By Dr. Nisha Khanna, Psychology
Insomnia is the persistent inability to sleep for a prolonged period of time due to a number of reasons. In further medical parlance, insomnia is a sleeping disorder that is characterized by perpetual fatigue and the inability to fall asleep in spite of that. Chief causes may include physiological abnormalities, psychological issues and biological concerns.
Insomnia may be of two basic types – Primary and Secondary. Primary insomnia is not associated with other health conditions while secondary insomnia is associated with physiological conditions. Insomnia may be acute or chronic depending on how long it lasts.
The neurotransmitter ‘serotonin’ which is responsible for the regulation of sleep-wake cycles may be a chief cause in the physiological domain. Low levels of serotonin may disrupt the sleep cycle, thus causing insomnia. Psychological concerns such as depression, stress, anxiety or even the inclination of a person towards high levels of neuroticism (long-term tendency to be in a negative emotional state) may be a forerunner in the psychological domain. Biological issues such as arthritis, asthma and neurological disorders are important precursors of insomnia.
Other causes may include excessive intake of caffeine and alcohol, nicotine or certain food additives. However, insomnia is usually related to stress and anxiety related disorders.
The symptoms of insomnia include exhaustion, feeling excessively sleepy during the day, irritability and obstructions in memory. In addition, these symptoms begin to hamper the day to day activities of an individual. The symptoms should prevail for a week for the individual to be diagnosed with insomnia.
Insomnia must be given immediate medical attention much like other psychological disorders. CBT (Cognitive Behavioural Therapy- a therapy which is directed at changing a person’s thinking patterns or behaviour which can change the way he/she feels) is widely used in the treatment for insomnia.
Relaxation training and sleep restriction are also used by some psychologists. Prescription drugs work for the time being, therapy is rather healthy and works better in the longer run.