Insomnia is a common sleep disorder. Three main components of Insomnia include:
- Struggling with falling and staying asleep
- Having the opportunity to get a sufficient amount of sleep,
- Difficulty with being able to function normally during the day.
Insomnia is associated and worsened with having other medical problems.
There are two main types of Insomnia: short-term Insomnia and chronic Insomnia. Short-term Insomnia lasts less than three months. There is usually an event or stressor that started the Insomnia. The stressor can be different for everyone. Stressors include problems with relationships, work, money, etc. If short-term Insomnia does not resolve, this can lead to chronic Insomnia. By definition, chronic Insomnia lasts longer than three months. Typically, people with chronic Insomnia claim that they have had trouble sleeping for years or “ever since I can remember.” There can be an identifiable trigger for chronic Insomnia, but sometimes there is none.
People with Insomnia complain of a variety of sleeping issues. They complain of not being able to fall asleep, waking up often during the night, waking up too early, waking up at the same time every night, not sleeping at all, etc. They also complain of going a few nights with no sleep and then one night of good sleep, with this cycle continuing.
Those who have Insomnia know how often they have a cycle they go through. You worry about not being able to fall asleep, which makes it even hard to sleep. Because you are not sleeping, you worry about the next day and how tired you will be. You wake up stressed and anxious. This stress continues throughout the day. Then, as it gets closer to bedtime, your anxiety worsens because you know you need sleep, and your body yearns for sleep. However, you know sleep will not come, causing some frustration/anger/anxiety.
And the cycle continues.
People with Insomnia have a hard time functioning during the day. They often complain of being tired, being unable to concentrate, brain fog, irritability, lack of motivation, making mistakes, and anxiety/worry about sleep. On the other hand, people will actually be hyperactive and impulsive, or even aggressive.
Other common sleep disorders are similar to Insomnia but do have some different characteristics.
- The recommended amount of sleep is 7-9 hours per night on average. However, a small number of people actually do well with less than 7 hours of sleep. These lucky people sleep 7 hours or less, feel rested upon awakening, and do not have any daytime impairments. These “short sleepers” will often try to sleep longer than they need to. They tend to complain of having difficulty falling asleep because they think they need to get the 7-9 hours of recommended sleep.
- Sleep insufficiency: This occurs when someone does not have the ability to sleep the recommended hours of sleep at one time. The difference between insufficiency and Insomnia; insomnia patients have the opportunity and time to sleep. People who have sleep insufficiency cannot sleep an adequate amount of hours and build up “sleep debt,” and become chronically sleep-deprived. When given the opportunity to sleep, they can and will sleep. In contrast with Insomnia, patients will usually not sleep if given a chance, like when taking a nap during the day.
- Circadian rhythm disorders: Everyone has their own “internal clock” known as the circadian rhythm. Circadian rhythms are maintained by the body due to sunrise and sunset, following a consistent schedule, being active during the day, and other processes. Sometimes circadian rhythms can be disrupted, either inherently or from outside factors. Different circadian rhythm disorders can affect sleep and cause difficult sleeping: jet lag, shift work, advanced sleep, delayed sleep, non-24 hour, and irregular sleep-wake. These will be talked about in another post.
Insomnia is a common sleep disorder. There are many components to Insomnia. Insomnia can also be confused with other sleep disorders. The good news is that Insomnia is very treatable. The goal is to determine what kind of Insomnia you have and treat any underlying issues, which is easier said than done.