Insomnia.. Know its causes, symptoms and treatment
Stress is not the only cause of sleep disturbances, but also certain medications, and other factors such as drinking too much coffee, smoking, exercising and using screens late at night.
It is very natural that we sometimes experience sleep disturbances due to stress, overeating, or staying up late on an electronic device, but persistent insomnia may indicate serious health problems, and a specialist doctor should then be visited.
In an interview with the newspaperلوفيغارو“(Le Figaro) French, Professor Yves DeVillet, Professor of Neurology and Physiology and Director of the Sleep Laboratory at Montpellier University Hospital, says that the most prominent signs of insomnia are difficulty falling asleep, frequent awakening at night, waking up very early in the morning and difficulty returning to sleep.
Insomnia and lack of sleep result in many problems during the day, including feeling tired in the morning, poor concentration and irritable mood.
Professor Duvillier adds that about three-quarters of people may at some point suffer from acute insomnia, especially when hearing bad news or feeling nervous before an important meeting.
He continues that in such situations, it is normal for sleep to be disturbed for a day or several days, but if these disturbances persist for more than 3 months, at least 3 times a week, and are accompanied by difficulties in accomplishing various tasks during waking hours, it is necessary to take things very seriously and visit a specialist.
And Duvillier cautions that stress is not the only cause of sleep disturbances, but also certain medications, and other factors such as drinking a lot of coffee, smoking, exercising and using screens late at night.
Can insomnia hide an underlying disease?
That’s true, Devillier says, as sleep disturbances can be linked to chronic anxiety, depression and gastroesophageal reflux disease. Sleep disturbances may be a symptom of restless leg syndrome, i.e. the involuntary desire to move the leg during sleep, a syndrome that prevents the person from falling into a deep sleep.
This syndrome is caused by iron deficiency in certain areas of the brain, and it is a treatable disease, but there are not many experts who specialize in treating this syndrome.
Sleep apnea also leads to disturbed sleep, as people with this disease wake up several times at night, do not fall into deep sleep, and experience headaches upon awakening.
What do you do when you suffer from insomnia for no apparent reason?
Duvilier stresses that experts offer behavioral, not pharmacological, treatment for this type of insomnia, and is based on reducing the time you spend in bed in the absence of a specific cause for the sleep disturbance, and not exceeding 7 hours in bed.
He adds that these patients should be diagnosed through what is known as “sleep planning” in the absence of a clear cause for insomnia. This type of examination includes recording hours of sleep and monitoring of cardiac, muscular and respiratory activity during the night through various sensors.
Tips to avoid insomnia
For a deep and comfortable sleep, Duvillier advises not to exercise in the evening so as not to raise the body temperature, to stay away from smoking and drinking alcohol, and not to eat large amounts of food at dinner.
He also recommends the need to relax and not use screens before bed, get out of bed when waking up at night, exercise physical activity in the morning, and be adequately exposed to sunlight during the day.
On the role of screens and electronic devices in sleep disorders, Devilier stresses that blue light disrupts the secretion of melatonin, a substance in the brain that promotes sleep, but that does not mean that all people who use screens at night suffer from sleep disorders.
One of the disadvantages of using electronic devices at night is that games, videos, and chatting with others combat drowsiness and delay sleep.
Prof. Duvilier explains that over-the-counter products in pharmacies are primarily nutritional supplements and not medicines to treat insomnia.
In his opinion, these products may be useful for some people who do not suffer from severe sleep disorders, but their effect is only the effect of a placebo.
From a scientific point of view, the effectiveness of these drugs has not been verified, but taking them in small quantities does not cause any health damage if the recommended doses are respected.
Devilier notes that drugs that aid sleep are mainly GABA receptor agonists known as “benzodiazepines”, and hypnotic drugs such as zolpidem and zopiclone, and these drugs affect sleep very positively in the short term.
There is also melatonin, which is not hypnotic, but mimics natural hormones and regulates sleep, in addition to antidepressants that can treat insomnia because they have a sedative effect.
In all cases, you should consult a doctor before resorting to pharmacies in search of a drug for insomnia.