Insomnia or sleeplessness is a disorder characterized by deficiency of sleep or want of sleep. An insomniac finds it difficult to initiate or maintain sleep, and sleeplessness interferes with his or her day to day functioning. 50% of the world population suffers from insomnia at some time or the other and 10% suffers from chronic or long standing insomnia.
An insomniac fails to sleep in spite of sufficient opportunity and time to sleep. His or her sleeplessness may be poor both qualitatively and quantitatively. Insomnia is common among all age groups, but increases with age. Women suffer from insomnia more than men. To study insomniacs, doctor generally takes in to account the following points:
- Duration of sleep
- Time of sleep
- Time to fall asleep
- Number and duration of awakenings
- Time of final morning awakening
- Duration of day time naps.
Based on duration, insomnia may be classified as follows
Transient insomnia-Transient insomnia lasts for or less than a week.
Short term insomnia-Short term insomnia last for more than a week and may even extend to three weeks.
Long term insomnia or chronic insomnia-Long term insomnia extends beyond three weeks.
The term 'insomnia' or sleeplessness should not be confused with sleep deprivation or short duration sleep. Sleep deprivation stands for willful avoidance of sleep or sleeplessness due to lack of opportunity and time. Short duration sleep is common. Some people require less hours of sleep, and that does not cause any impairment of day to day functioning.
Causes of Insomnia
- Stressful life
- Different working shifts
- Physical discomfort due to unfamiliar surroundings, hot or cold.
- Illicit drug use
- High intake of caffeine and tobacco
- Jet lag
- Sexual dissatisfaction
- Effect of certain medications
- Going to bed hungry
- Noisy sleeping atmosphere
- Eating or exercising before going to bed
- Breathing difficulties
- Frequent urge for urination
- Acid reflux
- Chronic pain
- Obstructive sleep apnea
- Parkinson's disease
- Psychiatric conditions like depression, mania, psychosis, post traumatic stress disorder.
- Physiological condition like menstrual cycle, menopause, pregnancy.
- Restless leg syndrome
- Periodic limb movement disorder.
Symptoms of Sleeplessness or Insomnia
- Day time functioning impairment
- Day time fatigue
- Day time sleepiness
- Lack of concentration and frequent errors
- Mood changes
- Poor social function
- Lack of energy
- Memory impairment
Insomnia may be treated effectively through non medical ways like maintaining regular fixed bed time hours, exercising during day, taking a body massage before going to bed, taking a bath with Epsom salt or baking soda mixed in to bath water prior to sleeping, taking warm milk or herbal tea before sleeping, listening to light music before going to bed, avoiding naps and sleeping in a firm bed.
Herbal Remedies for Insomnia or Sleeplessness
- Valerian calms the nerves effectively, and valerian tea puts one to sound sleep.
- Passion flower tincture has excellent sedative properties.
- Hops calms anxiety and restlessness and has sedative properties.
- Black Cohosh and blue Cohosh also relax nerves effectively.
- Chamomile tea or oil in bath water is an effective insomnia remedy.
- California poppy has excellent sedative properties.
- Lavender oil used in bath water or used as a massage lotion can relax tensed nerves.
- The herb kava kava is also a nerve calmer and helps in sleeping.
- St John's Wort effectively treats chronic insomnia.
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