Insomnia is an extremely frustrating condition, during which normal sleep patterns are consistently interrupted-either when falling asleep, in the middle of the night, or very early in the morning. One, two, or three consecutive sleep deprived nights can make you less alert, easily confused, and unusuaUllifatigued. Four or more terfere with motor skills, physical coordination, and problem-solving abilities. It also can make you moody, prone to depression, and susceptible to infectious illnesses, such as the common cold and flu. In some people, prolonged sleeplessness can even cause hallucinations, psychosis, and delusions.
Insomnia is a very personalized condition; it can be caused by a multitude of factors, including job stress, money concerns, depression, alcohol or drug use, hyperthyroidism, sleep apnea, jet lag, caffeine, sleep deprivation due to having a newborn infant, and trying to sleep in a noisy environment.
Signs and Symptoms
Difficulty falling asleep
Inability to fall asleep after waking up in the middle of the night
Waking up earlier than usual
Anxiety over whether or not you will be able to fall-and remain-asleep
Conventional Medical Treatment
If you have not had a good night's sleep for four or more days in a row, visit your physician, who will examine you to ensure that a physical ailment, such as hyperthyroidism or sleep apnea, is not the cause of your insomnia. Insomnia is also a symptom of depression, which your doctor also may explore. If a medical or psychological cause of your insomnia is determined, it must be addressed in order for your usual sleep patterns to resume.
Often, there is no underlying medical factor behind a person's sleep difficulties. Instead, the problem may be rooted in poor "sleep hygiene." Sleep hygiene means following a fixed routine of activities that the body associates with sleep on set, including adhering to set sleep and waking times (even on weekends), avoiding stimulating activities (such as exercising, watching an emotional movie, or reading an upsetting book) within three hours of bedtime, avoiding all stimulants (such as caffeine) within six hours of retiring, creating a noise-free environment for sleep, and ensuring that the bedroom is a comfortable temperature. Other sleep hygiene measures include eliminating daytime naps and setting aside time during the day to attend to (or simply keep a journal of) the worries that keep you awake at night.
Added: May 21, 2009
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