What Causes Insomnia?
Concerns about work, school, health or family can keep the mind too active, making you unable to relax.
Prescription drugs, including some antidepressants, high blood pressure and corticosteroid medications can interfere with sleep. Many over-the-counter medications such as decongestants and weight loss products containing caffeine and other stimulants that causes insomnia. Antihistamines may initially make one groggy but they can worsen urinary problems, causing a person to get up more during the night.
Change in Environment or Work Schedule
Travel, working late or early shifts can disrupt the body’s circadian rhythms, making a person unable to get to sleep. The word – circadian – comes from two Latin words, “circa for about” and “dia for day”. Circadian rhythms act as internal clocks guiding such things as ones wake-sleep cycle, metabolism and body temperature.
As we sleep we pass through different states and stages of sleep – more likely to be experienced with continuous sleep. The normal sleep cycle consists of two different kinds of sleep – REM (rapid eye movement or dreaming sleep) and non-REM (quiet sleep). Everyone has about four or five cycles of REM and non-REM sleep a night .
Both states are important to experiencing quality sleep. For older persons, the amount of time spent in the deepest stages of non-REM sleep decreases. This may explain why older people are thought of as light sleepers.
Circadian Rhythm Disorders
A complex biological “clock” in humans, sometimes breaks down. In delayed sleep phase syndrome, the “clock” runs later than normal. The sufferer often cannot fall asleep before 3 or 4 am and cannot “wake” before noon. In advanced sleep phase syndrome, a person falls asleep early, for example at 7 or 8 pm and wakes at 3 or 4 am, and is unable to fall back asleep.
Long-Term Use of Sleep Medications
While the use of sleep medicines is a common treatment that helps you get to sleep faster and sleep through the night, it is not a cure for insomnia. Sleep medications carry an element of caution due to common side effects such as daytime sedation, impaired psychomotor performance, falls and hip fractures, and respiratory depression.
There are several types of prescription sleeping pills that have been approved for the treatment of insomnia. These include medications in the class known as benzodiazepines, such as temazepam (Restoril), newer medications that are known as benzodiazepine receptor agonists, such as zolpidem (Ambien) and zaleplon (Sonata) and most recently Ramelteon is being used as a remedy for insomnia.
Some prescription drugs may be short-acting and work best for trouble initially falling asleep. Others may be long-acting and work best for maintaining sleep during the night. Physician’s choice in prescribing will depend on the patient’s symptoms. In general, when sleep medicines are used every night for a long time, they may lose their effectiveness. In most cases, sleep medicines are used only for short periods of time, such as 1 or 2 days, and generally for no longer than 1 or 2 weeks unless the patients insomnia has become chronic.
Insomnia becomes more prevalent with age. As you get older, changes can occur that may affect your sleep. You may experience a change in sleep patterns. Sleep often becomes less restful as you age, but a lack of restful sleep is not a normal consequence of aging. Circadian rhythms change and more time is spent in rapid eye movement (REM) sleep and less time in quiet, deep sleep (non-REM), the most restful kind. Because a person is sleeping more lightly, there is greater tendency to wake up. This may explain why older people are thought of as light sleepers. With age, your internal clock often advances, which means you get tired earlier in the evening and consequently wake up earlier in the morning .
A change in activity – As one grows older an individual may be less physically or socially active. Activity helps promote a good night’s sleep. You may also have more free time and, because of this, drink more caffeine, alcohol or take a daily nap. These can also interfere with sleep at night.
A change in health – The chronic pain of conditions such as arthritis, back problems, fibromyalgia as well as depression, anxiety and stress can interfere with sleep. Older men often develop non-cancerous enlargement of the prostate gland (benign prostatic hyperplasia), which can cause the need to urinate frequently, interrupting sleep.
In women, hot flashes and night sweats that accompany menopause can be equally disruptive. Other sleep-related disorders, such as sleep apnea and restless legs syndrome, also become more common with age.
Sleep apnea causes you to stop breathing periodically throughout the night and then awaken. Consult your doctor for treatment regarding this disorder. Restless legs syndrome causes unpleasant sensations in your legs and an almost irresistible desire to move them, which may prevent you from falling asleep.
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