Insomnia is characterized by an inability to sleep and/or to be incapable of remaining asleep for a reasonable period. Insomniacs typically complain of being unable to close their eyes or "rest their mind" for more than a few minutes at a time. Both organic and nonorganic insomnia constitute a sleep disorder. It is often caused by fear, stress, anxiety, medications, herbs, caffeine or sometimes for no apparent reason. An overactive mind or physical pain may also be causes. Finding the underlying cause of insomnia is usually necessary to cure it.
Types of insomnia
Three different types of insomnia exist. Insomnia may be classified as transient, acute, and chronic. Insomnia lasting from one night to a few weeks is referred to as transient. Most people occasionally suffer from transient insomnia due to such causes as jet lag or short-term anxiety. If this form of insomnia continues to occur from time to time, the insomnia is classified to be intermittent. Acute insomnia is the inability to consistently sleep well for a period of between three weeks to six months. Insomnia is considered to be chronic, the most serious, if it persists almost nightly for at least a month, and sometimes longer.
Common causes of insomnia
A person can have primary or secondary insomnia. Primary insomnia is sleeplessness that is not attributable to a medical or environmental cause. Secondary insomnia means that a person is having sleep problems because of something else, such as a health condition, an example of which would be generalized anxiety disorder.
Some of the most common causes of insomnia are:
- Circadian rhythm sleep disorders cause insomnia at some times of the day and excessive sleepiness at other times of the day. Common circadian rhythm sleep disorders include jet lag and delayed sleep phase syndrome. Jet lag is seen in people who travel through multiple time zones, as the time relative to the rising and falling of the sun no longer coincides with the body's internal concept of it. The insomnia experienced by shift workers is also a circadian rhythm sleep disorder.
- Parasomnia includes a number of disorders of arousal or disruptive sleep events including nightmares, sleepwalking, violent behavior while sleeping, and REM behavior disorder, in which a person moves his/her physical body in response to events within his/her dreams. These conditions can often be treated successfully through medical intervention or through the use of a sleep specialist.
- Gastroesophageal Reflux Disease causes repeated awakenings during the night due to unpleasant sensations resulting from stomach acid flowing upward into the throat while asleep.
- Mania or Hypomania in bipolar disorder can cause difficulty falling asleep. A person going through a manic or hypomanic episode may feel a reduced need for sleep. Sleep deprivation can worsen a manic episode, or cause hypomania to develop into mania.
- Stimulants like caffeine, nicotine, sugar, certain medicines, or other pills/drugs.
- Lack of exercise - Exercise makes people tired/sleepy.
- Dehydration causes stimulants, hormones, and cellular waste to build up in the blood rather than being flushed out, causing irritation, aches, and headaches (and hyperactivity in the case of stimulants). Drinking a cup or two of water can cause sleepiness within an hour or two.