1.Let’s start by defining insomnia and the different types.
Insomnia is usually a symptom, typically secondary to something else. It is a sleep disorder that is characterized by difficulty falling and/or staying asleep. People with insomnia have one or more of the following symptoms:
Difficulty falling asleep
Waking up often during the night and having trouble going back to sleep
Waking up too early in the morning
Feeling tired upon waking
I think it’s important to identify the different types of insomnia so you can better understand how to treat. There are two types of insomnia: primary insomnia and secondary insomnia.
Primary insomnia: Primary insomnia means that a person is having sleep problems that are not directly associated with any other health condition or problem.
Secondary insomnia: Secondary insomnia means that a person is having sleep problems because of something else, such as a health condition (like asthma, depression, arthritis, cancer, or heartburn); pain; medication they are taking; or a substance they are using (like alcohol).
Insomnia also varies in how long it lasts and how often it occurs. It can be short-term (acute insomnia) or can last a long time (chronic insomnia). It can also come and go, with periods of time when a person has no sleep problems. Acute insomnia can last from one night to a few weeks. Insomnia is called chronic when a person has insomnia at least three nights a week for a month.
The optimal amount of sleep for most adults is seven to eight hours of good sleep each night. Teenagers need nine to 10 hours of sleep. School-aged children may need 10 or more hours of sleep. But more sleep isn't always better. For adults, sleeping more than nine to 10 hours a night may result in poor quality of sleep, such as difficulty falling or staying asleep.
2. What are some of the causes of insomnia that could be a sign of something else going on with our health?
Insomnia can be caused by physical factors as well as psychological factors. There is often an underlying medical condition that causes chronic insomnia, while acute insomnia may be due to a recent event or occurrence.
Causes of acute insomnia can include:
Significant life stress (job loss or change, death of a loved one, divorce, moving)
Emotional or physical discomfort
Environmental factors like noise, light, or extreme temperatures (hot or cold) that interfere with sleep
Some medications (for example those used to treat colds, allergies, depression, high blood pressure, and asthma) may interfere with sleep
Interferences in normal sleep schedule (jet lag or switching from a day to night shift, for example)
Causes of chronic insomnia include:
Abnormal levels of certain brain chemicals
Low levels of melatonin
High levels of stress hormones, particularly cortisol
Cyclical surges of growth hormone
Emotional disorders, such as depression, anxiety, or bipolar
Psychophysiologic insomnia, which is unsuccessful attempts to control thoughts, images, and emotions
Medical conditions and treatments
Nightly leg problems or restless leg syndrome
Medical problems, such as allergies, arthritis, cancer, fibromyalgia, heart disease, gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD), hypertension, asthma, emphysema, rheumatologic conditions, Alzheimer''s disease, Parkinson''s disease, hyperthyroidism, and ADHD.
Alcohol overuse - an estimated 10 -15% of chronic insomnia cases result from substance abuse
Shift work-shift work throws off the body'’s circadian rhythm
3. How does insomnia or not getting enough sleep affect your health?
Sleep is as important to your health as a healthy diet and regular exercise. Whatever your reason for sleep loss, insomnia can affect you both mentally and physically. People with insomnia report a lower quality of life compared with people who are sleeping well.
Complications of insomnia may include:
Lower performance on the job or at school
Slowed reaction time while driving and higher risk of accidents
Psychiatric problems, such as depression or an anxiety disorder
Overweight or obesity
Poor immune system function - Studies show that people who don't get quality sleep or enough sleep are more likely to get sick after being exposed to a virus, such as the common cold. Lack of sleep can also affect how fast you recover if you do get sick.
Increased risk and severity of long-term diseases, such as high blood pressure, heart disease and diabetes - There is evidence that sleep is critically important to heart health, and that disrupted, poor, and insufficient sleep is associated with elevated risk of cardiovascular disease.
4. What are some of the treatment options that are out there that can help?
Acute insomnia may not require treatment. Mild insomnia often can be prevented or cured by practicing good sleep habits. If your insomnia makes it hard for you to function during the day because you are sleepy and tired, your health care provider may prescribe sleeping pills for a limited time. Rapid onset, short-acting drugs can help you avoid effects such as drowsiness the following day. Avoid using over-the-counter sleeping pills for insomnia, because they may have undesired side effects and tend to lose their effectiveness over time.
Treatment for chronic insomnia includes first treating any underlying conditions or health problems that are causing the insomnia. If insomnia continues, your health care provider may suggest behavioral therapy. Behavioral approaches help you to change behaviors that may worsen insomnia and to learn new behaviors to promote sleep. Techniques such as relaxation exercises, sleep restriction therapy, and reconditioning may be useful.
5. What are some good sleep habits you can share with us to help get a good night’s sleep?
There are a number of steps you should take at the end of your day to pamper your body and sooth your mind. Whether you choose a few or all of the following suggestions, the most important step is to develop a nightly routine and to consistently follow that routine. Maintain a ‘Personal Health Journal’ as you begin to develop a nighttime routine. Review this information with your physician at every visit to help you determine where you should make additional adjustments and how to blend the interventions into your total program.
Know your body’s best sleep pattern. When? Where? Why? How? Work with, not against yourself. You’re not out to prove anything, to anyone. The goal is to give your body the rest it needs.
Sleep and wake times should be consistent. Try to stick to a schedule. This will quickly coincide with your body and minds internal clock to become one. You don’t need another internal battle.
Dinner should not be your heaviest meal of the day. Eat lighter so your body does not have to work as hard when you are attempting to wind down from your day. A heavy meal stresses your body to work harder and longer through the digestive process.
Consider your choices of food and drink. Avoid those that tend to cause havoc with your body such as spicy foods; foods that can cause indigestion; and stimulants that may keep you awake such as soda, coffee or chocolate. For some, a glass of wine or a cup of warm light tea at the end of the day assists them to relax.
Stretching is an important relaxation tool. Proper stretching techniques should become a regular part of your nightly routine.
Use relaxation techniques that work for you. Do you enjoy soft music? Complete quiet? Soft lighting? Hot shower? Warm bath? Dip in the hot tub?
Consider sleep medication if necessary. If you find that medication assists you to obtain a good nights’ sleep, then by all means, use with the guidance of your physician.
Keep track of what does and does not work. Record in your journal and review this information frequently. It may be a “real eye opener”!
6. What is the best way to get an accurate diagnosis for insomnia?
If you think you have insomnia, talk to your health care provider. An evaluation may include a physical exam, a medical history, and a sleep history. You may be asked to keep a sleep diary for a week or two, keeping track of your sleep patterns and how you feel during the day. Your health care provider may want to interview your bed partner about the quantity and quality of your sleep. In some cases, you may be referred to a sleep center for special tests.
7. What can your Center do to help those with insomnia?
We look at the underlying cause of your insomnia and treat the condition that’s causing it. Through our detailed health questionnaire, history, and review of specific lab tests, we can determine the underlying factors that may be leading to your insomnia and create a customized, integrative plan to get you back on track and sleeping good again.
Co If you want more information on how Holtorf Medical Group can address your symptoms associated with insomnia please visit HMGUtah.com or call (801)821-5384 to talk to a patient representative.