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One of the most common sleep disorders that affects one’s health on a long-term basis is insomnia. According to a recent survey, there are from 13% to 33% of Australian adults who are diagnosed with insomnia as a primary disorder or a co-morbid of a physical or mental disorder. Statistics indicate that about 50% of patients with depression have insomnia as co-morbid. There is indication that people suffering from insomnia are more at risk of developing depression and hypertension.
The accepted definition of insomnia is difficulty in staying asleep as well as falling asleep, and going through non-restorative sleep in spite of good sleeping conditions. The condition has to be present for at least 4 weeks, including impairment of the person’s daytime functions and activities.
Acute and Chronic Insomnia
Acute insomnia symptoms are manifested for less than four weeks. This condition may be caused by medication, sickness, stress and other circumstances. When the cause (or trigger) passes, the person’s sleep pattern returns to its normal state. Medical treatment is unnecessary as avoidance of the trigger is treatment enough.
Chronic insomnia happens when repeated episodes of acute insomnia occurs. Co-morbidities may also occur. A person who cannot have a restful sleep for over four weeks cannot think and behave normally. Treatment for chronic insomnia entails prevention of lapses and attainment of remission since the sleep disturbance is constant and persistent. A person suffering from chronic insomnia is trained to manage his symptoms to make him function normally.
Assessment and Diagnosis
Assessment and diagnosis of insomnia rely on the person’s sleep history which includes his sleep pattern based on a nightly, weekly or monthly basis. The diagnostician asks questions such as the time it takes to fall asleep, frequency of awakenings, time he gets out of bed, trigger events and circumstances. The diagnostician will also establish depression, anxiety or stress that may be exhibited by the patient. Lifestyle factors such as food, drink, nicotine, drugs, weight and exercise also considered.
Whether a person is diagnosed with either acute or chronic insomnia, symptoms such as poor memory, mood swings, irritability, lethargy and feeling of discontent could be present. Chronic medical conditions, anxiety and other related sleep disorders may be present. Absenteeism and accidents have higher incidents.
The two types of insomnia treatment are pharmacological and non-pharmacological. Pharmacological treatment may include medications such as antihistamines, benzodiazepine-receptor agonist, antidepressants, antipsychotics, and melatonin.
Non-pharmacological treatment includes Mindfulness technique, Cognitive Behavior Therapy (CBT), and bright light exposure.
Mindfulness technique promotes sleep by the reduction of cognitive and physiological stimuli. This is mostly in combination with CBT for increased efficiency. The main components of CBT are sleep consolidation, stimulus control, relaxation techniques, sleep hygiene education and cognitive therapy. On the other hand, bright light technique aims to synchronize a person’s circadian rhythm in the correct perspective.
If you have any combination of these symptoms for a prolonged period of time, it is time to consult a qualified medical practitioner. You might have a sleeping disorder.
Call us now for consultation.