After a few restless nights, you’re probably wondering if you have insomnia. It’s a common problem affecting around 1 in 3 people in the UK. Given its link to risks like substance abuse, heart disease, and diabetes, it's crucial to address.
But first things first, what actually is insomnia? Let’s break it down.
When are sleep issues defined as insomnia?
Simply put, insomnia is a sleep disorder that meddles with your ability to fall asleep, remain asleep, or get enough sleep. But it’s more than a few sleepless nights. And it can fall into one of two types.
Let's take a closer look:
Acute insomnia: This is short-lived, spanning a few days to weeks. Life often throws curveballs and this can cause sleep issues. But if this issue lingers beyond three months, you're now in the realm of chronic insomnia.
Chronic insomnia: This is when symptoms last at least three days per week for longer than three months. Approximately 10% to 15% of people grapple with it. And the fallout? It's not just about nights spent staring at the ceiling. It seeps into your work, friendships, and family life.
Do I have insomnia?
There are several tell-tale signs of insomnia, such as:
- Trouble falling asleep
- Waking up a lot during the night
- Waking up too early in the morning
- Not feeling rested when you wake up
- Feeling tired all day
- Having a hard time focusing
- Making mistakes often
- Feeling moody or upset
- Worrying about not sleeping
Not everyone experiences all these symptoms. Some might be tossing and turning for hours, while others may succumb to sleep only to find themselves awake in the early hours, battling to drift away.
The most important thing is if you consider it a problem. If it’s getting you down and impacting your life on a regular basis, it’s probably insomnia.
What are the causes of insomnia?
Several factors might be pulling the strings behind the scenes:
- Stress: Overwhelming stress makes unwinding a challenge, complicating the path to restful sleep.
- Irregular sleep patterns: Inconsistent sleep timings, going on your phone or laptop at night, or a bad sleep environment can be detrimental. Working night shifts can also cause irregularities in your sleep cycle.
- Diet, alcohol, and stimulants: Caffeine or nicotine, especially if consumed closer to bedtime, are potent sleep disruptors. Alcohol is often thought of as a sleep aid, but excessive consumption hampers sleep quality, causing nocturnal disruptions.
- Health challenges: Conditions like sleep apnea or teeth grinding are notorious for fragmented sleep patterns.
- Medications: Certain drugs, especially those for depression, hypertension, and allergies, list insomnia as a potential side effect in the manufacturer’s specifications.
- Mental health: Disorders like depression or anxiety often go hand in hand with sleep disturbances.