Insomnia is a sleeping disorder which can be recognised by one or more of the following:
- Difﬁculty in getting to sleep.
- Frequent awakening during the night, and difﬁculty in returning to sleep.
- Waking up too early in the morning.
- Troubled, unrefreshing sleep.
Several kinds of problems can be caused by insomnia. including: fatigue, sleepiness, lack of concentration, mood swings and irritability.
It is generally accepted that most people require 7 to 8 hours sleep every night, but it can vary greatly from person to person. Some need more, and others need less than average.
Insomnia tends to increase with age, and affects about 30% of men, and 40% of women.
Primary insomnia, also known as transient insomnia, is generally suffered by people who are temporarily exposed to one or more of the following: Stress; Ambient noise; Unusually hot or cold temperatures; Jet lag; Change of environment.
Chronic insomnia is more complicated, and can be related to medication side effects, or the excessive indulgence in alcohol, smoking before bedtime. frequent afternoon napping, or too much caffeine.
Chronic insomnia can also be caused by underlying health disorders, so it is advisable for the insomniac to consult a medical professional for an expert diagnosis.
Generally, the insomniac is required to maintain a sleep diary for a few weeks which keeps track of sleeping patterns and a record of the patient‘s feeling of wellbeing.
The health care specialist may also wish to interview the patient‘s bed partner, and sometimes the insomniac may be referred to a sleep center for speciﬁc tests.
It is best to maintain a regular sleep schedule, and to refrain from daytime naps. Caffeine, alcohol, and nicotine should be avoided in the evening as they are stimulants which can hinder sleep.
Experts also recommend moderate exercise, but not later than 3 hours before going to bed.
One tried and tested method is to listen to an interesting “talking-book” on a pocket recorder such as a walkman etc.
It is important to use a model that switches itself off after about half an hour, and to use a softly cushioned earplug which will fall away from the ear when the sleeper turns, and cannot disturb the bed partner.