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Insomnia
Classification and external resources
ICD-10 F51.0, G47.0
ICD-9 307.42, 307.41, 780.51, 780.52
DiseasesDB 26877
eMedicine med/2698
MeSH D007319

Insomnia is a symptom[1] which can accompany several sleep, medical and psychiatric disorders, characterized by persistent difficulty falling asleep and/or staying asleep despite the opportunity. Insomnia is typically followed by functional impairment while awake. Both organic and non-organic insomnia without other cause constitute a sleep disorder, primary insomnia.[2] One definition of insomnia is "difficulties initiating and/or maintaining sleep, or nonrestorative sleep, associated with impairments of daytime functioning or marked distress for more than 1 month."[3]

According to the United States Department of Health and Human Services in the year 2007, approximately 64 million Americans regularly suffer from insomnia each year.[4] Insomnia is 1.4 times more common in women than in men.[5]

Contents

Classification

Types of insomnia

Although there are several different degrees of insomnia, three types of insomnia have been clearly identified: transient, acute, and chronic.

  1. Transient insomnia lasts from days to weeks. It can be caused by another disorder, by changes in the sleep environment, by the timing of sleep, severe depression, or by stress. Its consequences - sleepiness and impaired psychomotor performance - are similar to those of sleep deprivation.[6]
  2. Acute insomnia is the inability to consistently sleep well for a period of between three weeks to six months.[7]
  3. Chronic insomnia lasts for years at a time. It can be caused by another disorder, or it can be a primary disorder. Its effects can vary according to its causes. They might include sleepiness, muscular fatigue, hallucinations, and/or mental fatigue; but people with chronic insomnia often show increased alertness. Some people that live with this disorder see things as if they are happening in slow motion, wherein moving objects seem to blend together. Can cause double vision.[6]

Patterns of insomnia

  1. Onset insomnia - difficulty falling asleep at the beginning of the night, often associated with anxiety disorders.
  2. Middle-of-the-Night Insomnia - Insomnia characterized by difficulty returning to sleep after awakening in the middle of the night or waking too early in the morning. Also referred to as nocturnal awakenings. Encompasses middle and terminal insomnia.
  3. Middle insomnia - waking during the middle of the night, difficulty maintaining sleep. Often associated with pain disorders or medical illness.
  4. Terminal (or late) insomnia - early morning waking. Often a characteristic of clinical depression.

Insomnia versus poor sleep quality

Poor sleep quality can occur as a result of sleep apnea or clinical depression. Poor sleep quality is caused by the individual not reaching stage 4 or delta sleep which has restorative properties. There are, however, people who are unable to achieve stage 4 sleep due to brain damage who lead perfectly normal lives.

Sleep apnea is a condition that occurs when a sleeping person's breathing is interrupted, thus interrupting the normal sleep cycle. With the obstructive form of the condition, some part of the sleeper's respiratory tract loses muscle tone and partially collapses. People with obstructive sleep apnea often do not remember awakening or having difficulty breathing, but they complain of excessive sleepiness during the day. Central sleep apnea interrupts the normal breathing stimulus of the central nervous system, and the individual must actually wake up to resume breathing. This form of apnea is often related to a cerebral vascular condition, congestive heart failure, and premature aging.

Major depression leads to alterations in the function of the hypothalamic-pituitary-adrenal axis, causing excessive release of cortisol which can lead to poor sleep quality.

Nocturnal polyuria, excessive nighttime urination, can be very disturbing to sleep.[8]

Signs and symptoms

A survey of 1.1 million residents in the United States conducted by the American Cancer Society found that those who reported sleeping about 7 hours per night had the lowest rates of mortality, whereas those who slept for fewer than 6 hours or more than 8 hours had higher mortality rates. Getting 8.5 or more hours of sleep per night increased the mortality rate by 15%. Severe insomnia - sleeping less than 3.5 hours in women and 4.5 hours in men - also led to a 15% increase in mortality. However, most of the increase in mortality from severe insomnia was discounted after controlling for comorbid disorders. After controlling for sleep duration and insomnia, use of sleeping pills was also found to be associated with an increased mortality rate.

The lowest mortality was seen in individuals who slept between six and a half and seven and a half hours per night. Even sleeping only 4.5 hours per night is associated with very little increase in mortality. Thus mild to moderate insomnia for most people is associated with increased longevity and severe insomnia is only associated with a very small effect on mortality.

