Most people experience acute insomnia at some point in their lives. It could be from traveling across time zones, elevated stress level, or strong emotional events such as the death of a loved one. This short lived insomnia is not considered a problem since it usually resolves in a few days or weeks.
Chronic insomnia - lasting over three months - is much more serious. It is estimated that approximately 10% of the general population have chronic insomnia.
What is insomnia?
Insomnia is defined as a persistent difficulty with sleep initiation, duration, consolidation, or quality, in spite of adequate opportunity and circumstances for sleep. It results in daytime consequences. There are two main categories of insomnia: sleep-initiation insomnia and sleep-maintenance insomnia.
Sleep-initiation insomnia is a difficulty falling asleep at the beginning of the night. It is usually triggered by a stressful event, such as a death in the family or a hard test at school. Typically, it should resolve when the trigger is no longer present, but in some people the insomnia becomes a chronic problem. With sleep-initiation insomnia, it is always important to make sure that other sleep disorders like restless legs syndrome or sleep apnea are adequately treated, as they can worsen or lead to insomnia.
Sleep-maintenance insomnia occurs when a person has difficulty falling asleep after waking up in the middle of the night. The most important point about sleep-maintenance insomnia is that there is often an underlying physiologic problem of sleep (like sleep apnea) that is leading to the awakenings in the first place. If this problem is not adequately addressed, then it can be very difficult to treat sleep-maintenance insomnia.
How Is Insomnia Treated?
The key to treating insomnia is to find the underlying cause. This may include treating such things as mood disorders or other sleep disorders, for example. The treatment of insomnia with medications has become a multi-billion dollar industry, but the best long-term treatment for insomnia is cognitive behavioral therapy (CBTi).
Behavioral treatments can include developing good sleep habits, stress reduction, relaxation techniques, and individual or group therapy.
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