Insomnia – Symptoms, Types & Treatment

Hallucinations, dead darkness, and sleepless nights all belong to insomnia. Are there nights in your life when you cannot sleep even after getting tired? I am sure many of us spend nights anxiously seeing the clock tick at 6 a.m. Witnessing sunrise without a well-slept night is a curse. It is a disorder that leaves a person incapable of sleeping at night. By now, you must be getting the point that insomnia is a sleep disorder. We discuss below, Insomnia – Symptoms, Types & Treatment in detail.

Why & What of Insomnia

There are multiple causes of insomnia. Insomnia is an issue that takes a massive toll on your mood, workability, and your temper, the next day. Chronic or severe insomnia can lead to serious health problems. If you fall prey to insomnia, it is your time to handle it at the earliest. It is a basic fact that every living creature needs doses of sleep depending on body fatigue. Quality of sleep is another vital factor. If a person sleeps 4 hours peacefully, it is much better than the one who struggled 8 hours to doze off in the bed and could not make it to a healthy morning.

Causes of Insomnia

Primary Causes

  • Changes in environment, noise, light, temperature, and allergies can cause insomnia. 
  • Abrupt changes to the sleep cycle, such as jet lag, work shift change, or any other upset to a routine task. 
  • Severe stress because of a significant event, such as job loss, breakup, or the death of someone very dear.
  • It is also a genetic disorder in some families.

Secondary Causes

Symptoms of Insomnia

  • Fatigue
  • Sleepiness
  • De-motivated
  • Trouble falling asleep 
  • Hyperactivity or aggressiveness
  • Increased or repeated mistakes
  • Unwanted early morning waking
  • Irregularity of attention or memory
  • Feeling disturbance and Irritated
  • Worries about or discontent with your sleep
  • Trouble staying asleep throughout the night
  • Need support to sleep (for children and teens)
  • Bedtime sleep resistance (for children and teens)
  • Divided attention in work, school, or social performance

Insomnia Diagnosis

There are no specific lab tests to diagnose the problem, but some tests, at the sleep center can help understand the problem. The doctor conducts a physical check-up while examining your medical and sleep history. For an accurate diagnosis, the doctor can suggest maintaining a sleep diary for a week or two. It will help to study your sleep patterns and feelings during the day. The doctor can ask for a discussion with your bed partner to ascertain your sleep cycles. 

Types of Insomnia

The American Academy of Sleep Medicine has categorized the following types of insomnia. The main categories are chronic (Long term) insomnia disorder, short-term (Acute) insomnia disorder, and other insomnia disorders.

Chronic (Long Term) Insomnia Disorder

As the title goes, chronic insomnia is when a person goes through sleeping difficulties like fatigue and attention issues at least three days per week for more than three months or repeatedly over the years. About 10% of people fall under chronic insomnia disorder. Such people lack sleep at night and face symptoms of restlessness during the day, which severely affects their work, social, and family life and performance. 

Short-Term (Acute) Insomnia Disorder

Short-term insomnia disorder has symptoms similar to chronic insomnia disorder, but problems are for less than three months and less than three times per week. The studies show that about 15% to 20% of adults experience short-term insomnia in any given year. The causes of short-term insomnia are usually external. These can be severe life events like a breakup, divorce, a fatal illness, or any other emergency disturbing the life balance. Light sleepers are more likely to experience short-term insomnia than others.

Other Insomnia Disorder

A doctor may categorize a condition as another insomnia disorder if his diagnosis does not find it under both the short-term and long-term categories. There are no defined parameters for the diagnosis of other insomnia disorders. That is why the term is referred to very rarely. 

Primary and Secondary Insomnia

Earlier insomnia classification was of primary and secondary insomnia, which is no more in official use. The terms stand removed from the current International Classification of Sleep Disorders – Third Edition (ICSD-3), published in 2014. Previously primary insomnia was supposed to occur on its own and secondary because of some other disorder.

The American Psychiatric Association (APA) has also changed its classification. While the APA’s Diagnostic and Statistical Manual, Fourth Edition (DSM-IV) listed primary insomnia as a diagnosable disorder, this was revised to be called insomnia disorder in the DSM-53, published in 2013.

