According to American Association of Sleep Medicine, insomnia is "the inability to fall asleep or to stay asleep." A broader definition of insomnia is: Insomnia is difficulty initiating sleep, difficulty maintaining sleep, early-morning awakening with difficulty resuming sleep, or unrefreshing sleep. The subject must also suffer some degree of impairment in social, occupational, or other important areas of daytime functioning. Daytime symptoms may include morning grogginess, memory problems, poor concentration, irritability, mild depression, anxiety, somatic complaints such as headaches or aches and pains, and daytime fatigue. Insomnia lasting less than 4 weeks is considered to be transient. Insomnia lasting longer than 4 weeks is chronic.
One in three American adults are believed to suffer from insomnia. According to National Sleep Foundation's (NSF) 1999 Sleep in America survey, more than half (56%) of American adults reported experiencing symptoms of insomnia a few nights a week or more, yet only half of those people were being treated by a healthcare provider for their condition. Transient insomnia occurs in up to 50% of the population. The prevalence of chronic insomnia is estimated to be about 10% to 15%.
The direct economic costs of insomnia are estimated at close to $14 billion in the USA alone. The total cost of insomnia, including treatment, lost productivity and insomnia related accidents, may exceed $100 billion per year. And the statistics is comparable world-wide.
Those at greatest risk for insomnia include the elderly, women, shift workers, and persons with comorbid medical or psychiatric disorders. Nearly two thirds of adult psychiatric outpatients have disturbed sleep. Chronic insomnia is, in turn, a significant risk factor for the development of psychiatric illness. Victims of insomnia are more than twice as likely as noninsomniacs to have psychiatric disorders and are more prone to subsequent depressive illness, anxiety, or alcohol abuse.
Decades of scientific research have shown that sleepiness and fatigue, as well as sleeplessness, affect everyone's health, safety, productivity and well-being. Yet most people are slow to seek the advice and treatment of a healthcare provider for sleep problems and excessive sleepiness. For example, of the two-thirds of Americans experiencing sleep disorders, only four percent are seeing a doctor.
Types of Insomnia
Insomnia may be described in terms of both duration and severity. It may be transient (lasting for several days), intermittent (when transient insomnia recurs), or chronic (lasting for more than a month).
Transient insomnia is an inability to sleep well over a period of a few nights. This is usually brought on by excitement or stress. You may find it hard to sleep before an important event such as a meeting, wedding, an examination, etc. People find it hard to sleep when they are in a new location such as in a hotel room or when they have crossed several time zones. A vigorous exercise close to bedtime (within four hours) or an illness can also temporarily disrupt sleep.
Sort term insomnia is characterized by two to three weeks of poor sleep. It is believed to have been caused by stress. Generally, sleep will return to normal when the stressful situation subsides or when the sleeper becomes accustomed to it.
Chronic insomnia is manifested by poor sleep every night or most nights. In most cases this is due to excessive worrying by the insomniacs. However, not all chronic insomnia has its origin on worrying. According to a study by the Association of Sleep Disorders Centers, physical ailments-such as disorders of breathing or muscle activity-are the cause of more than half of all cases of persistent insomnia.
Narcolepsy is a rare sleep disorder characterized by attacks of irresistible drowsiness during the day, disrupting the pattern of a person's normal activity. A narcoleptic may not sleep well at night but suffer sleep attacks during the day, while talking, working, and even when driving a vehicle.
Insomnia Affects Quality of Life And Health
Insomnia may be a serious problem affecting quality of life, productivity and safety.
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