What is Insomnia?

The Insomnia sleep disorder is also known as Wakefulness or Dysomnia and is an inability to sleep, or to sleep for long enough to get a proper night’s rest. The main effect of insomnia is that you feel constantly tired, irritable, and may have poor concentration and coordination. Sleep is necessary to repair the body and provide mental and physical rest – to recharge your batteries.

The amount of sleep needed by people varies: Babies need about 17 hours sleep a day, a child nine to ten hours per night, and an adult seven to eight hours each night, though that typically decreases as you get older. If you don’t need much sleep, get up early to do things – don’t spend too long in bed as this can help trigger insomnia. A typical sleep cycle has five stages: drowsiness, light sleep, two deep sleep stages followed by REM (Rapid Eye Movement) sleep, where most dreams occur. This first five stage cycle usually lasts about 90 minutes. The REM stage for subsequent cycles may be longer. You may have five of these cycles in a typical night’s sleep.

Child Insomnia

Chronic insomnia in children can have even more serious effects than with adults. Getting enough sleep is much more important for young children than for fully grown adults, as a childhood growth demands a healthy sleep cycle. You should not send a child to bed as a punishment as this may lead to insomnia due to a fear of being sent to bed. You should consider using a bedroom only for sleep, instead of also for play.

Infants typically wake frequently during sleep periods until about six months old when they will probably start to sleep through the night, though they will also sleep two or three hours during the day. Babies may have some other causes than adults for insomnia, such as wanting to be noticed or comforted, being hungry, having colic or pain from growing teeth. Constant attention when a baby cries on waking can be counter-productive, it may be better to let the baby stop crying on its own. Holding a child in your arms to get them to sleep, or reading stories at bed time can mean that without these triggers they will have difficulty sleeping – so weaning them off these habits should be considered at some point.

Do not give a child sleeping medicines unless advised to do so by a doctor.

Facts About Insomnia

Primary Insomnia – where there is no underlying medical cause for the difficulty in sleeping.

  • Secondary Insomnia – where there is an underlying medical cause disturbing sleep.
  • Secondary Insomnia has an underlying medical cause whereas Primary Insomnia does not.

Secondary insomnia can be caused by any condition causing pain or discomfort, or directly causing anxiety or other mental disturbance, or specific conditions such as Sleep Apnea or Seasonal Affective Disorder. If you suspect an underlying medical or mental condition you should seek medical advice as soon as possible.

Statistics about insomnia: Insomnia causes

  • Psychological …………………………. 50%
  • Behavioural: sleep environment ……. 30%
  • Behavioural: stimulants or medication 10%
  • Physical ……………………………….. 10%

There is a graph on insomnia showing the approximate percentages for general causes of insomnia on my blog (see end of article) if you prefer a visual representation of the figures.

  • 30-40% of people report insomnia each year
  • 10-15% of people reporting insomnia say they have chronic insomnia

Duration of a period of insomnia can vary from transient (a few nights) to short term (up to 3 weeks) to chronic, long term insomnia (over 3 weeks)

By duration:

  • transient ——-> short term ————-> long term (chronic)
  • few nights —–> up to 3 weeks ——–> more than 3 weeks

Short term or Transient insomnia can be caused by

  • traumatic events such as acute illness, injury or surgery, bereavement, job loss
  • less serious events such as trouble at work, an exam, traveling (including jet lag), extreme weather change

Although psychological causes of insomnia may need to be addressed by a professional psychologist or psychiatrist, behavioral causes can be addressed by yourself, and in either case encouraging sleep should help with the symptoms of insomnia.