Sleeplessness, also called insomnia, is when a person has trouble falling asleep at night or cannot sleep at all. The person may also have a disturbed sleep cycle and wake up many times. This behaviour may impact physical and emotional well-being. People may have headaches and trouble concentrating. Most people have sleeplessness at some point in their lives.
Insomnia can be acute or chronic. Acute insomnia lasts a few days or weeks and is often triggered by stress. Chronic insomnia occurs at least three times a week for three months or longer.
Why am I not able to sleep?
Various factors lead to sleeplessness, from lifestyle choices to other disorders. Some cases may be treated at home, while others need medical treatment. Some common reasons for sleeplessness are:
- Over-stimulating activities before sleep, such as TV, video games, and exercise
- Consuming too much coffee
- Noise disruptions
- Oversleeping during the day
- Lack of enough sunshine
- A frequent need to empty the bladder due to other associated conditions
- Some prescription drugs.
- Many people’s sleep may be affected by stress, worry, sadness, or issues at work.
Is sleeplessness a disorder?
Sleeplessness is a common disorder. It can hurt your general health and quality of life. Sleep deprivation can impair your ability to drive and raise your risk of many health issues. Excessive daytime drowsiness, uneven breathing, or increased activity during sleep are some symptoms of sleep disorders.
Types of sleep disorder
There are many types of sleep disorders. As per ICD 10, they broadly fall into these categories:
1. Insomnia (ICD 10: Code G47.0): Insomnia is one of the most common sleep disorders, with one-third of adults reporting symptoms. The American Psychological Association defines insomnia as a sleep disorder in which people have difficulty falling or staying asleep. The condition can deplete someone’s energy and mood and also affect their health, work performance, and quality of life.
Insomnia can be either acute or chronic. Acute insomnia may be due to lifestyle and does not need treatment to fix. Chronic insomnia appears more often, that is three nights per week for at least three months or longer.
2. Sleep Apnea (ICD 10: Code G47.3): Sleep apnea is a potentially serious sleep disorder. It occurs when a sleeping person’s breathing is interrupted many times. This may be due to a blocked airway or a sensing problem in the central nervous system. People with this disorder snore audibly and feel tired even after a full night’s sleep. Obesity, large tonsils, premature birth, heart or kidney failure, endocrine disorders, neuromuscular disorders, and other genetic syndromes are some causes of sleep apnea.
There are two types, namely obstructive (OSA) and central sleep apnea (CSA). People with OSA have episodes of complete or partial airway obstruction. The airway is not blocked in CSA, but the central nervous system does not alert the muscles to breathe.
3. Restless legs syndrome (ICD 10: Code G25.81): This is a disorder that produces unpleasant feelings in your legs, such as tingling or soreness. [An1]. Restless Leg Syndrome (RLS), which is most common in older adults, is characterized by symptoms such as aching, tingling, burning, and a crawling sensation in your calves.
4. Narcolepsy (ICD 10: Code G47.41): Narcolepsy is a chronic sleep disorder. It makes people drowsy in the daytime. People with this sleep disorder often struggle to stay awake for long periods and have brief bouts of sleep.
Narcolepsy has two types, with and without cataplexy. The symptoms are muscle weakness or knee relaxation, drooping mouth and eyes, strange dreams or sleep-paranoid delusions, and sleep paralysis.
5. Hypersomnia (ICD 10: Code G47.1): A person with hypersomnia is overly sleepy during the day. People with this sleep disorder can sleep at any time. According to the National Sleep Foundation, up to 40% of people have symptoms of hypersomnia once in a while. Signs of hypersomnia are feeling continuously tired and low on energy.
Hypersomnia may be primary or secondary. Primary hypersomnia has symptoms like narcolepsy, idiopathic hypersomnia, and Klein-Levin syndrome. Depression, obesity, epilepsy, or multiple sclerosis may lead to secondary hypersomnia.
Can meditation help with sleeplessness?
Meditation is a proven way to relieve anxiety and pain. Low stress leads to better sleep.
Sleep meditation may help if you cannot sleep or adjust to a new routine. Pleasant, tranquil noises or music creates a relaxing sleep environment. Frequent travel and hotel stays might harm your sleep. Jet lag and shift work also cause sleep disruptions and short-term insomnia. Meditation [Pr2] has a modest effect on specific insomnia symptoms.
Meditation may not fix a chronic sleeping disorder. Still, it is a good addition to your routine as it keeps you calm and tranquil before bed.
How do you overcome sleeplessness?
There are many ways to overcome a lack of sleep:
- CBT-I (Cognitive Behavioral Therapy for Insomnia): CBT-I is a short, structured intervention for insomnia. It helps you replace sleep-inducing thoughts and actions with sleep-promoting routines. Unlike sleeping drugs, CBT-I helps you deal with the main cause of your sleep issues.
- Medications: Long-term sleep improvement [Pr3] is a viable goal through changes in behaviour and lifestyle. Medications might help you sleep. However, doctors prescribe sleep medications only sometimes or for small periods. They are not the first choice for chronic insomnia treatment.
- Any underlying condition: If you have a medical illness that causes a sleep disturbance, it is vital to undergo treatment [Pr4]. For example, if anxiety or depression interferes with sleep, your doctor may give you an anti-anxiety drug to manage the symptoms.
- Lifestyle modifications: Changes in your daily and bedtime routine improve your sleep. Here are some tips:
- Avoid heavy meals, coffee and alcohol before bed.
- Stay physically active during the day, preferably outside the house.
- Reduce caffeine intake from coffee, soda and chocolate.
- Go to bed and wake up at the same time every day.
- Do not use phones and other screens for at least 30 minutes before bed.
- Stop smoking.
- Turn your room into a dark and quiet haven.
- Relax with soft music, a book, or meditation.
Chronic sleep disorders can harm your quality of life. Your response time may be slow when you drive, and you may risk getting in an accident. Your immune system may weaken and leave you at risk for colds and infections. Poor sleep quality may also affect your work or study. So, it should not be left untreated. Consult an expert for the therapy options.