Wednesday, December 29, 2010

Insomnia: what is it and how is it treated?

sleep disorder (somnipathy)Image by unfolded via Flickr
Have you ever gotten home after a long day at work and found it difficult to unwind and go to sleep?  Most people today have. And, due to the everyday stresses, the economy and job instability, along with family responsibility, bills and relationships, it's a wonder that we aren't all walking around like zombies.

What are some of the types and current treatments for insomnia? Depending upon the cause, the treatments usually include emotional support, medication - natural and drugs.

Insomnia, what is it?

Insomnia is a problem that affects more than  50% of adults with women being 1.3 times more likely to suffer from it. Also, people over 65 years are 1.5 times more likely than younger people to suffer from this affliction.  Short term sleep problems, called acute insomnia, include sleep disturbances of a few weeks but duration of less than one month. This usually requires no intervention.  Mild insomnia is usually diagnosed as duration of about a month or so.   But, longer term or chronic insomnia, one year or more, can lead to other more serious health conditions such as high blood pressure and heart disease.

There are two types of insomnia:

Primary - meaning that it is not associated with any other condition.
Seconday - indicating that the insomnia is associated with another condition such as arthritis, cancer, ashtma, depression or heartburn.

What are the treatments?

Melatonin, which is a hormone produced by the pineal glan in the center of the brain, has been successfully used by many to treat the milder forms of insomnia.  Titration is usually recommended until the therapeutic level is reached.  Of course, before beginning any new supplements or drugs, check with your primary care physician.

Ambien, a hypnotic sedative has been used very nicely for short term sleep disorders.  Most doctors don't like to prescribe for over one week due to dependency. Some side effects have been reported such as sleep walking and day time drowsiness.

For more severe problems, once a physical has revealed no medical disorders, behavioral therapy maybe recommended.  Other interventions include avoiding nicotine, caffeine and work related activites in the bedroom.  Meals should also be timed over 2 hours before planning to go to sleep.  No strenuous exercise immeditely preceeding sleep. Nice warm showers are suggested to bring on sleep. Emotional support can also be used for  stress and anxiety  related disorders.



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