You May Be Asking: What Is Insomnia?

You may be wondering what is insomnia? Insomnia is a sleep disorder in which a person has a problem falling asleep or staying asleep. Often times, one may wake up many times during the night, and when you do wake up in the morning you do not feel rested and refreshed.

Poor sleep can lead to a number of other problems especially if over a prolonged period of time. One can experience mood disorders, lack of focus and concentration, low levels of energy and general fatigue.

There are 3 types of insomnia:

• Transient or mild insomnia generally results from the inability to sleep over a short period of time such as a few days.

• Moderate insomnia occurs generally for less than a month and can result in poor functioning during the day and irritability.

• Chronic insomnia lasts for longer than a month and impairs one’s functioning in a substantial way. Feelings of restlessness and irritability occur frequently, and the ability to concentrate and focus are compromised.

Left unchecked, insomnia can lead to numerous other problems:

• Mental function: When you don’t get adequate sleep, your concentration and memory faculties can be impaired. Further, your quality of life and relationships can suffer due to irritability and moodiness.

• Increased risk of accidents: Insomnia increases the risk of accidents, and drowsy driving can be as risky and, possibly fatal, as drunk driving.

• Mood disorders: Stress and anxiety can cause insomnia. However, insomnia also increases the activity of hormones and pathways in the brain, and adverse changes in sleeping patterns can have substantial negative effects on mood.

• Other complications: Chronic insomnia can also lead to obesity, poor immune function and increased risk of long term diseases such as high blood pressure, heart disease and diabetes.

There are a number of other sleep disorders that also cause substantial sleep problems. These include:

• Sleep apnea is a sleep disorder characterized by abnormal pauses in breathing during sleep. Each pause in breathing can last from a few seconds to minutes, and may occur 5 to 30 times or more an hour. Sleep apnea is diagnosed with an overnight sleep test called a polysomnogram, or “sleep study”. Sleep apnea is often only recognized by others who observe the symptoms or by the fatigue one feels during the day due to poor sleep.

• Narcolepsy causes excessive sleepiness and daytime attacks. The most common symptoms of narcolepsy are periods of extreme drowsiness every 3 to 4 hours during the day. Additionally, other major symptoms can include cataplexy, or the sudden loss of voluntary muscle tone; hallucinations during sleep onset or upon awakening; and brief episodes of paralysis at the beginning or end of sleep.

• Restless leg syndrome is characterized by sensations in the lower legs that make you uncomfortable unless you move your legs. These sensations usually occur at night when you lie down or during the day when you sit for long periods of time. These sensations have been described as tingling, crawling, searing or pulling. All of these symptoms can make it difficult to sleep or sit for extended periods of time.

As you can see there are a number of sleep disorders that can cause major problems. If you suffer from sleep problems for over a week you really should see your doctor to determine what’s going on and how you can address your issues.