While a large majority of Americans ease into sleep with only occasional difficulties, there are 50 to 70 million U.S. adults who suffer from sleep or wakefulness disorders, according to the National Institutes of Health. And that doesn't include youngsters who often suffer from sleep disorders.
The best-known and most common sleep disorder is insomnia, whose sufferers range from the rich and famous to the poor and unknown with many millions in-between. There are many misperceptions and myths about insomnia, some incorrectly painting insomnia as invincible. Here are some facts:
INSOMNIA IS the inability to fall asleep, that is, staying awake for hours when you would rather be sleeping or, sleeping for short stretches only to wake up and thrash around again, wishing for more time asleep. You may wake up tired, listless and find that this lethargy negatively affects your workday, home life and mood.
PRIMARY INSOMNIA - This insomnia category includes both acute and chronic insomnia, neither of which is related to major health issues. They both can create a major impact on your personal and work life because of the resulting sleep deprivation. Acute or transient insomnia makes sleep seemingly impossible for weeks or perhaps a month, and often occurs during high-stress times or when travel and traumatic events upset your day/night schedules and habits. Since there is no way to predict when this sleep disorder will abate, consulting a sleep clinician at NY Metro Sleep may expedite your eventual recovery.
CHRONIC INSOMNIA - Difficulty sleeping three nights a week for three months is how the American Academy of Sleep Medicine defines chronic insomnia. But defining chronic insomnia is far easier than understanding and defeating it. For that reason, the sleep experts at NY Metro Sleep take great care to gather as much information from the insomnia sufferer before putting together a treatment program.
The bottom line is that insomnia is treatable. But clinicians must examine a multitude of factors that may contribute to the condition, including dietary issues, nighttime habits and the patient’s emotional environment. Risk factors including gender (more females experience insomnia than men), increasing age, shift work and even unemployment.
Medical experts and much of the lay public have long noticed a link between insomnia and major, stress-producing life changes, such as a job or housing change or especially a death in the family. A recent study determined that the individual’s specific reaction to stressful events can either increase or lessen the possibility of insomnia. Specifically, they found that when the individuals were frequently thinking or worrying about the problem or event, that thinking accounted for more than two-thirds of the exposure to insomnia.
But there are other lifestyle issues that can contribute to insomnia, from consumption of alcohol/caffeine/nicotine to habitually watching stimulating video games or other entertainment just prior to bedtime. Insomnia often produces daytime symptoms of sleepiness, mood swings, lethargy and depression.
How does treatment begin? Ay NY Metro Sleep, our experts first gather data from patient questionnaires, sleep diaries completed at home, detailed interviews with the patient and possibly family members, and physical examination if necessary. After consultation with other professionals and the patient, the team will select from a large assortment of cognitive and behavioral therapies that consistently have been proven in treatment centers throughout the nation to be effective in combating insomnia.
SECONDARY (COMORBID) INSOMNIA
There are times when insomnia is caused by or related to other medical or psychological conditions, which is one reason the clinicians at NY Metro Sleep take care in assessing the patient’s overall physical and mental status. One research paper said persons with chronic pain or psychiatric disorders have insomnia rates as high as 50 to 75 percent.
The list of conditions that may cause insomnia is substantial, and includes asthma, heart failure, overactive thyroid, stroke, acid reflux and other gastrointestinal prolbems, menopause, and sleep disorders such as apnea and restless legs syndrome (RLS).
There also are instances when certain medicines can (but not necessarily will) cause insomnia. They include asthma, allergy and cold medicines and beta blockers used for heart conditions.
While patients continue with treatment for these other medical and psychological conditions, they may also pursue relief from their insomnia by consulting with NY Metro Sleep or other sleep centers. The American Academy of Sleep Medicine says that behavioral and psychological interventions are effective in the treatment of secondary insomnia.