Enough sleep and rest is important to every living creature since it aids the body in replenishing the energy consumed during the day.
Insomnia, by itself, is not a disease. It may be a symptom of a physical and emotional imbalance or just manifestation of fatigue caused by lack of sleep.
This condition is manifested by any of the following: a) light, interrupted sleep that one is still tired upon waking up, b) not being able to sleep, even if fatigued, c) lack of sleeping hours.
Types of Insomnia
Although this condition is usually temporary, insomnia may be classified based on the length of time it has affected the patient.
* Transient insomnia
This condition remains only for a few days. Transient insomnia is commonly caused by stress or as a direct response to change. It is sometimes called adjustment sleep disorder. The disorder may develop after a traumatic event or even during minor changes such as traveling or weather changes.
Caffeine and nicotine are also observed to affect sleeping patterns. Caffeine, which is present in coffee, and nicotine, present in cigarettes, can cause transient insomnia.
In most cases, treatment for transient insomnia is not necessary. It usually resolves after a few days once the person was able to adjust to the new situations or surroundings.
* Short-term insomnia
Short-term insomnia lasts for three weeks or less. Short-term insomnia and transient insomnia are almost similar in their causes.
Female hormonal changes can affect sleep patterns. One of the female hormones, progesterone, promotes sleep. During menstruation, when its levels are low, women may experience insomnia. On the other hand, during ovulation, the increase in progesterone levels increases sleepiness.
Fluctuations in the level of progesterone during pregnancy and menopause cause altered sleeping patterns leading to transient insomnia. Although women after 50 also experience chronic insomnia, this is usually caused by psychological or emotional factors.
Changes in working conditions, such as shifting schedules, also cause short-term insomnia. Also, people who tend to overwork get less sleep than the average. In one study, insomnia was also observed in people doing much computer work.
Light can also affect one’s sleep. Too much light at night can disrupt sleep or even prevent sleepiness. Likewise, less light during the day, as in disabled or elderly patients who rarely go out can also cause short-term insomnia. This is because the levels of melatonin responding to darkness.
Melatonin is a hormone secreted by the pineal gland, a pea-sized gland at the center of the brain, that help regulate the cycles of sleeping and waking up.
* Chronic insomnia – when a person couldn’t sleep, has interrupted sleep, or is still tired after sleeping; and the condition recurs for more than two nights every week for more than one month. Also, it is characterized when the patient is fatigued and believes that his daily activities are affected by this sleeping condition.
Based on the causes, chronic insomnia may be further characterized into primary or secondary:
* Primary chronic insomnia – when the insomnia is not caused by any physical or mental imbalance.
* Secondary chronic insomnia – may be caused by physical and mental conditions, such as depression, or emotional and psychiatric disorders.
In one study, in industrialized nations, chronic insomnia affects about ten percent of adults.