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Better Sleep

Information And Treatment

Insomnia can be characterized by trouble getting to sleep, waking up too early, waking up in the middle of the night and not being able to get back to sleep, and being tired when you walk up. Generally, if you take more than 30 minutes to get to sleep, or to get back to sleep, you are experiencing insomnia.

Insomnia can be further categorized as either primary or secondary and acute or chronic. Primary insomnia means the cause of the condition is unknown. Secondary insomnia is caused by a physical condition, jet lag, age, caffeinated or alcoholic drinks, or by taking certain medications. Older people are more likely to experience insomnia, and women are more likely to be insomniacs than men.

Even if you seem to sleep for a normal length of time, you may still be tired because your sleep is of poor quality. The average sleep cycle is 90 minutes long, and includes four stages of sleep (one being the shallowest and four being the deepest) as well REM sleep. REM stands for Rapid Eye Movement. REM sleep is the stage of sleep when we dream (and our eyes do move, hence the name). Sleep is necessary for proper immune and nervous system function. Cell repair is highest during deep sleep. If you wake up frequently during the night, you will likely spend most of your sleep in shallow sleep, which is less restorative. Shallow sleep and frequent waking can be caused by stress, alcohol consumption or certain physical conditions, like sleep apnea.

Furthermore, insomnia can be either acute or chronic. Basically, acute is short-term, generally a month or less. Very short-term insomnia is sometimes called transient insomnia. Chronic insomnia is long-term. The longer the period of insomnia, the greater the health risks can be.

Common side effects of insomnia include exhaustion, irritability, trouble concentrating, and slower reflexes. These side effects can manifest themselves after a single sleepless night.

Chronic insomnia has more serious side effects. Long-term poor-quality sleep can lead to depression, a suppressed immune system and a constant state of fatigue. Insomnia is a leading cause of car accidents. The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration estimates that about 100,000 car accidents and 1,500 deaths per year can be attributed to “drowsy driving.”