Insomnia or sleeplessness is characterized by an interruption in the regular sleeping pattern, i.e. interrupted sleep that usually lasts for several days. Insomnia may also include dissatisfaction with normal sleep quality or quantity, with symptoms of disturbance or inability to initiate or sustain sleep. The insomnia symptoms often have significant effects on occupational, social, or other associated areas of functioning. In the United States, insomnia ranks third in the ranking of conditions treated by psychiatrists.
Although many of the symptoms of insomnia can be the result of problems related to common behavioral responses to waking, most patients report problems with arousal, i.e. difficulty falling asleep, waking up, maintaining insomnia, and/or difficulty staying awake. These include difficulty initiating sleep, difficulties staying asleep, awakening and falling back asleep, and difficulty remembering sleep episodes and waking up. In addition, many individuals who have difficulty staying awake report having problems with the ability to initiate and sustain their own awakenings and other behaviors (e.g. motor coordination) related to alertness and memory.
Insomnia symptoms are often confused with severe mental health disorders. However, insomnia can result from any acute psychiatric episode, including depression, schizophrenia, postpartum depression, dysthymia, and anxiety. Further, insomnia can be indicative of more severe underlying psychiatric illnesses such as psychosis, bi-polar disorder, and bipolar disorder. Insomnia can also be associated with substance abuse, especially marijuana, alcohol, and caffeine use. It has also been noted that insomnia is increasing among persons with depression. In many of these instances, insomnia was the first symptom of depression, thus suggesting that insomnia is a sign of depression.
When insomnia symptoms become chronic, they may be associated with a psychiatric illness. In these instances, insomnia serves as a signal that something is seriously wrong. The diagnosis of these mental health conditions usually requires a careful history of sleep problems, functioning, and emotions of patients.
According to mental health professionals insomnia may be is an early warning sign of schizophrenia as well. Schizophrenia manifests through a period of agitated depression and delirium. The symptoms of insomnia can mimic those of schizophrenia. This disorder can eventually lead to psychotic symptoms, including hallucinations, delusions, and disorientation. Psychotic episodes often begin shortly after the onset of insomnia.
Another type of mental condition linked to insomnia is seasonal affective disorder (SAD). This is believed to be a disorder of the Senses and related to hypersensitivity to changes in environmental temperatures, including temperature fluctuations, light, and seasonal changes. These symptoms are considered excessive and can interfere with normal day-to-day activities. Because it affects all parts of the person’s life, insomnia symptoms should be carefully considered. Although there is currently no specific treatment for SAD, many different treatments have been used to improve its intensity and duration.
In addition to the more common forms of insomnia, there are also many rarer forms such as narcolepsy, which is related to a malfunctioning system in the brain that controls when the body falls asleep. Narcolepsy is most commonly found in elderly people, but it can affect anyone. In addition to the lack of a normal arousal response to external stimuli, the resulting sleep duration is significantly longer than usual.
In conclusion, insomnia can be caused by a combination of various causes and can range in severity from mild to severe. Some people are more susceptible, while others are less susceptible. Improper dietary habits, behavioral problems, and genetic predisposition are all possible causes of insomnia. In order to treat insomnia, a person must find a way to change their behavior and develop new habits. There are many options available, including behavioral therapy and sleep diary programs, along with prescription medications and self-help techniques.