What is insomnia?
Insomnia is the inability to sleep, or to sleep satisfactorily, and is the most common sleep disorder. It may involve restless or interrupted sleep, a reduction in the usual time you spend sleeping or, in rare cases, complete wakefulness. Insomnia is a symptom rather than an illness in itself: in the majority of cases, sleeplessness has an underlying cause. When no underlying cause can be found, a person is said to be suffering from primary insomnia.
Insomniacs may experience loss of energy and enthusiasm, have problems with memory and concentration, and may feel ill, sleepy and frustrated. Poor sleep can be associated with accidents, lower work productivity and may worsen medical and psychological conditions. These consequences make insomnia an important health problem that deserves serious attention.
Who is at risk?
Over 90% of people will experience insomnia at some point in their lives, and for the vast majority this will be transient insomnia. Approximately 30% of the population suffers from chronic insomnia.
Those at risk of increased insomnia include:
Women: Women appear to be more prone to insomnia than men. The following factors may also contribute to the condition:
- The menstrual cycle: Studies have found that 50% of menstruating women reported bloating that disturbed their sleep for two to three days each cycle. Women who suffer from Pre-Menstrual Syndrome may have symptoms of anxiety, irritability or depression, which may lead to insomnia.
- Menopause: Sleep patterns tend to change with menopause, and insomnia becomes more common.
- Pregnancy: Sleeplessness is common during pregnancy, especially in the later weeks.
- Elderly people: Ageing brings a change in sleeping patterns, resulting in typically lighter, more fitful sleep.
- Depressed individuals: People with a history of depression tend to have disturbed sleep patterns and insomnia
Symptoms of insomnia
Insomnia typically involves the following symptoms:
- Difficulty falling asleep and maintaining sleep, or waking up too early.
- Waking up feeling unrefreshed or drowsy. In more severe cases of insomnia, people may feel fatigued, depressed, anxious or irritable.
- People with insomnia often suffer from daytime sleepiness.
Forgetfulness and trouble concentrating.