Chronic insomnia is the most severe one in three types of insomnia, which include transient insomnia, acute insomnia, and chronic insomnia. While transient insomnia causes the difficulty falling asleep in less than 1 week, the acute insomnia period is less than 1 month, the difficulty falling asleep of people who suffer from chronic insomnia is more than one month.
Symptoms of chronic insomnia
Chronic insomnia is a type of insomnia so it has all the typical symptoms of regular insomnia. However, as mentioned above, the length of the problem is longer than one month. When people suffer from insomnia, they usually find it hard to fall asleep at night, waking up in the middle of the night and cannot go back to sleep, waking up too early and the frequency of sleep disruption may increase over time. The total sleep time will be decreased too. Not only affects the quality of sleep, insomnia, especially chronic insomnia can have an impact to daily life. People usually find it hard to concentrate, impaired vision, fatigue and sleep during the day. This is the reason why people who suffer from insomnia have a high chance of taking traffic accidents. Insomnia also means that people have the difficulty in falling asleep in the daytime, for example, a short break after lunch.
Causes of chronic insomnia
Different from the causes of acute and transient insomnia, chronic insomnia is caused by a host of psychiatric or physiologic (medical) conditions. Psychiatric causes of insomnia include stress, anxiety, depression… On the opposite side, insomnia can be the symptoms of stress and anxiety. Physiological causes range from circadian rhythm disorders (disturbance of the biological clock), sleep-wake imbalance, to a variety of medical conditions. Chronic pain syndromes, chronic fatigue syndrome, obstructive sleep apnea, nocturnal asthma… are the main physiological causes of insomnia. Also, if the person is using some specific type of drugs, he or she can suffer from insomnia too. For example, drugs used to treat high blood pressure, depression are believed to cause chronic insomnia.
Treatment of chronic insomnia
Base on the causes of chronic insomnia, each patient will have a unique treatment option. Chronic insomnia treatment usually can’t be done in a short time and it requires patience and effort from the patient (different from acute and transient insomnia, which require no treatment). There are two treatment options, medical treatment and non-medical treatment. However, to get the best result, the combination of the two should be used.
Non-medical treatment for chronic insomnia
Non-medical treatments for chronic insomnia are sleep hygiene, relaxation therapy, stimulus control, and sleep restriction.
Sleep hygiene is a part of behavioral therapy that used to cure chronic insomnia (as well as other types of insomnia). The implementation is very simple. Here are what you need to do:
Sleep enough to feel you are recovered, however, don’t oversleep.
Have small but regular exercises every day. Be sure to not exercise too close to bedtime, 4 to 5 hours before that time will be O.K.
- If you don’t want to sleep, don’t force yourself to
- Have a good schedule of sleep and wake up. For example, go to bed at 10 pm and wake up at 5 am every day.
- Don’t drink tea or coffee near bedtime.
- Try not to eat late, however, it’s vital to keep you from feeling hungry when going to bed.
- Try to get rid of all stress, worries before going to bed.
Relaxation therapy is the method where you use the meditation and relaxation to free your mind so you can easily get into sleep. You will use a dimming light and soft music as well.
Stimulus control encourages people to go to sleep when they feel sleepy. Avoid watching TV, reading a book on the bed. If you can’t sleep after 30 minutes, wake up and do other things until you feel sleepy. Another important thing is to set a specific wake-up time in the morning, even at the weekend. Don’t allow you to oversleep or having too much daytime sleep.
Sleep restriction uses a strict bedtime schedule. You will go to bed at a specific time and get up at a specific time, even when you are sleepy. Therapists believe that doing so will help the patient have better sleep next night.
Medical treatment for chronic insomnia
There are quite a lot of medical prescriptions for insomnia. However, to get the maximum benefit, it is advised that the patient uses medical treatment along with non-medical treatment. The prescription drugs that used to treat chronic insomnia include Benzodiazepine sedatives, Nonbenzodiazepine sedatives, Ramelteon and some anti-depressant. Over the counter medications for insomnia include Antihistamines with sedative properties and Melatonin. However, it’s recommended that you ask your doctor first before using any kind of the drugs above because different from non-medical therapies, medical treatments can bring side effects.