What is Insomnia? What are the causes, symptoms and treatment of Insomnia. Information on Insomnia.
Insomnia; is the inability to obtain adequate sleep, either in duration or in depth of sleep. Because sleep habits differ from one individual to another, insomnia is usually defined by the subjective attitude of the person rather than by objective criteria. A person who gets seven hours of sleep but feels that he needs more may suffer just as much from insomnia as the person who sleeps only five hours but who would prefer to sleep six. Elderly people sometimes complain of not being able to sleep well at night, but this is often because they are inactive and may doze during the day.
Causes: Apart from external causes, such as excessive light or noise, there are two basic reasons for sleeplessness: emotional disorders, such as anxiety, and the presence of pain or other physical discomfort. Mental or emotional problems are probably the principal cause of insomnia.
Anxiety over business or domestic affairs may cause a type of insomnia known as initial, or predormitional, insomnia, in which the person has difficulty falling asleep. This type of insomnia may also be caused by vigorous mental activity or excitement late at night. In addition, some people have a neurotic preoccupation with the need to obtain what they feel is the ideal amount of sleep, and these people may be kept awake by worrying about the harm they believe will be caused by their sleeplessness.
Terminal, or postdormitional, insomnia, in which the person awakes very early and cannot get back to sleep, is a characteristic symptom of depression. This type of insomnia is particularly unpleasant because it prolongs the time the person is awake and in misery.
Among the most common physical problems that cause insomnia are aching of the legs, muscle cramps, skin irritations, shortness of breath, and fever caused by infection. Disorders of the peripheral nerves, notably those associated with diabetes mellitus and alcoholism, are also frequently characterized by insomnia. Pressure on the roots of the spinal nerves, as occurs in cancer of the pancreas, is characteristically more troublesome at night.
Treatment: Insomnia, like pain or coughing, is not a disease itself but only a symptom of an underlying disorder. The treatment of insomnia, therefore, is based on the treatment of the physical or psychological disorder.
Sedatives and sleep-inducing drugs, especially chloral hydrate and the barbiturates, are often useful in managing insomnia, but they should be administered only under a physician’s direction. In patients who are severely depressed, special precautions must be taken to avoid the dangers of intoxication, addiction, and suicide.
Many over-the-counter sleeping aids contain small amounts of scopolamine, a depressant drug related to atropine, and methapyrilene, an antihistamine that acts as a sedative. When taken as directed, these preparations are harmless; but if they are taken in large quantities, serious side effects may occur.
***This article is for informational purposes only. It is not a doctor warning or recommendation.