Latin: in-, = not; -somnus, = sleep. Insomnus = ‘sleepless’.
At some point in everyone’s life, symptoms of insomnia will be present – no exceptions. It would be highly unlikely (although not unheard of) that no sleep exists for a few days, but more likely not enough regular, consistent, quality sleep every 24 hours. Disrupted sleep, and/or poor quality sleep directly contributes to significant impairment in normal daytime functioning.
For a possible diagnosis of insomnia, ask yourself these questions:
- Do you have difficulty falling asleep a few nights every week?
- Do you wake up during the night and find it difficult to fall asleep again?
- Do you wake up earlier than you would like, unable to return to sleep, leaving you feeling unrefreshed and tired for the rest of the day?
- Has the problem existed for three months or more?
If you answered ‘yes’ to any or all of the above symptoms, you may be one of up to 40% of adults who have at least one symptom of insomnia at any point in time, or up to 10% with diagnosable insomnia.
Daytime impairment usually includes irritable mood, poor memory and concentration, depression and anxiety, leading to accidents, errors, impaired judgment, risk-taking behaviours, poor decision-making, and more.
Although not the only reason, the 21st century has invaded our lives with masses of available information, longer working hours, shift work, 24-hour access to internet, entertainment, smartphones and tablets, and more. Some of us have chosen to sacrifice good sleep health to pursue more hours of available, wakeful activities. However, stressful life events can also lead to insomnia, such as the loss of a family member or close friend, a major decision regarding finances, employment (starting or losing a job), a relationship breakdown, or other unexpected life events, which may be positive or negative. These stressors can cause acute, or short-term insomnia, but if worry and rumination, ineffective coping strategies and negative thoughts set in, chronic insomnia may become an unwanted part of your daily life.
Research has found that chronic insomnia (of greater than three months duration) is strongly linked as a risk factor for physical illnesses including heart disease, diabetes and cancer, and others.
The good news regarding insomnia is that an effective, evidence-based treatment is available, without the use of medication.