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Health > Mental Health >Insomnia


Being unable to sleep is something which most of us experience from time to time-and it is usually only a short-term inconvenience. Long-term insomnia may indicate an underlying problem requiring medical help.

Insomnia commonly happens to middle aged and elderly people. This is mainly because as we age, our bodies require less sleep. When insomnia occurs in a younger person, however, it is more likely to be a sign of anxiety or depression.


There are many cause of sleeplessness, but only a few of them appear to have any direct medical causes.

When a person is ill, constant waking or fitful sleeping is a common occurrence. In acute illness, pain or fever may prevent sleep and excessive sweating or sickness may make the patient weak frequently. In cases of chronic illness, such as heart or lung disease, shortness of breath or pain causes by leg cramps or abdominal spasms can cause wakefulness. Patients with heart disease or prostate enlargement may need to pass waiter several times at night, resulting in disturbed sleep.

Mild anxiety and depression are both common causes of insomnia. Although well aware that sleep is the answer, the sufferer is quite unable to drop off. And the harder he or she thinks and worries about the inability to sleep, the less likely sleep becomes.

In cases of severe depression, the person may fall asleep quickly, but wakes after only two or three hours and is unable to get further sleep, leaving him feeling constantly tired.

Eating a large meal immediately before going to bed, drinking too much alcohol, or sleeping in a badly ventilated room can also have an adverse effect on sound sleep. Even if people sleep throughout the night in these circumstances, they often feel that they haven’t slept at all the next morning.


Home treatment for insomnia is very effective, providing there is no underlying medical or emotional cause. Avoiding daytime naps, getting plenty of fresh air and exercise, and having a hot milky drink before going to bed, have been shown to induce sleep in most insomniacs.

Where there is a medical illness present, such as heart disease, the sleeplessness will only improve on treatment of the heart condition. And when a person is suffering from acute depression, anti-depressive drugs are the best answer, as they can return the sufferer’s sleep pattern to normal, long before his mood improves.

Insomniacs suffering from acute anxiety usually require sleeping pills. These are hypnotic drugs and, although they are ideal for dealing with short-term insomnia, they can be both habit-forming and addictive. In the past, many sleeping tablets contained barbiturate drugs which produced serious side-effects such as dramatic mood changes, and, because the drugs were not excreted from the body for several hours, they causes a serious hangover in the morning.

The more modern sleeping drugs, however, claim to have a shorter action period and cause less hang over effect.

Most doctors generally prescribe sleeping pills on a short-term basis, and it is only in fairly exceptional cases that they are prescribed over a longer period. A regular supply may be useful for an elderly patient, but for a younger person, a healthier lifestyle or attention to the cause of the insomnia is of greater help.

Where acute anxiety is the cause of insomnia, once the problem is solved the outlook is good. Early morning waking due to depression is likely to worsen unless anti-depressant treatment is given, and with sleeping tablets, a normal sleep pattern can usually be achieved within a week. After that time, is possible, the patient is advised to slowly withdraw their use and rely on more natural sleep inducing methods.

Although insomnia is totally different to being deprived of sleep, the end results can be similar. When people are deprived of sleep they become irritable, with changing moods, and mental illness as well as physical illness can result.

Permanent insomnia produces mood changes and irritability, and chronic insomnia makes a person tense and edgy, which, in turn, can affect performance at work. So if home treatment does not help, a visit to the doctor is well worthwhile..

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