Everything You Need To Know About Insomnia
As much as one third of the UK and 20% of the global population are reported to suffer from insomnia. In spite of this, a generalised lack of understanding exists as to what insomnia is, why some people are more at risk than others and crucially, how to overcome it. In this article we will answer many of these questions and start your journey of insomnia recovery.
What is Insomnia?
Insomnia is a dissatisfaction with sleep quality or duration during the night, which leads to significant distress during the day. If you think you may be suffering from insomnia, have a look at the symptoms below.
Difficulty initiating sleep
Frequent or prolonged awakenings with an inability to return to sleep
Early-morning awakening with an inability to return to sleep
Waking up feeling unrefreshed
Reduced cognitive functions, such as impaired attention, concentration and memory
Difficulty functioning in academic or occupational settings
If any of these applies to you, consider how long you have had these symptoms. This is important because insomnia can be categorized as either acute or chronic dependent on its duration:
Is a temporary period of sleep disturbance lasting from as little as one night to a couple of weeks. Generally, acute insomnia occurs as a result of a traumatic life circumstances but usually resolves itself without any treatment, typically when the initial stressor disappears.
Is a persistent type of insomnia which is clinically defined as having difficulty sleeping at least three or more nights per week for three months or more. For many of the 30% of the population who are reported to suffer, it’s a vicious cycle of not sleeping and then worrying about the implications of not sleeping leading to further poor sleep.
Risk factors for Insomnia
Everyone experiences the occasional troublesome night. But your risk of insomnia may be greater if you are;
Women are twice as likely to have insomnia due to fluctuations of hormones during the menstrual cycle, menopause, pregnancy and motherhood. This is because many of the hormones involved in such periods also regulate sleep. Women also have a greater tendency to worry which leave women more vulnerable to sleep problems.
Over 60 years old
Insomnia rates can shoot up to as much as 50% in the elderly. This is because as we age, we experience a shift in our circadian rhythm (your internal biological clock that regulates your sleepiness and wakefulness), which may cause older adults to sleep early in the evening and wake up earlier in the morning. Other sleep disturbing medical conditions commonly occur with age such as increased need to use the toilet at night or physical pain may also disturb sleep.
Have an existing medical or psychiatric condition
Any condition that affects your mental or physical health which causes discomfort, can disrupt sleep.
Low socio-economimc status, family history or being a strong morning or evening type.
What are the common causes of insomnia
Here are some of the common causes of insomnia:
Stress and anxiety
Poor Sleeping Environment (such as an uncomfortable bed, or a bedroom that's too light, noisy, hot or cold)
Lifestyle factors – such as jet lag, shift work, or drinking alcohol or caffeine before going to bed
Mental health conditions – such as depression and schizophrenia
Physical health conditions – such as heart problems, other sleep disorders and long-term pain
Certain medicines – such as some antidepressants, epilepsy medicines and steroid medict
The diagnosis of insomnia is based on an individual reporting difficulties falling asleep, waking up lots night or earlier than planned and significant impairment in daytime functioning. This may be assessed by keeping a daily sleep diary and/or the completion of an in depth sleep survey.
Once a diagnosis of insomnia is made, psychological or pharmacological treatments will be offered.
Pharmacological - drug therapy
Taking prescription sleeping tablets is the most common approach offered by doctors for the treatment of insomnia. Whilst such chemically induced sleep may provide a welcome relief from the endless sleepless nights, it is not a long term solution and can often fuel insomnia symptoms. Problems include becoming reliant on medication to sleep, experiencing next day mental fogginess, as well as alarming research that long term usage may shorten your lifespan. Read more to understand why sleeping pills may not be the answer to your insomnia.
Cognitive behavioural therapy for Insomnia (CBT-I) is commonly recommended therapy. It’s based on the idea of trying to reduce the painful symptoms you experience, which sounds great because who wouldn’t want to have less worrisome thoughts and anxiety in the night. Unfortunately, if you’ve ever tried to get rid of your worries and anxieties in the night, you’ll know that it is not that easy and can often result in a worsening of insomnia symptoms in the long term.
The Sleep School’s Approach
We globally pioneer the use of a newer form of CBT known as Acceptance and Commitment Therapy for chronic insomnia (ACT-I). The key difference between ACT and CBT is that rather than trying to get rid of the difficult thoughts and feelings which can keep you awake, it helps you to change the way you relate to them instead. Developed over the past 10 years, it works by learning to accept your insomnia, thus training your brain to sleep naturally once again. It consists of 5 simple steps that have been proven to help thousands of insomniacs to sleep naturally once again.
If you need help overcoming insomnia , we recommend our Sleep School for Insomnia App. It contains proven tools to help you fall asleep quicker, stay asleep and wake up feeling refreshed.