As long as a patient refrains from using sleeping pills there is little to no increase in mortality associated with insomnia but there does appear to be an increase in longevity. This is reassuring for patients with insomnia in that despite the sometimes unpleasantness of insomnia, insomnia itself appears to be associated with increased longevity.

It is unclear why sleeping longer than 7.5 hours is associated with excess mortality.[9]

Causes

Insomnia can be caused by:

Sleep studies using polysomnography have suggested that people who have insomnia with sleep disruption have elevated nighttime levels of circulating cortisol and adrenocorticotropic hormone They also have an elevated metabolic rate, which does not occur in people who do not have insomnia but whose sleep is intentionally disrupted during a sleep study. Studies of brain metabolism using positron emission tomography (PET) scans indicate that people with insomnia have higher metabolic rates by night and by day. The question remains whether these changes are the causes or consequences of long-term insomnia.[12]

Insomnia can be common after the loss of a loved one, even years or decades after the death, if they have not gone through the grieving process. Overall, symptoms and the degree of their severity affect each individual differently depending on their mental health, physical condition, and attitude or personality.

A common misperception is that the amount of sleep required decreases as a person ages. The ability to sleep for long periods, rather than the need for sleep, appears to be lost as people get older. Some elderly insomniacs toss and turn in bed and occasionally fall off the bed at night, diminishing the amount of sleep they receive.[14]

Potential complications of insomnia.[15]

Diagnosis

Specialists in sleep medicine are qualified to diagnose the many different sleep disorders. Patients with various disorders including delayed sleep phase syndrome are often mis-diagnosed with insomnia.

If a patient has trouble getting to sleep, but has normal sleep pattern once asleep, a circadian rhythm disorder is a likely cause.

Treatment for insomnia

In many cases, insomnia is caused by another disease, side effects from medications, or a psychological problem. It is important to identify or rule out medical and psychological before deciding on the treatment for the insomnia.[16] Attention to sleep hygiene is an important first line treatment strategy and should be tried before any pharmacological approach is considered. Massage Therapy would be very beneficial for sufferers of Insomnia[17]

Non-pharmacological

Non-pharmacological strategies are superior to hypnotic medication for insomnia because tolerance develops to the hypnotic effects. In addition, dependence can develop with rebound withdrawal effects developing upon discontinuation. Hypnotic medication is therefore only recommended for short term use, especially in acute or chronic insomnia[18]. Non pharmacological strategies however, have long lasting improvements to insomnia and are recommended as a first line and long term strategy of managing insomnia. The strategies include attention to sleep hygiene, stimulus control, behavioral interventions, sleep-restriction therapy, paradoxical intention, patient education and relaxation therapy.[19]

EEG biofeedback has demonstrated effectiveness in the treatment of insomnia with improvements in duration as well as quality of sleep.[20]

Stimulus control therapy is a treatment for patients who have conditioned themselves to associate the bed, or sleep in general, with a negative response. As stimulus control therapy involves taking steps to control the sleep environment, it is sometimes referred interchangeably with the concept of sleep hygiene. Examples of such environmental modifications include using the bed for sleep or sex only, not for activities such as reading or watching television; waking up at the same time every morning, including on weekends; going to bed only when sleepy and when there is a high likelihood that sleep will occur; leaving the bed and beginning an activity in another location if sleep does not result in a reasonably brief period of time after getting into bed (commonly ~20 min); reducing the subjective effort and energy expended trying to fall asleep; avoiding exposure to bright light during nighttime hours, and eliminating daytime naps.

A component of stimulus control therapy is sleep restriction, a technique that aims to match the time spent in bed with actual time spent asleep. This technique involves maintaining a strict sleep-wake schedule, only sleeping at certain times of the day and for specific amounts of time to induce mild sleep deprivation. Complete treatment usually lasts up to 3 weeks and involves making oneself sleep for only a minimum amount of time that they are actually capable of on average, and then, if capable (i.e. when sleep efficiency improves), slowly increasing this amount (~15 min) by going to bed earlier as the body attempts to reset its internal sleep clock. Bright light therapy, which is often used to help early morning wakers reset their natural sleep cycle, can also be used with sleep restriction therapy to reinforce a new wake schedule. Although applying this technique with consistency is difficult, it can have a positive effect on insomnia in motivated patients.

