By Aisham Saleem

Creating awareness of the facts about insomnia is an essential element for promoting a healthy society because healthy society plays an important role in success of life. Insomnia is derived from the Latin word which means “no sleep”. A recent report estimates that 60 to 70 million American suffer from some form of sleep problems. The problem is also becoming common in Pakistan. More than 30% of the Pakistani population suffers from insomnia. One in three people suffer from some form of insomnia during their lifetime due different happenings in their life. Most of the people over the age of 60 are suffering from this disease. Women are up to twice more likely to suffer this than men. Approximately 35% of insomniacs have a family history of insomnia.

Generally, insomnia is categorized into one of three forms by the medical community. Transient insomnia lasts less than a week; short-term insomnia is one to three weeks in duration; and chronic insomnia persists for a month or longer. Research shows that 90% of people who suffer from depression also experience insomnia. People who suffer from sleep deprivation are 27% more likely to become overweight or obese. There is also a link between weight gain and sleep apnea. There are a large number of people who often fall asleep while driving.

Insomnia comes in many forms and worries people of all ages. It has many causes. It is a symptom, much like fever or stomachache. People with chronic cases of insomnia have a significantly higher risk of having serious health conditions, including heart disease, stroke, high blood pressure, diabetes and depression. Some people understand insomnia as a disease and some define insomnia as a symptom. This is means insomnia is an early sign of disease before it lead to serious physical disorder or psychiatric illness. There three symptoms commonly shown by people who have insomnia: difficulty falling asleep, no problem falling asleep but difficulty staying asleep with many awakenings, and waking up too early. Difficulty sleeping at night may be related with the following daytime symptoms: sleepiness, anxiety, impaired memory, impaired concentration, and irritability. Insomnia can weaken not only your energy level and mood but also your health, work performance and quality of life.

Insomnia can be classified as a psychological problem therefore, it has psychological causes. The three psychological causes of insomnia are anxiety, depression, and stress. Anxiety creates a feeling of fear and worries which can disturb a person’s mind, causing that person to constantly think about something which leads to difficulties in sleeping. Stress can also cause insomnia because it is “how effectively a person copes with any emotional, physical, social and economic problems”. Therefore; a person who is stressed finds it difficult to sleep or to stay asleep. Lastly, depression, a feeling of great sadness, is also a psychological problem that causes insomnia. Difficulties in sleeping are brought about by the negative feelings inside a person. Not only do anxiety, stress and depression cause insomnia, they are also the effects of it. If a person continuously experience insomnia, it can turn into a “vicious cycle”.

Besides from being a psychological problem, insomnia can also cause problems on the physical aspects of a person. Therefore, it has physical causes as well. Some physical causes include hormonal changes in women, decrease in melatonin, medical conditions, pains, genetics, and other sleep disorders. Medical conditions, such as asthma; pains and hormonal changes in women cause discomfort to people which result in sleep disruption. Decrease in melatonin, on the other hand, is a phenomena which happens as a person ages.

Lastly, insomnia is caused by temporary events or factors. Some events or factors which affect insomnia are jet lag, working the night shifts, medications, environmental noise and extreme temperatures. Jet lag and working late at night can cause a person’s sleeping patterns to change which can cause difficulties in sleeping. While medications can have side effects that can cause sleep deprivation. Environmental noise and extreme temperatures can cause discomfort which can cause a person to have a hard time trying to get some sleep.

According to Dr. Farzana insomnia is becoming a common problem in Pakistani society. “This disease is due to the depression and anxiety which is increasing in the age group of 20-30,” she said. Talking about key steps in defeating the illness she said that the best way is to change one’s sleeping habits, develop a good bedtime routine and careful consumption of food and liquids. If the personal and non-medication treatment does not help, one should consult his doctor.

Disease of any sort is bad but insomnia leaves very bad effects on one’s personality. People today sleep 20% less than they did 100 years ago. People should develop a good understanding about insomnia to avoid it.