Insomnia and Its Causes

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Insomnia is a symptom, not a stand-alone diagnosis or a disease. By definition, insomnia is” difficulty initiating or maintaining sleep, or both”or the perception of poor quality sleep. It is also a common sleep problem that can affect your quality of life.Poeple with insomnia have trouble falling asleep or staying asleep. They wake up during the night or wake up too early next morning. Insomnia may therefore be due to inadequate quality sleep. Insomnia is not defined by a specific number of hours of sleep that one gets, since individuals vary widely in their sleep needs and practices. Although most of us know what insomnia is and how we feel and perform after one or more sleepless nights, few seek medical advice. Many people remain unaware of the behavioral and medical options available to treat insomnia. Insomnia is generally classified based on the duration of the problem. These are the transcient, short-term and chronic insomnia.

Insomnia affects all age groups. Among adults, insomnia affects women more often than men. The incidence tends to increase with age. It is typically more common in people in lower socioeconomic (income) groups, chronic alcoholics, and mental health patients.

Stress most commonly triggers short-term or acute insomnia. If you do not address your insomnia, however, it may develop into chronic insomnia.
Some surveys have shown that 30% to 35% of Americans reported difficulty falling asleep during the previous year and about 10% reported problems with long standing insomnia. There also seems to be an association between depression, anxiety and insomnia. Although the nature of this association is unknown, people with depression or anxiety were significantly more likely to develop insomnia.

Insomnia may be caused by a host of different reasons. These causes may be divided into situational factors, medical or psychiatric conditions or primary sleep problems. Insomnia could also be classified by the duration of the symptoms into transient insomnia generally last less than seven days; short-term insomnia usually lasts for about one to three weeks, and chronic insomnia lasts for more than three weeks as mentioned earlier. The various causes of insomnia are elaborated in the paragraphs below.

Many of the causes of the causes of transient and short-term insomnia are similar and they include: jet lag, changes in shift work, excessive or unpleasant noise, comfortable room temperature(too hot or too cold),stressful situations in life(exam preparation, loss of a loved one ,unemployment ,divorce ,or separation),presence of an acute medical or surgical illness or hospitalization and withdrawal from drug, alcohol, sedative, or stimulant medications. Also insomnia related to high altitude (mountains), uncontrolled physical Symptoms (pain, fever, breathing problems, nasal congestions, cough, diarrhea, etc.) can also cause someone to have insomnia. Controlling these symptoms and their underlying causes may lead to resolution of insomnia.

Furthermore, majority of the causes of chronic or long-term insomnia are usually linked to an underlying psychiatric or physiologic (medical) condition.
Again, the most common psychological problems that may lead insomnia include:anxiety,depression,stress(mental,emotional,situational,etc.),schizophrenia,and/or mania(bipolar disorder).Nevertheless, insomnia may be an indicator of depression. Many people will have insomnia during the acute phases of a mental illness. As mentioned earlier, depression and anxiety are strongly associated with insomnia. Out of all the other secondary medical and psychological causes of insomnia, anxiety and depression are the most common.

Also, physiological causes span from circadian rhythm disorders (disturbances of the biological clock), sleep-wake imbalance, to a variety of medical conditions. The following are the most common medical conditions that...
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