Insufficient or poor sleep affects your quality of life over time. What can be done when insomnia is part of your reality?
Is insomnia a common problem?
Sleep is a complex biological process that is necessary for all humans. While some people find it easy to sleep, for others it can be a real health challenge. Everyone has different sleep needs, and these can vary over time. Most people experience sleep problems at some point in their lives.
Insomnia can be transient and situational. However, for some people, it is a chronic disorder, meaning that it occurs over a longer period of time. This can lead to a number of consequences, including a deterioration in well-being, performance, and quality of life.
What are the different manifestations of insomnia?
Sleep disorders can present in a variety of ways, including the following:
- difficulty falling or staying asleep
- disrupted sleep
- waking up too early
- difficulty falling back to sleep if you wake up at night
- anxiousness about sleep (a fear of not getting a good night's sleep)
After a night of insomnia, it is normal to experience uncomfortable symptoms such as fatigue, difficulty paying attention or concentrating, irritability, anxiety, a feeling of loss of energy or interest, difficulty going about one's daily activities, etc.
Difficulty falling asleep or fewer hours of sleep are generally considered insomnia when they interfere with daily activities or cause a significant degree of discomfort or suffering.
What causes insomnia?
Transient insomnia can be caused by a number of factors:
- unfavorable ambient conditions (noise, heat, too much light, etc.)
- a change in routine
- a period of transition or adversity
- relationship or professional worries
- occasional health problems (backache, cold, digestive problems, and so on)
Most of the time, insomnia lasts only a few days. When things return to normal, insomnia goes away on its own. If it continues, it can be considered a more serious problem. Chronic insomnia can be related to many factors, including:
- a changing work schedule (e.g., rotating shift work)
- substance use (alcohol, marijuana, cocaine, amphetamines, etc.)
- a mental health disorder (anxiety disorder, depression, bipolar disorder, etc.)
- a chronic illness (musculoskeletal pain, asthma, sleep apnea, etc.)
- a specific physical condition (injury, menopause, pregnancy, etc.)
If your insomnia lasts more than a few weeks and you don't understand the cause, you should consider consulting a healthcare professional to help clarify the situation so that it can be resolved quickly.
Can insomnia be a side effect?
Insomnia can be caused by medication. Here are some examples of medications that can cause this side effect
- over-the-counter oral decongestants
- oral cortisone
- beta blockers
If you feel that a medication you are taking is preventing you from sleeping well, speak to your pharmacist, who can offer advice and possibly suggest beneficial changes to your treatment.
How is insomnia treated?
The treatment of insomnia requires a rigorous assessment by a healthcare professional that is based on identifying the factors involved and then managing them. It is always best to resolve insomnia without resorting to medication, but this is not always possible.
The use of prescription drugs should always be considered a last resort. Every effort should be made to use the lowest effective dose for the shortest period of time. Some prescription drugs for insomnia can be habit-forming or addictive. For this reason, their use should always be considered with caution.
Over-the-counter medications are also available, such as those containing diphenhydramine or melatonin. These products should be used as a temporary treatment for insomnia, not for a long period of time. Natural products, such as valerian and passionflower, are also an interesting option because the risk of side effects or dependence is very low. Always speak to your pharmacist before using any over-the-counter sleep aids, as some products may not be suitable for you.
There are non-medicinal methods that can help you sleep better. Relaxation, meditation, biofeedback, acupuncture, and yoga are examples of methods that can help you sleep better.
The first step in dealing with insomnia is to review your lifestyle and aim for better sleep hygiene. For more information on this topic, click here. Don't hesitate to consult your pharmacist if you have any questions about insomnia and its treatments.