Symptoms, Causes, and Treatment of Insomnia
Do you have difficulty sleeping? Are you wondering why you can’t sleep even though you’re tired?
You may have insomnia—a common sleep disorder. Insomnia has many different potential causes, so the best treatment varies from person to person.
What is insomnia?
- A sleeping disorder that causes people to have trouble falling asleep or staying asleep
- Short-term insomnia is brought on by stress and typically lasts for days or weeks
- Chronic insomnia is a side effect of other health complications and lasts for a month or longer
- Primary insomnia is its own disorder and lasts for at least one month
- Symptoms include lying awake, sleeping for short periods, staying awake during the night, feeling like you haven’t slept, and waking up too early
- May cause daytime fatigue, anxiety, depression, or irritability
- Primary insomnia is its own disorder and isn’t understood fully, though it may be related to major stress or emotional issues
- Secondary insomnia is a symptom of another emotional, neurological, or medical problem or substance
- Sleep apnea may cause insomnia through frequent night awakenings
- Lifestyle changes, such as avoiding stimulants and alcohol, avoiding sleep-disruptive medicines, following a bed-time routine, exercising several hours before bed, and making your room a sleep-friendly environment can help insomnia symptoms
- Insomnia caused by sleep apnea can be treated with a sleep guard—a custom-fit oral appliance worn while you sleep
- 81% of participants with sleep apnea who wore an oral device had a refreshing sleep, and 99% wished to continue treatment
- Benefits of sleep guards include that it’s a non-invasive treatment, comfortable and easy to wear, quiet, portable, convenient for travel, and easy to care for
What is insomnia?
If you have trouble falling asleep or staying asleep, you may have insomnia. Consequently, people with insomnia often get poor-quality sleep and may lack in energy.
There are three forms of insomnia:
- Short-term insomnia (or acute insomnia) is brought on by stress or secondary causes and typically lasts for days or weeks.
- Chronic insomnia is usually the side effect of another health complication or other secondary causes and lasts for a month or longer.
- Primary insomnia is its own distinct disorder and usually lasts for at least one month.
If you have insomnia, the National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute lists several symptoms you may experience, such as:
- Lying awaking for a long time before falling asleep
- Sleeping for short periods only
- Staying awake for large portions of the night
- Feeling like you haven’t slept at all
- Waking up too early
Ultimately, this lack of sleep causes other complications, such as daytime fatigue, anxiety, depression, or irritability.
Daytime fatigue is especially problematic as it can lead to safety hazards. For example, driver sleepiness is responsible for approximately 20% of serious car crash injuries.
The cause of insomnia depends on whether it is primary or secondary (short-term and most chronic forms of insomnia).
Primary insomnia means that the insomnia is a disorder of its own and isn’t related to another medical complication.
While the cause of primary insomnia isn’t well understood, it may be related to major stress or emotional issues. In other cases, travel and disruptive sleep schedules have been known to trigger primary insomnia.
Secondary insomnia means that the condition is the symptom or side effect of another problem. The nature of the root cause could be emotional, neurological, medical, or even another sleep disorder.
The National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute notes several other disorders or factors that are known to cause insomnia, such as:
- Chronic pain conditions like arthritis and headache disorders
- Breathing conditions like asthma and heart failure
- Overactive thyroids
- Gastrointestinal disorders like heartburn
- Sleep disorders and sleep-related breathing problems
Additionally, some substances are known to cause insomnia, such as medications, caffeine, tobacco, and alcohol.
Obstructive sleep apnea (OSA), a condition where your body doesn’t get enough oxygen during rest, is another major cause of insomnia. In fact, a study in Perceptual and Motor Skills found that over 50% of people who have sleep apnea also have insomnia.
As a result, people with sleep apnea have short pauses in breathing while they are asleep, causing night awakenings.
These night awakenings can be very problematic for people with insomnia who can’t easily go back to sleep. This effect is especially true if they are sensitive to disturbing factors at bed-time, such as some OSA treatments. Consequently, the effects of sleep apnea and insomnia can make their respective symptoms even worse.
Some lifestyle changes can help reduce the symptoms of insomnia, such as:
- Avoiding caffeine, tobacco, and other stimulants.
- Avoiding over-the-counter and prescription medicines that disrupt sleep. Talk to your doctor about less disruptive medications.
- Avoiding alcohol before bed since it triggers lighter sleep.
- Following a routine that helps you wind down and relax before bed.
- Exercising five to six hours before going to bed.
- Making your room a sleep-friendly environment without distractions
For insomnia that is related to sleep apnea, we can design a sleep guard (otherwise known as a snore guard, mouth guard, or custom-fit oral appliance). A sleep guard stretches out your soft tissue to stop snoring and other sleep apnea events.
As a result, you may have less night awakenings and get better sleep.
One study in the American Journal or Respiratory and Critical Medicine found that 81% of participants with sleep apnea wearing an oral device had a refreshing sleep. Conversely, only 37% of patients who did not have an oral appliance had a refreshing sleep.
Considering these numbers, it’s no surprise 99% of participants wearing the oral appliance wished to continue their treatment!
Further, the American Academy of Otolaryngology recognizes many other benefits to oral appliance therapy, such as:
- Non-invasive treatment
- Easy to wear
- Convenient for travel
- Easy to care for
With these benefits in mind, it’s no wonder the American Academy of Otolaryngology notes that oral appliance therapy can be a “life-changing treatment.”
Do you have questions about insomnia?
Insomnia is a frustrating and exhausting condition that may be affecting many areas of your life. If you have chronic or primary insomnia, don’t wait to seek professional help to alleviate your symptoms. Many lifestyle changes can alleviate the symptoms, but some forms of insomnia can be solved effectively through treatments. If your insomnia is related to obstructive sleep apnea, a sleep guard could make all the difference.
If you have questions about insomnia, sleep apnea, and sleep guards, book a free consultation with us.