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In this article, we'll tell you everything you need to know about insomnia. We explain what insomnia is, what causes it, and what the symptoms are. In addition, we give you some tips for prevention and guidelines on how to treat insomnia.
Insomnia: Inability to sleep
You know how awful a bad night's sleep can make you feel. Now multiply that one bad night by weeks, even months, and it's easy to see why insomnia can take a huge mental and physical toll on people.
The estimates state that about 10% of the Dutch suffer from chronic insomnia and 35% from some level of insomnia in the short term.
Those numbers are problematic because sleep is one of the foundations of good health. If you don't get the sleep you need, you can put your health at risk.
What Is Insomnia?
If you can't sleep, you may wonder if you have insomnia. People with insomnia have trouble falling or staying asleep during the night. It can cause problems during the day, such as fatigue, low energy, poor concentration and irritability.
What is the definition of insomnia?
According to several medical guidelines, insomnia is difficulty getting to sleep and staying asleep, even when a person has the chance to do so. People with insomnia may be dissatisfied with their sleep and usually experience one or more of the following symptoms: fatigue, low energy, difficulty concentrating, mood disturbances, and reduced performance at work or school.
How Long Does Insomnia Last?
Insomnia can be characterized based on its duration. Acute insomnia is brief and often occurs due to life circumstances (for example, when you can't fall asleep the night before an exam, or after receiving stressful or bad news). We have all suffered from this at some point and often it goes without any treatment.
Chronic insomnia, on the other hand, is disturbed sleep that occurs at least three nights a week and lasts for at least three months. Chronic insomnia can have many causes. Lifestyle changes, unhealthy sleeping habits, shift work, and certain medications can lead to long-term chronic insomnia. People with this form can undergo treatment to rebalance their sleep patterns. Chronic insomnia can be morbid, meaning it is linked to a medical or psychiatric issue, although it is sometimes difficult to determine the real cause.
Treatment for insomnia can include behavioral, psychological, medical interventions, or a combination of all three.
The goal of insomnia treatment is to achieve restful sleep and improve your overall quality of life. Understanding and treating the underlying cause of insomnia is the best way to go about it. First it is important to find the potential sources of the insomnia. You can consult a doctor or healthcare provider to help you with this. An example of this is restless legs. Restless legs can be caused by low iron in the body. It is a very common condition in people with cancer. Non-medical problems can also contribute to insomnia. These can include financial, work-related, or family changes. Often times such situations bring about fears that not being able to sleep can only make things worse.
Behavioral techniques are usually more effective for long-term relief from insomnia. Medicines can also help relieve insomnia in the short term. Only use drugs if all other treatments have proven ineffective.
To help find the cause of insomnia, your doctor will perform a thorough history and physical exam. Depending on what your doctor thinks, you may need additional testing or specialist visits. These specialists can help you determine the cause and develop a plan to manage the problem.
Many people take or use sleeping pills The gravity blanket of Sleeping to get the rest they need.
Sleeping pills can be sedatives or hypnotic drugs, and they come in all forms. People can choose natural, prescription or over-the-counter pills.
In this article we will describe all types of sleeping pills and look at their use and analyze whether they are indeed safe.
What are sleeping pills?
“Sleeping pills” is a general term used to refer to both prescription and over-the-counter medicines. These medications are used to help people who have trouble falling or staying asleep. Sleeping pills are hypnotics, meaning that they promote or prolong sleep. They are also called sedatives.
If you think you may need sleeping pills, it is best that you consult your doctor or health care provider first.
Who Should Use Sleeping Pills?
Your health care provider will begin your consultation by determining the factors contributing to your insomnia and the duration of your insomnia. He or she may initially suggest non-pharmaceutical approaches to deal with insomnia (see below for details). If these don't work, he or she may determine that you may benefit from taking sleeping pills. This may be the case if your insomnia is negatively affecting your health and daily activities in everyday life.
Your doctor will recommend starting with the lowest dose possible. He or she will also only prescribe this for a short period. You are also advised to keep trying relaxation techniques and other healthy sleeping habits in conjunction with these medications.
Which sleeping pill is right for me?
A woman lies awake in bed wondering what the best sleeping pill is to take.
A person can take a sleeping pill as a short-term solution. Think of it as a temporary adjustment to a lifestyle that has led to insomnia.
Many people may not even need sleeping pills.
By practicing good sleep hygiene, exercising, avoiding alcohol and nicotine, an individual can often improve their sleep cycle and thus prevent insomnia.
Insomnia implies having trouble falling or staying asleep. People with insomnia may wake up too early or not really feel refreshed when waking up.
If lifestyle changes don't work, for example when insomnia is very severe, a sleeping pill can be a good short-term solution.
It is best to avoid taking sleeping pills long term as it can actually make your insomnia worse, especially if a person stops taking these pills.
The range of sleeping pills includes supplements and over-the-counter products and prescription drugs. Anyone with persistent insomnia should see a doctor to find a long-term solution to their sleep problems.
The following are some of the most effective sleeping pills:
When it gets dark outside, the brain produces a hormone called melatonin. This controls the sleep-wake cycle by telling the body that it is almost time to go to bed.
The brain produces less melatonin when it is light and more when it is dark, such as in winter. Age also plays a role - the older a person gets, the less melatonin he produces.
Many sleep aids contain melatonin. They are usually most effective for people with rhythm sleep disorders. These are problems related to the timing of sleeping or waking up.
Melatonin can be especially helpful for people who:
- Experiencing jet lag
- Having trouble falling asleep at night
- Working shiftwork
In recent years, a number of manufacturers have marketed snacks and drinks with melatonin as “relaxation products”. However, doctors don't know if they are effective.
