Causes and Treatment for Chronic Insomnia
If you are experiencing issues with falling asleep and/or staying asleep for quite a while, you may be suffering from a chronic type of insomnia, which can take a toll on your physical and emotional wellness.
This type of insomnia is one of three different ways of defining an inability to sleep, based on duration and severity.
Transient insomnia is a temporary disturbance of a normal sleeping pattern that lasts only a few nights. Short-term insomnia may last for several weeks and is usually the result of stress. Chronic insomnia, which is sleep deprivation over a long period, can have serious health consequences.
Long-lasting insomnia can cause immune system disorders because when people are deprived of sleep over time, the production of important cells in the immune system slows down. This can lower resistance to disease.
Your lack of sleep is considered chronic when it occurs three nights out of each week for a month or more. Many cases that fall in this category are caused by an underlying health condition, other sleep disorders, or medication use. In addition, stress, lifestyle issues, chronic pain, or poor sleeping habits can result in sleeplessness.
Factors that interfere with sleep and exacerbate insomnia include alcohol or drug abuse, daytime napping, going to bed at irregular hours, and caffeine consumption.
If you feel you are suffering from chronic insomnia, a check up by your doctor is the first place to start. A comprehensive physical examination can rule out sleep-inhibiting health concerns such as diabetes, depression, sleep apnea, restless legs syndrome, - or even heartburn that may be interfering with a good night's rest.
Your doctor may ask you to keep a sleep journal so that you can determine if your sleep habits are the problem. You may need to record times you feel sleepy, your eating habits, your stress, and other items that you and your physician think may be contributing to your lack of sleep.
To help confirm a diagnosis and identify the best course of treatment, you may also need to have a sleep study or polysomnogram where you spend the night under observation at a sleep diagnostic center. As you sleep, your breathing, muscle movements, blood oxygen level, heart rate, blood pressure, eye movements, and brain activity are continuously monitored to see if any indications of serious sleep disorders are present.
Depending on the cause of your chronic insomnia, your doctor may recommend a number of treatment approaches. You may need to begin by making lifestyle adjustments such as the eliminating certain foods and drinks from your diet, changing the time when you exercise, and keeping a regular bedtime schedule.
You may also benefit from psychotherapy if you have underlying emotional issues or cannot reduce stress and anxiety on your own.
Additionally, your physician may recommend medications, particularly if your lack of sleep is caused by depression or some other ongoing problem.
If your doctor prescribes sleeping pills, be sure to take them only as prescribed. Many sleep medicines can have side effects and cause dependence. Some sleep medications may be fatal if taken incorrectly or combined with alcohol or other drugs.
If your sleep study indicates you suffer from sleep apnea, you may need to use a CPAP (continuous positive air pressure) mask and machine while you sleep to ensure your airways stay open and your health is not compromised. For more information on the implications of sleep apnea, click here.
Sometimes poor sleepers just need help with reducing stress and relaxing so they can sleep better. Visit this site’s article on relaxation techniques for information on herbal therapies