Insomnia: That frightening sleeplessness-Aishat M. Abisola

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By Aishat M. Abisola

For the past few days, I have been wondering about stories and myths regarding sleeping or nighttime and it led me to a story about the origins of Hypnos – The Greek god of sleep. This god, compared to his siblings, was more peaceful and focused on bringing restful sleep to mortals instead of causing them anguish. As I kept reading, I got even more interested and started to wonder – if Hypnos is the god of sleep, what would be the exact opposite? I looked around on the internet and saw that the opposite would be insomnia.

What is Insomnia, to be exact? Insomnia is the name of a sleeping disorder that renders people unable to fall asleep or have difficulties falling asleep. Insomnia can be either acute(short-term) or chronic(Long-term). Acute Insomnia is when it happens for a night to a few weeks while chronic is when it happens for at least a few nights and weeks for around three months or more. The correct term for a person with this condition is “Insomniac”.

Upon further research, I found out that there are actually two types of insomnia. There is primary insomnia which means that your sleeping issues do not have a link to any visible or underlying health problems. The other type is secondary insomnia which means that your sleep disorder is caused by a health issue (anxiety, depression, cancer), medication, the usage of substances or pain. There are also other types of insomnia such as paradoxical insomnia, mixed insomnia, and sleep maintenance insomnia.

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At first, I thought that insomnia was caused by restlessness and a lack of sleep but it turns out that there is a lot more to it. The two main types of insomnia both have their own causes that are entirely different. Primary insomnia is caused by stress from things like life changing events, the death of a loved one, divorce,  noise, changes in light and temperature, jetlag and genetics. There are studies that have shown that people may inherit a genetic predisposition for insomnia. Secondary insomnia can be caused by a myriad of issues pertaining to health. It can be caused by depression and anxiety, medication for allergies, colds and high blood pressure, pain, caffeine, substance use, endocrine issues, ADHD, pregnancy, PMS, menopause, Alzheimer’s etc.

Some of the symptoms of insomnia are visible and can help the patient and the doctor to be able to reach a quick diagnosis and treatment plan but other symptoms are not that visible. The symptoms include gastrointestinal issues, low energy and concentration, grumpiness, fatigue, lack of motivation, irritability, depression, difficulties in socializing and anxiety.

Both the human body and brain need sufficient rest time in order to function properly and insomnia prevent this from happening. There are a lot of risks involved when one does not get enough rest. Some of these risks are a higher chance of health issues like obesity and high blood pressure, an increased risk of falling, especially if it is an elderly person, problems focusing, anxiety, and a slow reaction time which could lead to a car crash.

During my research, I found out that there are many ways to treat insomnia but they usually depend on the type of insomnia and its underlying cause. For Acute (short-term) insomnia, sleeping pills prescribed by a doctor can help as this type of insomnia usually resolves itself. For chronic (long-term) insomnia, the patient will require counseling, medication or cognitive behavioural therapy.

There are also prevention methods for insomnia. This includes changing diets, changing sleeping habits, stop drinking caffeine late in the evening, eating light meals before bed and avoiding electronics as the light will prevent sleeping well.

All in all, insomnia is damaging to one’s health but luckily there are many different ways to prevent it or help people get their sleep schedule back to normal. As for me, what started out as merely a curious stroll through the internet ended up with me going down a rabbit hole of unknown information and finding myself on the other side of something new. Being more conscious about our health for proper medication. Truly, prevention is better than cure.

Abisola, writes from Abuja and can be reached at aishatmohd03@gmail.com

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