The most well-known types of insomnia are acute and chronic insomnia:
- Acute: this is the most common form of the sleeping disorder and it tends to last from a few days to a month. This is typically a form of the condition that does not affect a person for a long period of time, because it is related to an adjustment in one’s life, such as a change in environment or an event that creates stressful conditions.
- Chronic: the chronic form of this sleep disorder generally lasts for longer periods of time, normally at least three nights per week for up to six months. This classification of the sleep disorder can be further categorised as primary or secondary. The primary category is often related to a specific cause, whereas the secondary form of the long-term sleep difficulty is associated with an underlying medical condition.
Sleeping disturbances are thought to affect millions of people around the world. Adults (aged 18 years to 65 years) require a minimum of seven to nine hours of sleep per night, but approximately 35.2% of people in the United States reported getting less than seven hours of sleep per night, on average.
What is Insomnia?
- Insomnia is a sleep disorder that is characterised by the lack of sleep. Those with the sleep condition generally have complaints relating to falling asleep, staying asleep or both, however, the disorder can also be characterised by frequent nocturnal disturbances. Nocturnal awakenings are middle-of-the-night disturbances where one is disrupted from their sleep and find it difficult to transition back to sleep.
- Waking up during the night is common. In fact, the average person wakes up at least once or twice during the night. Reasons for this occurrence can be a high amount of caffeine consumed before going to sleep or drinking too much of alcohol during the day. However, when frequent middle-of-the-night awakenings disrupt your sleep stages such that you constantly find it difficult to transition from wakefulness to sleep, it could be a sign of a sleep disorder.
- Getting a full night’s sleep is essential for the proper functioning of your body. When you are disturbed during the night, it may be difficult to transition back to REM (rapid eye movement) sleep. This can affect your cognitive functions, making you feel less mentally alert and adversely affect the activities of the next day as well.
How Does this Sleep Disorder Affect Your Health?
When we are sleep, our brains are designed to transmit chemical messages, through pathways which form between nerve cells. It is through these pathways that the information we processed during the day is remembered.
A lack of sleep affects this process in a negative way, leaving the brain unable to perform the duties it usually does when you are well-rested. By feeling exhausted, you may find it harder to concentrate on your daily activities or remember certain details as well as you used to.
Sleep deprivation also has numerous physical effects of your health. Research shows that those who are sleep deprived are more susceptible to infections, such as the common cold. Moreover, chronic health conditions, such as hypertension or diabetes, can be linked to insomnia, according to experts.
The consequences of insufficient sleep go far beyond poor health. Although scientists are not fully aware of the connection between psychiatric conditions and sleep deprivation, it is thought that there is an apparent link between the two. It has been discovered that sleep deficiencies affect the levels of hormones and neurotransmitters, which in turn can amplify the symptoms of a psychiatric condition.
What Are Sleeping Pills?
Sleeping pills are medications used for the management of sleep disorders. These therapeutics are designed to be useful for:
- Sleep onset: they reduce the time it takes for the transition from wakefulness to sleep. Different sleep aids work in different ways and so, the time to sleep onset may differ among these therapeutics.
- Sleep maintenance: these sleep medicines are designed to help one remain asleep throughout the night or sleep for longer periods of time. Studies show that certain medications are able to increase the total sleep time in patients with a sleep disorder.
- Nocturnal awakenings: certain sleep medications can be used to reduce the frequency of middle-of-the-night awakenings. These are often low dosage sleeping tablets as they are only required to be used for nightly disruptions. It is generally important that when using these sleep aids, you have at least four hours remaining to dedicate to sleep before you have to awaken in the morning. If there is insufficient time before you have to awaken the next morning, you may experience the residual effects of the medication, such as impaired mental cognition or drowsiness.
Sleeping Pills Side Effects
There are some risks associated with the use of sleeping pills, such as adverse effects. The sleeping pills side effects can range from mild to moderate but they can also be associated with severe adverse events.
Mild adverse effects can include:
- Dry mouth
- Changes in appetite
Severe side effects can be related to serious allergic reactions, such as those which result in the swelling of the mouth, throat or tongue. These forms of allergies can restrict the respiratory system of the patient and hence, affect normal breathing. Another severe adverse event can be associated with the addiction to sleep medications.
Certain medicaments used for the management of insomnia symptoms carry a high potential of misuse as their therapeutic effects can be addictive. The risk of addiction to these pharmaceuticals is minimised when the medication is used exactly as directed.
Day time drowsiness can be an adverse effect of a sleep medication. This is normally the residual effects of a sleeping tablet and can be dangerous if not properly attended to. When you experience daytime drowsiness, it is essential not to engage in any activity that requires optimal mental alertness.
Although there are certain consequences of using sleeping pills, the dangers of sleep deprivation may be equally harmful. The Centres for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) estimated that at least 6000 fatal motor accidents occur every year, as a result of drowsiness. Drowsiness during the day time may also be a consequence of sleep deprivation thereby resulting in impaired perception, judgement and hence, driving performances.