Melatonin supplements are available without a prescription at drugstores, supermarkets, and online shops. The pills are available in doses of 1-5 milligrams (mg), and a person should take them before going to sleep.
However, there is limited evidence to suggest that melatonin can treat insomnia. Despite the mixed findings, most research indicates that it can reduce the amount of time it takes to fall asleep.
Valerian is common in herbal supplements and can improve sleep quality.
Valerian is a plant. The medicinal properties of the root have been used since the days of ancient Greece and Rome.
Valerian is a common ingredient in herbal supplements that people use to improve sleep, treat anxiety and support relaxation.
The supplements come in many forms, such as teas, liquids, and capsules.
Several clinical studies show that taking valerian can improve sleep quality in people with insomnia. However, there is not enough evidence available to confirm that valerian is an effective sleep aid.
Valerian supplements are available in drug stores, at your local or internet pharmacy and online stores.
Hypnotics are a group of sleep aids that are only available on prescription.
A doctor can prescribe hypnotics to treat a number of sleep disorders, including insomnia. These medications can also treat movement disorders that interrupt sleep, such as restless legs syndrome and periodic limb movement disorder.
The most common hypnotic sleeping pills are:
Doctors tend to only prescribe hypnotics for insomnia which is long lasting and bothersome because these drugs can have side effects.
Another class of hypnotics, benzodiazepines can also treat insomnia. These medications include:
Before prescribing a benzodiazepine, the doctor will usually recommend a hypnotic first. This is because a benzodiazepine can cause dependence and have serious side effects.
Side effects and risks
People may feel tired and sleepy the day after taking sleeping pills.
In older adults, the use of these pills can cause memory problems.
Some sleep aids can induce habit formation that makes it difficult for a person to fall asleep without them.
There is no evidence that the use of melatonin carries any serious risks. However, researchers need to investigate the long-term effects even more closely.
Do not take a sedative before driving or operating machinery.
For many people, the risks of using prescription hypnotics outweigh the benefits. These drugs are only suitable for short-term use. Most are habit-forming, which means they can be addictive, and they can cause side effects as well.
Some side effects of prescription sleeping pills include:
- Drowsiness or dizziness during the day
- Problems with memory
- Balance problems
In rare cases, they can lead people to take strange actions, such as driving, walking, eating, or using the phone while they sleep.
The safety profile of valerian is still unclear. Possible side effects include headache, dizziness, itching and stomach problems. Some people feel drowsy or sleepy in the morning after taking valerian root.
Also, people who have taken valerian for a long time and suddenly stop may experience withdrawal symptoms. People who stop taking benzodiazepines after long periods of time may experience similar symptoms.
Because the medical community is still uncertain about the effects, women who are pregnant and children under the age of 3 should not take valerian.
Sleeping pills can help a person get the rest they desperately need, but most are only suitable for short-term use.
Sleeping pills can contain, for example, valerian or melatonin. Some pills are only available by prescription.
The best sleeping pill for you depends on the cause of your sleep problems and your sleep patterns. People with insomnia may benefit from one medication, while those with jet lag experience the best results with another.
Only take sleeping pills when you have a bad form and not occasional insomnia.
The risks of prescription sleep medications sometimes outweigh the benefits. After all, doctors tend to prescribe them only for people with severe sleep disorders.
To ensure that you can fall asleep whenever you want, and of course stay asleep to get the rest you need, you need to make sleep a priority in your life. You do this by following the tips below:
- Make time to sleep. Keep your sleep and awake cycle stable throughout the week, including weekends. While most people need 7 to 9 hours of sleep per night, keeping a consistent cycle can be even more important than the amount. Set a bedtime and wake-up time for yourself and stick to it.
Prepare your brain to fall asleep. You can't put your brain to sleep on command as if you were putting on the brakes to stop your car. Instead, your brain needs help. Therefore, make sure you follow these recommendations:
- Set up a bedtime ritual. For example, you can take a shower and then put on your pajamas to signal your brain that you are on your way to bed.
- Avoid activities in the evening that can keep you awake, such as drinking coffee, soda or other caffeinated drinks, smoking, exercising, and eating heavy meals.
- Give your brain time to relax. If you have to pay bills or settle a fight, do it during the day, not before bed.
- Avoid light in the late evening. Turn off your electronic devices at least 30 minutes before going to sleep. Light keeps your brain active.
Prevent sleep problems from worsening. Often times when people have trouble sleeping, they let the problem drag on indefinitely. If you have sleepless nights, be sure to avoid the activities below:
- Nap during the day. Too much sleep during the day makes you less likely to sleep at night.
- Drinking alcohol before going to bed.
- Worrying about your sleep loss. Thinking about your inability to fall asleep can make things worse.
When to talk to a doctor
Determining if you have insomnia is usually not that difficult. In most cases you know that you are not sleeping well. After all, most people know that they have trouble falling asleep, staying asleep, or getting up too early. Many people also know when they are more irritable and tired the next day.
But there are also those who may not know they have insomnia. We sometimes call them the insomnia deniers. It is possible that these people have so much going on that they can observe symptoms of fatigue during the day due to other chronic health conditions or a busy schedule.
People may also have become used to their insomnia. They don't realize how sleepy they are or how bad the insomnia is, and it's only when they actually get treated that they realize how bad they were.
In addition to having trouble falling asleep at night, staying asleep, or waking up earlier than you want in the morning, there are also common symptoms to watch out for as listed below:
- Concentration problems
- Poor memory
- Mood disorders
- Daytime sleepiness
- Little motivation or energy
If you are concerned about your sleep problems, talk to your doctor. This can then refer you to a qualified sleep specialist. Treating and practicing better sleep habits can help everyone improve their sleep, feel more energized, and become healthier in the long run.