficult to pay attention or concentrate, making even the simplest or most mundane of tasks seem incredibly difficult all of a sudden.

what is insomniaThe longer the sleeping problems persist, the more sleep deprived the individual will become. This will worsen the other symptoms of insomnia listed above, and can also lead to other, more serious mental problems. 

With severe insomnia, when a person begins to become dangerously sleep deprived, they may even begin to become quite paranoid or have vivid dreams or hallucinations while awake

In fact, in these cases the brain often shows patterns similar to REM sleep while being awake when connected to an EEG machine.

All of these insomnia symptoms are usually quite easy to diagnose, but the problem remains of trying to determine exactly what is causing the disorder in the first place. Sometimes it can be attributed to an imbalance of the body's 'sleep hormones' called melatonin and serotonin.

How Is Insomnia Diagnosed?

If you constantly feel tired, fatigued, and find it difficult to concentrate while at work or school, you just might be suffering from insomnia, and may need to seek professional help in order to help you find proper and working remedies for insomnia. Most people who suffer from this sleeping disorder are fully aware of it, as they understand this is what is causing their inability to fall asleep or stay asleep.

 

However, a smaller percentage of people suffering from this disorder remain completely unaware of it. These are the more rare cases where the disorder doesn't actually stop a person from sleeping, but instead results in a less than adequate quality of sleep. Some people with this disorder are still able to fall asleep normally and remain asleep throughout the night, yet wake up feeling like they haven't slept at all.

 

In order to seek medical help for treating or managing your sleeping disorder, you will first need to make an appointment to see your doctor to discuss your symptoms and sleeping patterns. 

Your doctor may ask you to keep a sleep journal for several weeks that details exactly what time you fell asleep, how long you stayed asleep, and for how many hours, if any, you woke up during the night. They will usually also want to know how you felt upon waking, i.e. groggy, fatigued, refreshed, etc.

This sleep journal will help the sleep specialist to better under your sleeping patterns and habits, so they can try to diagnose what is causing the problems. They will also take a close look at your medical history and any medications you are currently taking to see if there is anything there that might be contributing to the problem.

Finally, you may eventually have to undergo a sleep study, where you will be required to spend a night in a sleep lab connected to many different machines that monitor your bodily functions. They will especially be looking at your brain waves to try to spot any disturbances in your sleeping patterns. 

what is insomniaIn recent years, insomnia research has improved a great deal, and the condition can be treated successfully no matter how severe it might be.

All of this should help give the doctor a better idea of exactly what is causing your sleeping problems. Once they feel they better understand your condition, they will then tailor a plan to suit your needs. This could include any number of treatment methods, although cognitive behavioral therapy is now starting to become one of the most common methods used to treat patients suffering from this and other sleeping disorders.


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