What is chronic insomnia?
February 21, 2019
Insomnia is a sleep disorder which makes it difficult for people to either fall asleep and/or stay asleep. Chronic Insomnia is when the symptoms generally last for prolonged periods, so at least three nights a week for a month or longer, whereas acute Insomnia usually lasts a few days or around a week.
In some cases of CI, patients struggle to actually sleep at all. It can have a huge impact on the lives of the sufferers and many people live with it for months, even years.
What are some common causes of chronic insomnia?
Chronic insomnia causes can vary from person-to-person, but it can be brought on by a wide range of physical, situational/environmental, and psychological conditions and events.
The causes of CI are many, but it has been linked to drug or alcohol abuse, psychiatric disorders like depression or anxiety, medical disorders (such as arthritis, asthma, Parkinson’s disease, hyperthyroidism, prostate hypertrophy, degenerative neurological disorders, renal disorders, heart failure, rhinitis), poor sleep hygiene, and other disorders like sleep apnea, periodic limb movements, conditioned insomnia (behavioral conditioning), restless legs syndrome, circadian rhythm disorder or advanced/delayed sleep-phase syndrome.
Neurological causes such as fibromyalgia and Morvan’s syndrome, medical causes such as gastroesophageal reflux disease, and in children, sleep-onset association disorder have been known to cause Chronic Insomnia.
Drinking too much alcohol and caffeine, especially before bedtime, can perpetuate CI. Also over use of mobile and technical devices before bedtime, can stimulate the brain and have an impact on sleep.
How does chronic insomnia affect sufferers mentally and physically?
Chronic Insomnia can have huge impact on both the physical and mental wellbeing of sufferers.
We need a good 6-8 hours of sleep (varies person-to-person) to be able to be both physically and mentally healthy and alert.
CI causes sleepiness, which can lead to a lack of energy, which can impact everyday activities making you much clumsier and accident prone and affect your performance at work.
CI puts your body under pressure and it can significantly increase medical conditions such as diabetes, strokes, heart attacks, seizures and high blood pressure.
Chronic Insomnia can have an impact on your sex drive, your memory and your judgment and being low on energy can lead to feelings of anxiety, depression, or irritation.
How is chronic insomnia best treated?
There are lots of ways to treat CI and what works for one person may be different to another.
Before speaking to your GP, it is worth looking at your lifestyle and making changes, to see the impact they have on your CI.
Treatments can range from behavioural therapy, prescriptions for sleeping pills from a doctor or over the counter sleep aids.
Exercise can be a great help, however don’t exercise close to bedtime, or it could have a reverse affect. Taking a bath an hour before bed and not using mobile/tech a few hours before you go to sleep, can help again to make you feel in a relaxed state.
Sleeping aids are available over the counter from your Pharmacist. These can help to relax the body, but they do have side effects, including drowsiness.
Sleeping pills are usually a last resort and not as widely prescribed by a GP as often as they used to be, due to the addictive nature of the tablets.
Your GP may refer you to Cognitive Behaviour Therapy (CBT), which can be an effective method to control chronic insomnia. CBT can help by changing your behaviours that are causing your chronic insomnia. It can help promote good solid sleep at night which will result in your body function at a high quality throughout the day. Some techniques you may learn in behaviour therapy will include exercises that cause relaxation, recondition yourself and sleep restriction therapy. These techniques will help you relax, fall asleep and stay asleep longer.