April 14, 2003

Sleep is essential for good health, mental and emotional functioning and safety. The National Sleep Foundation reveals that sixty percent of adults in America report having sleep problems on a weekly basis. Not getting enough sleep is more important than many people think. Millions of individuals who do not get enough sleep struggles to stay alert at home, in school, on the job or while driving their cars. Insufficient sleep has been found to impair the ability to perform tasks involving memory, learning, and logical reasoning. It may also contribute to mistakes or unfulfilled potential at school or at work, in addition to strained relationships with those close to you. The amount of sleep an individual requires varies, however, ranging anywhere from six to ten hours, eight being average. Atleast forty million Americanís suffer from sleep disorders. Insomnia is the most common sleep disorder, with about thirty percent of American adults suffering from it occasionally and ten percent saying they have chronic insomnia. A major problem with insomnia is that it generally goes untreated because many people donít realize they suffer from the disorder in the first place.

Insomnia is defined as the perception or complaint of inadequate or poor-quality sleep. It is not defined by the number of hours of sleep a person gets or how long it takes to fall asleep because many individuals vary in their required amount. It is classified in to three very distinct categories: transient insomnia (short-term), intermittent insomnia (on and off), and chronic insomnia (constant). If you suffer from difficulty falling asleep, waking up frequently during the night with difficulty returning to sleep, waking up too early in the morning, and unrefreshing sleep; you may be suffering from the sleep disorder insomnia.

Often individuals stereotype insomnia to be a disorder that only affects those with mental disorders. Many people arenít aware that insomnia is found in men and women of all ages and types, although it seems to be more common in women and the elderly. However, certain factors cause insomnia to occur more likely for some individuals than other individuals. Aside from being female and of old age, insomnia is much more frequent amongst individuals with a history of depression. If you suffer from stress, anxiety, medical conditions, or use certain medications, insomnia may possibly develop.

There are many factors that cause insomnia that many individuals arenít aware they endure. Stress, environmental noise, extreme temperatures, change in the surrounding environment, sleep/wake schedule problems such as those due to jet lag or night jobs, as well as medication side effects are all factors that contribute to transient or intermittent insomnia. Underlying physical or mental disorders, depression, arthritis, kidney disease, heart failure, asthma, sleep apnea, narcolepsy, restless leg syndrome, Parkinsonís disease, and hyperthyroidism are all factors that contribute to chronic insomnia. The misuse of caffeine, alcohol or other substances; the disrupted sleep/wake cycles that may occur with jet lag and night jobs; and chronic stress are behavioral factors that contribute to chronic insomnia. When individuals are expecting to have difficulty sleeping and worrying about it, ingesting excessive amounts of caffeine, drinking alcohol before bedtime, smoking cigarettes before bedtime, excessive napping in the afternoon or evening, irregular or continually disrupted sleep/wake schedules; they are putting themselves at risk for developing insomnia.

If you believe you could possibly be suffering from the sleep disorder insomnia, it is imperative to your health to consult a physician for treatment. The way patients are evaluated is through evaluating the individualís medical and sleep histories. The quality and quantity of the patientís sleep should be recorded in a sleep diary or dictated through a reliable third party. Specialized sleep studies are often recommended, but only if the patient may have a primary sleep disorder that is generally considered more severe than insomnia.

Transient and intermittent insomnia may not require treatment since episodes only last a few days at a time. However, for some people who experience daytime sleepiness and impaired performances as a result of transient insomnia, the use of short-acting sleeping pills may improve sleep and alertness during the daytime. The use of over-the-counter sleep medicines usually is not recommended for the treatment of insomnia. Treatment of chronic insomnia requires more attention, however. First, diagnosing and treating