Paradoxical intention is a cognitive reframing technique where the insomniac, instead of attempting to fall asleep at night, makes every effort to stay awake (i.e. essentially stops trying to fall asleep). One theory that may explain the effectiveness of this method is that by not voluntarily making oneself go to sleep, it relieves the performance anxiety that arises from the need or requirement to fall asleep, which is meant to be a passive act. This technique has been shown to reduce sleep effort and performance anxiety and also lower subjective assessment of sleep-onset latency and overestimation of the sleep deficit (a quality found in many insomniacs).[21]

Cognitive behavior therapy

A recent study found that cognitive behavior therapy is more effective than hypnotic medications in controlling insomnia.[22] In this therapy, patients are taught improved sleep habits and relieved of counter-productive assumptions about sleep. Common misconceptions and expectations that can be modified include: (1) unrealistic sleep expectations (eg, I need to have 8 hours of sleep each night), (2) misconceptions about insomnia causes (eg, I have a chemical imbalance causing my insomnia), (3) amplifying the consequences of insomnia (eg, I cannot do anything after a bad night's sleep), and (4) performance anxiety after trying for so long to have a good night's sleep by controlling the sleep process. Numerous studies have reported positive outcomes of combining cognitive behavioral therapy treatment with treatments such as stimulus control and the relaxation therapies. Hypnotic medications are equally effective in the short term treatment of insomnia but their effects wear off over time due to tolerance. The effects of cognitive behavior therapy have sustained and lasting effects on treating insomnia long after therapy has been discontinued.[23][24] The addition of hypnotic medications with CBT adds no benefit in insomnia. The long lasting benefits of a course of CBT shows superiority over pharmacological hypnotic drugs. Even in the short term when compared to short term hypnotic medication such as zolpidem (Ambien), CBT still shows significant superiority. Thus CBT is recommended as a first line treatment for insomnia.[25]

Medications

Many insomniacs rely on sleeping tablets and other sedatives to get rest, with research showing that medications are prescribed to over 95% of insomniac cases[26]. All sedative drugs have the potential of causing psychological dependence where the individual cannot psychologically accept that they can sleep without drugs[citation needed]. Certain classes of sedatives such as benzodiazepines and newer nonbenzodiazepine drugs can also cause physical dependence which manifests in withdrawal symptoms if the drug is not carefully tapered down. The benzodiazepine and nonbenzodiazepine hypnotic medications also have a number of side effects such as day time fatigue, motor vehicle crashes, cognitive impairments and falls and fractures. Elderly people are more sensitive to these side effects.[27]

In comparing the options, a systematic review found that benzodiazepines and nonbenzodiazepines have similar efficacy which was not significantly more than for antidepressants.[28] Benzodiazepines did not have a significant tendency for more adverse drug reactions.[28] Chronic users of hypnotic medications for insomnia do not have better sleep than chronic insomniacs who do not take medications. In fact, chronic users of hypnotic medications actually have more regular nighttime awakenings than insomniacs who do not take hypnotic medications.[29] A further review of the literature regarding benzodiazepine hypnotic as well as the nonbenzodiazepines concluded that these drugs caused an unjustifiable risk to the individual and to public health and lack evidence of long term effectiveness. The risks include dependence, accidents and other adverse effects. Gradual discontinuation of hypnotics in long term users leads to improved health without worsening of sleep. Preferably hypnotics should be prescribed for only a few days at the lowest effective dose and avoided altogether wherever possible in the elderly.[30]

Benzodiazepines

The most commonly used class of hypnotics prescribed for insomnia are the benzodiazepines. Benzodiazepines bind unselectively to the GABAA receptor.[28] These include drugs such as temazepam, flunitrazepam, triazolam, flurazepam, midazolam, nitrazepam and quazepam. These drugs can lead to tolerance, physical dependence and the benzodiazepine withdrawal syndrome upon discontinuation, especially after consistent usage over long periods of time. Benzodiazepines while inducing unconsciousness, actually worsen sleep as they promote light sleep whilst decreasing time spent in deep sleep such as REM sleep.[31] A further problem is with regular use of short acting sleep aids for insomnia, day time rebound anxiety can emerge.[32] Benzodiazepines can help to initiate sleep and increase sleep time but they also decrease deep sleep and increase light sleep. Although there is little evidence for benefit of benzodiazepines in insomnia and evidence of major harm prescriptions have continued to increase.[33] There is a general awareness that long-term use of benzodiazepines for insomnia in most people is inappropriate and that a gradual withdrawal is usually beneficial due to the adverse effects associated with the long-term use of benzodiazepines and is recommended whenever possible.[34][35]

