Insomnia is when people cannot sleep for long or short periods. A person with this problem is called an insomniac. Insomnia can mean a problem with getting to sleep or a problem with staying asleep. Insomnia is a symptom and not a disease or illness.
Different kinds of insomnia change
There are at least three different types of insomnia:
- Transient Insomnia: this lasts from one night to a few weeks.
- Acute Insomnia: lasts from a few weeks to about six months.
- Chronic Insomnia: lasts for years at a time.
There are many causes of insomnia. Some of them are:
- As people get older, their sleep patterns change. They will sleep shorter periods of time, but more often. Younger people usually sleep longer. This is normal.
- Some insomnia issues are caused by stimulant drugs, such as amphetamine, cocaine and nicotine. Coffee stimulates the body, and people tend to drink quite a lot of it when they are at work. If they drink too much of it, they will have problems falling asleep in the evening. (The same is true for tea, colas, or any other drink with caffeine in it.)
- Some people worry a lot. Their worries during the day will bother them at night. They might have nightmares, or they may wake up sweating.
- Some substances, like alcohol can have a bad effect. It can be very hard to sleep after drinking a lot of alcohol. The world may spin and there can be an urge to vomit as soon the person closes their eyes. Drugs can also have this effect, even some "sleeping" pills.
- A very rare disease called fatal familial insomnia prevents some people from falling asleep. In this disease, a person can no longer sleep and after a while will die from being so tired. It is caused by a protein similar to the one that causes mad cow disease which is a very bad disease that comes from eating infected meat.
- People with disorders of their circadian rhythms often have trouble sleeping at normal times.
- Insomnia is a common symptom of some mental disorders: bipolar disorder, major depressive disorder, generalized anxiety disorder, post-traumatic stress disorder, schizophrenia, obsessive-compulsive disorder, dementia and attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder.
There are drugs available that can help treat the different kinds of insomnia. In some cases, there are also certain herbs that can help. A third way that seems to help is a type of therapy that aims at changing the behaviour of those affected.
- Yudofsky, Stuart C.; Hales, Robert E. (2004). Essentials of Neuropsychiatry and Clinical Neurosciences. American Psychiatric Publishing. p. 322. ISBN 978-1-58562-005-0.
...insomnia is a symptom. It is neither a disease nor a specific condition.