Insomnia is a prolonged inability to sleep caused by many factors. It’s important to understand that there are many types of insomnia. It’s helpful to divide insomnia into four major categories:
Primary insomnia is of psychological origin, and may be acute and transitory or chronic and longstanding. Acute primary insomnia is usually caused by psychological stress and responds to medication, and/or stress management (meditation, biofeedback) and gets better when the acute stress abates. Primary chronic insomnia is often due to long standing depression, anxiety and other psychological or mood disorders.
Secondary insomnia comes as a result of a medical situation of a physical nature. An example of a cause of secondary insomnia would be sleep apnea. There are many other physical causes of insomnia some of which include medication side effects, chronic pain, auto-immune diseases such as Muscular Dystrophy and Multiple Sclerosis, and other medical conditions that can interrupt one’s sleep.
Difficulty getting to sleep when first going to bed is called onset insomnia. Usually patents with sleep apnea do not have onset insomnia as they are often very sleepy and fall asleep quickly.
Maintenance insomnia describes when one falls asleep without difficulty but awakens and is unable to go back to sleep. Maintenance insomnia is very common in patients with sleep apnea. They fall asleep quickly but due to the frequent apnea events, wake up after about 2 – 3 hours and cannot fall back to sleep. Clinical experience reveals that when the sleep apnea is treated, the insomnia improves.
“My sleep has improved!”
– Atiba Wood
Insomnia & the Sleep Adverse Brain
A patient with significant, prolonged untreated sleep apnea can create a sleep adverse brain. When a patient suffers from sleep apnea events, plummeting blood oxygen levels cause the brain to think the body is suffocating. Over time the brain can actually resist sleep contributing to insomnia because the brain develops a type of aversion to sleep.
If insomnia is caused or aggravated by sleep apnea, successful sleep apnea treatment will often improve or eliminate insomnia and its symptoms.
Chronic insomnia can have dramatic implications for your health and wellness. Because insomnia is complicated and can be caused or aggravated by so many factors, it’s important to consult and work closely with your physician.
The Edison Dilemma
Thomas Edison’s impact on the world and modern American life has been nothing less than profound. He did more than anyone else to illuminate modern life. Interestingly Edison had very unorthodox sleeping habits. He would often spend days and nights in his lab taking only occasional short naps on a bed he had placed in it. Edison famously called sleep “a criminal waste of time”. Ironically Edison also did more to undermine good sleep. He was an unwitting architect of a modern epidemic, sleep deprivation.
Prior to Edison, our bodies functioned on a natural light/dark sleep cycle known as the Circadian rhythm. When the sun went down, the Pineal gland (located at the base of the brain) was triggered to release Melatonin, a hormone that promotes sleep. Once the light bulb was invented our circadian rhythm was disrupted and we began to “occupy the dark” with activities other than sleep. The availability of light around the clock has disturbed the regulation and release of Melatonin and the sleep it promotes.
Edison created a dilemma faced billions of times a day, go to sleep or watch the late show, text, email, surf the web… Thanks Tom.