Non-benzodiazepines

Nonbenzodiazepine sedative-hypnotic drugs, such as zolpidem, zaleplon, zopiclone and eszopiclone, are a newer classification of hypnotic medications. They work on the benzodiazepine site on the GABAA receptor complex similarly to the benzodiazepine class of drugs. Some but not all of the nonbenzodiazepines are selective for the α1 subunit on GABAA receptors which is responsible for inducing sleep and may therefore have a cleaner side effect profile than the older benzodiazepines. Zopiclone and eszopiclone like benzodiazepine drugs bind unselectively to α1, α2, α3 and α5 GABAA benzodiazepine receptors.[36] Zolpidem is more selective and zaleplon is highly selective for the α1 subunit, thus giving them an advantage over benzodiazepines in terms of sleep architecture and a reduction in side effects.[37][38] However, there are controversies over whether these non-benzodiazepine drugs are superior to benzodiazepines. These drugs appear to cause both psychological dependence and physical dependence though less than traditional benzodiazepines and can also cause the same memory and cognitive disturbances along with morning sedation.

Alcohol

Alcohol is often used as a form of self-treatment of insomnia to induce sleep. However, alcohol use to induce sleep can be a cause of insomnia. Long-term use of alcohol is associated with a decrease in NREM stage 3 and 4 sleep as well as suppression of REM sleep and REM sleep fragmentation. Frequent moving between sleep stages occurs, with awakenings due to headaches, polyuria and diaphoresis. Stopping chronic alcohol abuse can also lead to severe insomnia with vivid dreams. During withdrawal REM sleep is typically exagerated as part of a rebound effect.[39]

Opioids

Opioids are used for insomnia which is associated with pain[11] due to their analgesic properties and hypnotic effects.

Antidepressants

Some antidepressants such as amitriptyline, doxepin, mirtazapine, and trazodone can often have a very strong sedative effect, and are prescribed off label to treat insomnia.[40] The major drawback of these drugs is that they have antihistaminergic, anticholinergic and antiadrenergic properties which can lead to many side effects. Some also alter sleep architecture. As with benzodiazepines, the use of antidepressants in the treatment of insomnia can lead to withdrawal effects; withdrawal may induce rebound insomnia.

Mirtazapine is known to decrease sleep latency, promoting sleep efficiency and increasing the total amount of sleeping time in patients suffering from both depression and insomnia.[41][42]

Melatonin and melatonin agonists

The hormone and supplement melatonin is effective in several types of insomnia. Melatonin has demonstrated effectiveness equivalent to the prescription sleeping tablet zopiclone in inducing sleep and regulating the sleep/waking cycle.[43] One particular benefit of melatonin is that it can treat insomnia without altering the sleep pattern which is altered by many prescription sleeping tablets. Another benefit is it does not impair performance related skills.[44][45]

Melatonin agonists, including ramelteon (Rozerem) and tasimelteon, seem to lack the potential for abuse and dependence. This class of drugs has a relatively mild side effect profile and lower likelihood of causing morning sedation. While these drugs show good effects for the treatment of insomnia due to jet lag,[46] the results for other forms of insomnia are less promising.[47]

Natural substances such as 5-HTP and L-Tryptophan have been said to fortify the serotonin-melatonin pathway and aid people with various sleep disorders including insomnia.[48]

Antihistamines

The antihistamine diphenhydramine is widely used in nonprescription sleep aids such as Tylenol PM. The antihistamine doxylamine is used in nonprescription sleep aids such as Unisom (USA) and Unisom 2 (Canada). In some countries, including Australia, it is marketed under the names Restavit and Dozile. It is the most effective over-the-counter sedative currently available in the United States, and is more sedating than some prescription hypnotics.[49]

While the two drugs mentioned above are available over the counter in most countries, the effectiveness of these agents may decrease over time and the incidence of next-day sedation is higher than for most of the newer prescription drugs. Anticholinergic side effects may also be a draw back of these two drugs. Dependence does not seem to be an issue with this class of drugs.

Cyproheptadine is a useful alternative to benzodiazepine hypnotics in the treatment of insomnia. Cyproheptadine may be superior to benzodiazepines in the treatment of insomnia because cyproheptadine enhances sleep quality and quantity whereas benzodiazepines tend to decrease sleep quality.[50]

Atypical antipsychotics

Low doses of certain atypical antipsychotics such as quetiapine, olanzapine and risperidone are also prescribed for their sedative effect but the danger of neurological and cognitive side effects make these drugs a poor choice to treat insomnia. Over time, quetiapine may lose its effectiveness as a sedative. The ability of quetiapine to produce sedation is determined by the dosage. Higher doses (300 mg - 900 mg) are usually taken for its use as an antipsychotic, while lower doses (25 mg - 200 mg) have a marked sedative effect, e.g. if a patient takes 300 mg, he/she will more likely benefit from the drug's antipsychotic effects, but if the dose is brought down to 100 mg, it will leave the patient feeling more sedated than at 300 mg, because it primarily works as a sedative at lower doses.

