Insomnia is a sleep disorder that affects millions of people. Almost everyone experiences some form of short-term insomnia in his or her life. Insomnia can be mild to severe and varies in how often it occurs and how long it lasts. Acute insomnia is a short-term sleep problem that is generally related to a stressful or traumatic life event and lasts from a few days to a few weeks. Acute insomnia might happen from time to time. With chronic insomnia, sleep problems occur at least 3 nights a week for more than a month.
There are 2 types of insomnia:
- Primary insomnia is not a symptom or side effect of another medical condition. It is its own disorder. It may be life-long or triggered by travel, shift work, stressful life events, or other factors that disrupt your sleep routine. Primary insomnia may end once the issue is resolved, or can last for years. Some people tend to be prone to primary insomnia.
- Secondary insomnia has an underlying cause, so it’s a symptom or side effect of something else. It is the most common type. Secondary insomnia may have a medical cause such as depression or anxiety, or can result from some medicines, caffeine, tobacco and alcohol.
Some people with primary or secondary insomnia form habits to deal with the lack of sleep, such as worrying about sleep or going to bed too early. These habits can make insomnia worse or last longer.
Women are more likely to have insomnia than men. One reason is that hormonal changes during the menstrual cycle and menopause can affect sleep. During perimenopause, women may have trouble falling asleep and staying asleep. Hot flashes and night sweats often can disturb sleep. Perimenopause is the phase in a woman’s reproductive lifecycle leading up to menopause. Menopause is reached when a woman hasn’t had a period for 12 months in a row. Before that point, during perimenopause, a woman’s body slowly makes less of the hormones estrogen and progesterone. This causes some women to have symptoms such as hot flashes and changes in their periods and these may cause sleep disorders.
During pregnancy, hormonal, physical, and emotional changes can disturb sleep. Pregnant women, especially in the third trimester, may wake up frequently due to discomfort, leg cramps, or needing to use the bathroom.
Some medical conditions that can cause secondary insomnia also are more common in women than men. These include depression, anxiety, fibromyalgia, and some sleep disorders, such as restless leg syndrome.
Preserving your health is one of the most important things you can do to have a fulfilling and satisfying life. Understanding how you are affected by insomnia can help you see the importance in receiving treatment for this sleep disorder. National Sleep Foundation recommends the following advices:
- Stick to a sleep schedule of the same bedtime and wake up time, even on the weekends. This helps to regulate your body’s clock and could help you fall asleep and stay asleep for the night.
- Practice a relaxing bedtime ritual. A relaxing, routine activity right before bedtime conducted away from bright lights helps separate your sleep time from activities that can cause excitement, stress or anxiety which can make it more difficult to fall asleep, get sound and deep sleep or remain asleep.
- If you have sleep problems, avoid naps in the afternoon. Power napping may help you get through the day, but if you find that you can’t fall asleep at bedtime, eliminating even short catnaps may help.
- Exercise daily. Vigorous exercise is best, but even light exercise is better than no activity. Exercise at any time of day, but not at the expense of your sleep.
- Evaluate your room. Design your sleep environment to establish the conditions you need for sleep. Your bedroom should be cool – between 60 and 67 degrees. Your bedroom should also be free from any noise that can disturb your sleep. Finally, your bedroom should be free from any light. Check your room for noises or other distractions. This includes a bed partner’s sleep disruptions such as snoring. Consider using blackout curtains, eyeshades, earplugs, “white noise” machines, humidifiers, fans and other devices.
* Sleep on a comfortable mattress and pillows. Make sure your mattress is comfortable and supportive. The one you have been using for years may have exceeded its life expectancy – about 9 or 10 years for most good quality mattresses. Have comfortable pillows and make the room attractive and inviting for sleep but also free of allergens that might affect you and objects that might cause you to slip or fall if you have to get up.