Insomnia is a common sleep disorder. People who have insomnia have difficulty falling asleep (onset), staying asleep (maintenance) and/or waking up to early in the morning. People with insomnia can feel dissatisfied with their sleep and usually experience one or more of the following symptoms: fatigue, low energy, difficulty concentrating, mood disturbances, and decreased performance in work or at school.
Acute versus Chronic Insomnia
Insomnia if often characterized based on its duration: it can be acute (short-term) or chronic (ongoing).
Acute insomnia is brief and often happens because of life circumstances (for example, when you can’t fall asleep the night before an exam, or as the result of family pressures, stress at work, bad news or a traumatic event). It may last for days or weeks. Many people may have experienced this type of passing sleep disruption, and it tends to resolve without any treatment.
Chronic insomnia is disrupted sleep that occurs at least three nights per week and lasts at least three months. Chronic insomnia disorders can have many causes. Changes in the environment, unhealthy sleep habits, shift work, other clinical disorders and medical conditions, and certain medications can lead to a long-term pattern of insufficient sleep.
People with chronic or chronic insomnia may benefit from some form of treatment to help them get back to healthy sleep patterns.
Primary versus Secondary Types of Insomnia
Insomnia can be also classified by two types: primary insomnia and secondary insomnia. Primary insomnia is where a person’s sleep problems aren’t directly associated with any other health condition or problem. Secondary insomnia (also known as ‘comorbid insomnia’) is where this condition may be linked to another medical or psychiatric issue, although sometimes it can be challenging to understand this cause and effect relationship.
Medical Causes of Insomnia
There are many medical conditions, ranging from mild to serious, that can lead to insomnia. In some cases, the medical condition itself causes insomnia, while in others, the discomfort of the condition’s symptoms can make in difficult for a person to sleep.
A few of the medical conditions that can cause insomnia include arthritis, asthma, chronic pain, low back pain, neurological conditions such as Parkinson’s disease, endocrine problems such as hyperthyroidism, gastrointestinal problems such as reflux, restless leg syndrome, sleep apnea and nasal/sinus allergies. Common medications can also be a factor.
Psychological struggles can also make it difficult to sleep. Sleep problems may be a symptom of depression or clinical anxiety. In some cases, insomnia may also be caused by certain neurotransmitters in the brain that are known to be involved with sleep and wakefulness. There are many possible chemical interactions in the brain that could interfere with sleep and may explain why some people are biologically prone to insomnia and seem to struggle with sleep for many years without any identifiable cause—even when they follow healthy sleep advice.
Unhealthy lifestyles and sleep habits can also create insomnia issues on their own without any underlying psychiatric or medical problems. This includes consuming certain substances, adopting unhealthy eating patterns, and/or engaging in certain activities which all can contribute to insomnia.
Treatments for Insomnia at the Yang Institute
In some cases, insomnia can start out with a small acute episode but turn into a longer-term problem. For those with chronic insomnia, it often requires help to return to a normal, healthy sleep pattern.
If you’ve tried to change your sleep behaviors and it hasn’t worked, its time to talk to a doctor at the Yang Institute.