Eplivanserin is an investigational drug with a mechanism similar to these antipsychotics, but probably with less side effects.

Other substances

Some insomniacs use herbs such as valerian, chamomile, lavender, hops, and passion-flower. Valerian has undergone multiple studies and appears to be modestly effective.[51][52][53].

Insomnia may be a symptom of magnesium deficiency, or low magnesium levels, but this has not yet been proven. A healthy diet containing magnesium can help to improve sleep in individuals without an adequate intake of magnesium.[54]

Disability-adjusted life year for insomnia per 100,000 inhabitants in 2002.
     no data      less than 25      25-30.25      30.25-36      36-41.5      41.5-47      47-52.5      52.5-58      58-63.5      63.5-69      69-74.5      74.5-80      more than 80

Epidemiology

The National Sleep Foundation's 2002 Sleep in America poll showed that 58% of adults in the U.S. experienced symptoms of insomnia a few nights a week or more.[55] Although insomnia was the most common sleep problem among about one half of older adults (48%), they were less likely to experience frequent symptoms of insomnia than their younger counterparts (45% vs. 62%), and their symptoms were more likely to be associated with medical conditions, according to the 2003 poll of adults between the ages of 55 and 84.[55]

See also

References

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Simple English

Insomnia is when people can not sleep. A person suffering from this disorder is called an insomniac. Insomnia can mean a problem with getting to sleep or a problem with staying asleep. Insomnia is a symptom and not a disease or illness.[1]

Contents

Causes for Insomnia

There can be many causes for insomnia. Some of them are:

  • As people get older, their sleep patterns change. They will sleep shorter periods of time, but more often. Younger people usually sleep longer. This is normal.
  • Some insomnias are caused by real-world causes. Coffee stimulates the body, and people tend to drink quite a lot of it when they are at work. If they drink too much of it, they will have problems falling asleep in the evening. (The same is true for tea, colas, or any other drink with caffeine in it.)
  • Some people worry a lot. Their worries during the day will bother them at night. They might have nightmares, or they wake up sweating.
  • Some substances, like alcohol can have a bad effect. It can be very hard to sleep after drinking a lot of alcohol. The world may spin and there can be an urge to vomit as soon the person closes their eyes. Drugs can also have this effect, even some "sleeping" pills.
  • A very rare disease called fatal familial insomnia prevents some people from falling asleep. In this disease, a person can no longer sleep and after a while will die from being so tired. It is caused by a protein similar to the one that causes mad cow disease which is a very bad disease that comes from eating bad meat.
  • People with disorders of their circadian rhythms often have trouble sleeping at normal times.

Different kinds of insomnia

There are at least three different types of insomnia:

  1. Transient Insomnia: this lasts from one night to a few weeks.
  2. Acute Insomnia: lasts from a few weeks to about six months.
  3. Chronic Insomnia: lasts for years at a time.

Treating insomnia

There are drugs available that can help treat the different kinds of insomnia. There are also certain herbs that can help, in some cases. A third way that seems to help is a therapy that aims at changing the behaviour of those affected.

References

  1. Hirshkowitz, Max (2004). "Chapter 10, Neuropsychiatric Aspects of Sleep and Sleep Disorders (pp 315-340)". In Stuart C. Yudofsky and Robert E. Hales, editors (Google Books preview includes entire chapter 10). Essentials of neuropsychiatry and clinical neurosciences (4 ed.). Arlington, Virginia, USA: American Psychiatric Publishing. ISBN 9781585620050. http://books.google.no/books?id=XKhu7yb3QtsC&pg=PA315&lpg=PA315&dq=%22Max+Hirshkowitz%22&source=bl&ots=Rt5ZMiMbxt&sig=7upt8PudAdiA5f9kk5KGsrfaMQU&hl=no&ei=y-0bS7vFKtTP-QabhdTaDw&sa=X&oi=book_result&ct=result&resnum=3&ved=0CBIQ6AEwAjgK#v=onepage&q=%22Max%20Hirshkowitz%22&f=false. Retrieved 2009-12-06. "...insomnia is a symptom. It is neither a disease nor a specific condition. (from p. 322)" 








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