Other Types of Insomnia

Only short-term and long-term are two types of insomnia currently included in the sleep disorder classification system. Doctors and researchers, however, mention other terms previously described as sub-types of insomnia.

Paradoxical Insomnia 

The type or term is also known as sleep state misperception. It is a condition when a person feels that his sleep is greatly disturbed, but there is no other evidence to confirm the sleep problems. In this case, the victims gravely underestimate the duration of their sleep. 

Sleep-onset Insomnia 

The condition can appear both in chronic and short-term insomnia. The victims feel trouble falling asleep when lying down for sleep at night. It is a sort of delayed sleep at the start point. 

Sleep-maintenance Insomnia 

On the other hand, difficulty staying asleep the whole night is called sleep-maintenance insomnia. The condition can affect people with either chronic or short-term insomnia. Middle-aged and older adults are more prone to fall prey to that sleep disorder. 

Behavioral Insomnia of Childhood

The inability of a child to sleep without specific support, items, or routines, is termed behavioral insomnia of childhood. A child habitual of sleeping with his toy fall under this category.

Fatal Insomnia

Though it includes insomnia, the category is not a sleep disorder. Fatal insomnia, also known as fatal familial insomnia (FFI), is an uncommon genetic disorder. It results in progressive brain damage. Fatal familial is not a sleep disorder but a neurological disorder with various symptoms. It also includes increasingly severe sleep difficulties.

Insomnia vs. Occasional Sleeplessness

Every sleeplessness is not insomnia. The reason behind an occasional sleep problem may have reasons in restlessness, overwork, and fatigue. Such occasional sleep issues are not insomnia but temporary sleep problems caused by other reasons. Classification of chronic insomnia requires the symptoms for at least three months.

Treat it Yourself

There is a ray of hope that you can overcome it by adjusting sleep schedules, mending health habits, and meditation. We picked up a few items that you may like to put on the to-do list for a night of better baby sleep.

  • Strictly avoid screen time before bed. 
  • Similarly, the right foods can help you sleep better. 
  • Avoid taking caffeine at least six hours before bedtime. 
  • Electronic devices emit light and rays that disrupts sleep.
  • Limit the liquid intake to at least 1.5 hours before bedtime. 
  • Regulating your sleep schedule can surely provide comfort. 
  • Try not to attend work or stress conversations with anyone.
  • Another problem that disrupts our sleep is the heavy bladder. 
  • Do not eat acidic and spicy foods for an evening meal or dinner. 
  • Food can also contribute to delivering or disturbing peaceful sleep. 
  • Those foods are chamomile tea, walnuts, almonds, and many more.
  • Saying no to the following can help pleasure a night of peaceful sleep.
  • Try resting on softer silk pillows as those are good for stimulating better sleep. 
  • Avoid heartburn and stomach issues, as those can lead to sleepless nights. 
  • The timing is perfection. Train your biological clock to alarm at the same time every day. 
  • You might have to stop intake even earlier if caffeine causes side effects in your case.
  • Moreover, daytime naps can also be helpful to make you fall asleep peacefully at night. 
  • Differentiate between sound and noise. Noise is ear piercing and can cause harm to peace. 
  • Also, letting a situation or matter tap on your nerves before bedtime is hazardous to sleep. 
  • Try reading at least a leaf of a book or pen down your thoughts before going to sleep.
  • Inappropriate lighting, bright colors, and extreme temperature can make it hard for a human to sleep. 
  • Early to bed and early to rise never goes out of fashion. The same rule applies to sleep and getting up at the same time. 

Insomnia can occur for many other reasons like medications, stress, and illness. Choose environmental changes and set routines to fight insomnia. Seek an expert opinion if your insomnia is because of other severe or chronic issues. Of course, meditation never hurts if you are finding a way out of stress. Who will not love a peaceful sleep that assures a happy, lively mind in a healthy body? 

Image by DanFa from Pixabay 

Urza Omar
  • Urza Omar
  • The writer has a proven track as a mentor, motivational trainer, blogger, and social activist. She is the founder of mindclassic.com a blog intended for avid readers.