Insomnia: A sleep disorder in which there is an inability to fall asleep or to stay asleep as long as desired.
Insomnia, the most common sleep disorder in the United States, can be a complicated condition. It's characterized by having difficulty falling asleep, staying asleep, or returning to sleep. But its symptoms duration and causes vary widely. The National Institutes of Health estimates that roughly 30 percent of the general population complains of sleep disruption, and approximately 10 percent have associated symptoms of daytime functional impairment consistent with the diagnosis of insomnia.
People with insomnia usually experience one or more of the following symptoms:
Fatigue, low energy, difficulty concentrating, mood disturbances, and decreased performance in work/school, difficulty falling asleep/staying asleep, waking up too early, unrefreshing sleep (also called 'non-restorative sleep'), feeling impulsive or aggression and difficulty in personal relationships.
If you feel you have insomnia there are habits you can change to improve symptoms:
- Firstly, you will want to examine your sleep hygiene and environment
- Make sure that your bedroom is quiet, dark and cool. Remove TV's, computers and all other night distractions that might provide extra light, noises or distractions during the night.
- Avoid drinking caffeine, alcohol or smoking. Avoid taking naps during the day and doing any sort of excercist two hours prior to bedtime.
- Turn the clock out of eye sight
- It is important to make a habit of only being your bed for sleeping and intimate activity. Your bed should never be used as a desk or workspace.
- After reviewing your habits and correcting any issues in your sleep environment, if you are still experiencing problems, you should contact your physician. Take as many notes as you can about habits and concerns and bring those to your appointment. Your physician may suggest cognitive therapy and or a combination of therapy and medicine to help establish a healthy sleep pattern. The sooner you get help the better. As we have explained before, drowsiness itself is a red alert.
- If you ever feel you have a sleep disorder it is a good idea to begin keeping a sleep diary to see if there are any glaring issues in your sleep patterns. You can download a free two week version from the American Academy of Sleep Medicine. http://yoursleep.aasmnet.org/sleepdiary.pdf
Meredith Petry, RPSFT, RST is the Director of Athens Sleep and Wellness Center, an American Academy of Sleep Medicine Accredited Facility.