Approximately one-third of the adult population worldwide suffers from insomnia each year. Approximately one-third of the adult population worldwide suffers from insomnia each year. Most adults need an average of six to eight hours of restful sleep each night in order to function properly the next day. Without enough sleep, you may experience reduced concentration, irritability, or decreased motor skills and memory. You may also have difficulty performing everyday tasks.
What is insomnia?
Insomnia is characterized by one or more of the following:
- An inability to fall asleep despite being tired.
- Waking up in the middle of the night and not being able to fall back asleep.
- Many brief awakenings throughout the night.
- The sense of not having enough sleep after a full night’s rest.
- A light sleep that leaves you feeling fatigued when you awaken.
Insomnia is almost always the result of an underlying condition. Causes of insomnia are grouped into four different categories:
- Psychological problems such as anxiety, bipolar disease or depression.
- Events or factors such as certain medicines, high stress levels and jetlag.
- Medical or biological disorders such as arthritis, allergies or asthma.
- Conditions that perpetuate insomnia, such as menopause.
If insomnia is temporary, which in most cases it is, your primary care physician may recommend a non-medical treatment such as improving your sleep hygiene. This includes going to bed and waking up at the same time each day, limiting the amount of caffeine and alcohol consumed, and exercising regularly. Also, since insomnia is often the result of an underlying cause, it is important to receive appropriate treatment for the underlying condition.
If non-medical treatments are not working, your primary care physician may advise the use of an over-the-counter sleep aid. However, there are side effects to over-the-counter sleep aids, such as fatigue, dizziness, and dry mouth and throat. People who suffer from angina, heart arrhythmias, glaucoma, prostate and urinary problems or who are taking medication to prevent nausea or motion sickness should not use over-the-counter sleep medications.
For chronic, long-term insomnia, behavioral or psychological therapies can help. These techniques are tailored to each patient’s individual case of insomnia and particular sleep needs.
When should you go to your doctor?
In most cases, insomnia only lasts for a few days or weeks. If your lack of sleep or fatigued feeling lasts longer than a couple weeks or is affecting of your everyday activities, you should make an appointment to see your primary care physician. Having an open and honest relationship with your physician can help him or her determine the best treatment options for you.
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