Occasional sleep problems are not unusual – most people will have trouble falling asleep from time to time. But if your sleep problems become more frequent or persistent, it may be time to look into management techniques for insomnia. Insomnia can cause symptoms such as fatigue and daytime sleepiness, mood disturbances, and difficulty focusing, which may significantly affect your ability to work and simply to enjoy life.
Types of Insomnia
There are several different types of insomnia, each of which may be treated differently depending on the circumstances. To effectively treat insomnia, therefore, it’s important to understand what type of insomnia you’re experiencing. Here are the most common classifications of insomnia:
* Primary Insomnia: is not caused by an underlying medical condition.
* Secondary Insomnia: is caused by an underlying health problem such as depression, asthma, or arthritis or by medication.
* Acute Insomnia: this is short term insomnia, often caused by stress, illness or environmental disturbances such as noise or extremely cold or hot weather. Jet lag can also cause this type of insomnia.
* Chronic Insomnia: insomnia lasting longer than three nights per week for one month is classified as chronic. Often this has a physical or psychological cause.
* Idiopathic Insomnia: chronic primary insomnia with a physiological cause such as an imbalance in brain chemicals that regulate the sleep cycle.
* Psychophysiologic Insomnia: chronic primary insomnia that is caused by psychological issues that prevent sleep.
Professional Management Techniques for Chronic Insomnia
Management techniques for insomnia vary depending upon the cause of the sleep disorder. Generally, when secondary insomnia is the issue, it’s not enough to treat the insomnia itself. While sleep aids are useful to treat the symptoms of secondary insomnia, they won’t treat the medical condition causing the sleep problem. Therefore, when treating secondary insomnia, doctors often concentrate on the underlying medical disorder. In the case of asthma, for example, a patient is more likely to receive medication to ease respiratory distress, which should help them sleep more easily in addition to relieving other symptoms of asthma.
Primary insomnia is a different story, as this type of insomnia is not caused by another medical condition. In this case, the insomnia itself is the condition that must be treated, rather than a symptom of another problem. People with chronic primary insomnia are often referred to a sleep clinic, where they are observed and evaluated during sleep. This evaluation is used to determine whether there might be a physiological or psychological problem which is causing the chronic sleep disorder.
Diagnosis may involve not only sleep evaluation, but also psychological tests, blood work, and other types of medical tests. These are used to find out whether the insomnia is psychophysiological or idiopathic.
Idiopathic insomnia may be treated with medication to restore normal brain chemistry, as this type of insomnia is thought to be caused by an imbalance of certain hormones or brain chemicals. In the case of psychophysiological insomnia, management techniques may include antidepressants, behavioral therapy or psychotherapy.
Treating Acute Insomnia at Home with Healthy Sleep Habits
Acute insomnia doesn’t always require medical management techniques, and can often be effectively treated at home. Over-the-counter sleep aids may prove useful, but it’s important not to over-use these medications, as they tend to become ineffective when used over several weeks.
More effective than medication, especially in the long term, is developing good sleep habits that help create an environment and state of mind that is conducive to restful sleep. Here are several ways that you can start to develop healthy habits that will help you sleep well each night, and wake feeling refreshed.
* Establish a sleep schedule so that you go to sleep at around the same time each night, and wake up at the same time each morning. Make sure your schedule provides you with as much sleep as you need.
* Establish a bedtime routine, and do the same things in the same order before getting into bed. Your body will learn to associate those things with sleep.
* Try to avoid napping during the day – this interferes with your sleep schedule and makes it harder to get to sleep at night.
* Exercise regularly, but avoid exercise during the three hours before bedtime.
* Don’t eat a heavy meal during the three hours before bedtime. A light snack is fine, and can even help you sleep more easily.
* Avoid alcohol, caffeine, and nicotine in the evenings whenever possible. All three stimulants can prevent sleep or reduce the quality of your sleep.
* Make your sleeping area a pleasant place to be, with comfortable temperature and good ventilation.
* Use sleep aids such as sleeping mask or earplugs if light or noise are a problem.
* If you have trouble getting to sleep, don’t stay in bed – you will only get frustrated, making it harder to sleep. Get up and read a book or choose another quiet activity until you feel drowsy.
No matter what kind of insomnia you’re experiencing, there are effective management techniques and other options available. Contact your doctor or other health care provider to get started on an insomnia management plan today.
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