What is insomnia?
If you’ve followed all the tips for the best sleep but still find yourself unable to nod off or waking up throughout the night, it’s time to figure out the causes of insomnia and what you can do about it. The Australian Government Department of Health recommends that adults get around eight hours of sleep per night, but for a huge number of us, that just isn’t happening. Poor or insufficient sleep affect the daily activities of 40 per cent of Australians. Symptoms of insomnia include difficulty falling asleep at night, waking up during the night, waking up too early, not feeling well-rested after a night’s sleep; daytime tiredness or sleepiness; irritability; depression or anxiety; difficulty paying attention, focusing on tasks, or remembering; increased errors or accidents; and ongoing worries about sleep. Insomnia can come in many different forms, depending on the length of time a person has it and how it affects their sleep cycle. Here are seven different types of insomnia.
This is the name for insomnia that lasts for up to three months; it’s also known as acute insomnia or ‘adjustment’ insomnia. This type is usually triggered by a big life event, such as the death of a loved one, a new or stressful job, or even planning a wedding, according to sleep medicine specialist Dr James A. Rowley. It normally resolves itself on its own, but if treatment is required, a low dose of a sedative-hypnotic medication may be prescribed for one to two weeks, he says.
When a person has a pattern of difficulty sleeping at least three nights a week for three months or longer, it is described as chronic insomnia. Although the cause isn’t always clear, common reasons include stress, poor sleep habits, medications, mental health issues, and too much caffeine, nicotine, or alcohol late at night. The best therapy for chronic insomnia is cognitive behavioural therapy (CBT), says Rowley. “This therapy essentially teaches a patient how to sleep again naturally,” he explains. Frequent components of CBT are generally practicing good sleep hygiene (for example, no TV in bed), stimulus control (not staying in bed if awake), sleep restriction (spending just the amount of time in bed that one actually sleeps), and relaxation therapy.