What is Insomnia?
Insomnia is a medical condition wherein there is difficulty of sleeping or staying asleep for long periods of time. This lack of sleep makes one feel fatigued and unrefreshed the following day even though there is an opportunity to sleep. Many of us may experience insomnia every now and then yet in some people lack of sleep can negatively affect their daily lives. Those who experience insomnia are mostly women and are older.
Insomnia can bring about signs such as difficulty falling asleep, waking up during the night, waking up early in the morning and feeling irritable and tired and finding it difficult to function during the day. It can bring about symptoms such as lying awake for long periods at night before falling asleep, waking up several times during the night, waking up early in the morning and not being able to get back to sleep, feeling tired and not refreshed by sleep, not being able to function properly during the day and finding it difficult to concentrate and irritability. Insomnia can affect your mood and cause tiredness and fatigue during the day.
Insomnia can be caused by stress and anxiety. It can persist even after stress is resolved. Psychiatric conditions can also cause insomnia such as mental health conditions, depression, bipolar disorder, generalised anxiety, panic disorder or post-traumatic stress disorder and schizophrenia. Insomnia can also be secondary to health conditions such as heart disease, respiratory disease such as chronic obstructive pulmonary disease or asthma, neurological disease such as Alzheimer’s disease or Parkinson’s disease, hormonal problems such as an overactive thyroid, joint or muscle problems such as arthritis, problems with the genital or urinary organs such as urinary incontinence or an enlarged prostate, sleep disorders such as restless legs syndrome, narcolepsy or sleep apnoea and long-term pain.
Insomnia can also be due to alcohol and drug misuse. It can also be due to intake of medications such as antidepressants, epilepsy medicine, medication for high blood pressure such as beta-blockers, hormone replacement therapy, non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs), stimulant drugs such as methylphenidate or modafiniland some medicines used to treat asthma, such as salbutamol, salmeterol and theophylline. Insomnia can also be due to jet lag.
Insomnia can be avoided by making certain lifestyle changes such as avoiding caffeine later in the day, avoiding heavy meals late at night, setting regular times to wake up and using thick curtains or blinds, an eye mask and earplugs to stop you being woken up by light and noise. Good sleep hygiene can relieve insomnia.
Insomnia Can Lead to Faster Aging in Adults
A recent study has shown that that the less older adults sleep, the faster their brains age. These findings, made by researchers from the Duke-NUS Graduate Medical School Singapore (Duke-NUS), may hold answers on queries towards sleep loss and its contribution to cognitive decline, including dementia. This study gathered data from 66 older Chinese adults, from the Singapore-Longitudinal Aging Brain Study. Participants underwent structural MRI brain scans measuring brain volume and neuropsychological assessments testing cognitive function every two years. Additionally, their sleep duration was recorded through a questionnaire. Those who slept fewer hours showed evidence of faster ventricle enlargement and decline in cognitive performance. The findings suggested that a shorter sleep duration is a marker for brain aging.
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