According to a StatsCan health report, 13% of Canadians aged 15 years and older suffer from chronic insomnia. This study shows that 25% of adults are dissatisfied with their sleep, and 10-15% experience daytime consequences of insomnia. It also indicates that 36.5% of insomniacs don’t feel rested in the morning. Note that people who suffer from insomnia sleep on average 1 hour less than non-insomniacs. It is not the amount of time asleep that defines an insomniac, but the quality and restfulness of their sleep.
What is insomnia?
Insomnia name comes from the Latin Somnus, meaning sleep. Insomnia is classified as a sleep disorder, and is considered the most common sleep disorder. Circadian rhythm disorders, narcolepsy and hypersomnia are also sleep disorders.
The main symptom of insomnia is the difficulty to sleep sufficiently. Insomnia occurs when daytime activities are disrupted by the consequences of sleep deprivation (drowsiness, irritability, headaches, trouble concentrating, etc.).
It is true that some people can sleep only a few hours a night without suffering insomnia. They are not considered insomniacs.
By tackling the underlying cause of insomnia, most people recover and are able to achieve good quality sleep. Experiencing a few sleepless nights isn’t lethal, however, chronic sleep deprivation can become very harmful.
Symptoms of insomnia
There are several symptoms for diagnosing insomnia. Some symptoms include:
- Difficulty falling asleep
- Waking up several times during the night
- Premature awakening
- Decreased concentration or attention span
There are 2 types of insomnia:
Primary insomnia: Difficulty falling asleep or staying asleep that is not related to health or other problems.
Secondary insomnia: An individual has sleep problems that are related to health problems, medication, substances (alcohol, drugs…) and stress.
Causes of insomnia
Insomnia can be associated with many causes, including environmental factors directly affecting sleep. These factors include noise, light or exposure to screens before bedtime.
Psychological factors should also be considered. Anxiety and stress have a huge impact on our ability to sleep well. Sometimes insomnia also hides another sleeping disorder.
In addition to lifestyle and environmental factors, your sleep disorder may also be the result of an acute or chronic health problem, which is why it is important to consult a sleep specialist to detect any health concerns.
Insomnia can be subdivided into two categories:
Acute insomnia: Caused by a specific event (death, divorce, losing a job etc.). This kind of insomnia may last a couple of weeks.
Chronic insomnia: When insomnia occurs at least 3 times a week for a period of 1 month. It can be related to chronic pain, chronic stress, depression, anxiety etc.
There are several causes of chronic insomnia including:
- Insomnia due to poor sleep hygiene
- Insomnia related to a mental disorder
- Insomnia due to medication
Some other sleep disorders to consider when experiencing insomnia include the following:
This sleep disorder is characterized by an unpleasant sensation in the legs and an uncontrollable urge to move the legs during a relaxation or sleep period.
Sleep apnea is a pause in breathing which lasts 10 seconds or more and may happen many times during the night. These breathing pauses can cause conscious or unconscious awakenings.
With sleep apnea, your quality of sleep is diminished and your body will not recover properly. This explains why people are tired when they wake up in the morning. There is a simple online questionnaire to see your risk of having sleep apnea.
The health consequences of insomnia
It is important to treat insomnia because the consequences can affect your health and daily life. Sustained insomnia can become dangerous for you and those around you.
– Fatigue, or intense drowsiness while awake. This may be dangerous when you are working or driving.
– Increased irritability. Your relationships and social life can be tainted by this behaviour.
– Memory loss and difficulty concentrating. These consequences will compromise your performance at work and your quality of life.
Insomnia may intensify other symptoms such as headaches, increased body pain, digestive problems, etc.
If insomnia persists despite medication treatment or non-medication treatment, a polysomnography test is sometimes recommended. Speak with a Dorma sleep specialist to learn more about this type of sleep test.
Solutions for insomnia
1. Practice good sleep hygiene
Sleep enough to feel rested and then get out of bed.
Go to bed and get up at the same time every day.
Don’t try to force yourself to sleep. If you are unable to sleep, get out of bed, do a relaxing activity such as reading a magazine and try again later.
2. Create a quiet environment
Your bedroom must be dedicated to sleep. The environment should offer calm and serenity. Create a relaxing atmosphere with low-intensity light and avoid nuisance factors (electronic devices, light, noise…). Bright colours should also be avoided; neutral and warm tones are preferable. Keep your room dark, cool, quiet and free of stressful elements.
3. Use relaxation techniques
Relaxation techniques help the body and mind relax before going to sleep. You can listen to relaxing music, practice yoga, meditation, etc. All of these activities can help you get a good night’s sleep.
4. Be active
Exercising on a regular basis may help fight insomnia. Be mindful of when you exercise though, and avoid intense exercise for at least 2 hours before bedtime.
5. Follow a healthy diet
Alcohol consumption and heavy meals in the evening should be avoided. Plan to eat at least 2 to 3 hours before going to bed. Also avoid smoking, especially at night. Consume coffee and tea and other foods that contain caffeine only in the morning.
6. Consult with a specialist
It is important to treat your insomnia along with any additional sleeping disorders, such as restless legs or sleep apnea. A sleep specialist will be able to help you do this. A sleep therapist will often recommend psychosleep therapy, such as cognitive behavioural therapy for insomnia, as part of your treatment plan.