Insomnia is generally broken down into two overall types. First is primary insomnia and next secondary insomnia. Primary insomnia means that the conditions described in the next paragraph are not being caused by some physical condition or life-style choice. Secondary insomnia means just the opposite — you’re experiencing insomnia because of a medication or physical condition such as asthma, depression, arthritis, cancer, heartburn or physical pain, or because of a life-choice such as substance use/abuse involving alcohol or other drugs.
The symptoms of insomnia are pretty simple — and unfortunately fairly common — and they include an inability to fall asleep, an inability to stay asleep (waking and not being able to get back to sleep), waking up too early and being unable to get back to sleep and then a generalized fatigue and difficulty functioning the next day.
Beyond the primary and secondary categories, insomnia is also broken down by chronic and acute, that is, by long-lasting and short-term insomnia.
Acute insomnia is often caused by environmental and life situations that occur but then later disappear or are fixed or manipulated. For instance, stress at work or at home, or both, can cause acute (and also chronic) insomnia. Environmental disturbances such as lights and sounds beyond your control (and sometimes within your control) can be the culprit, as can medicines that you’re taking only for a stated period, not permanently.
Chronic insomnia ranges in cause from stress that doesn’t go away, to generalized depression and/or anxiety, to pain and discomfort while sleeping. Life choices such as overdoing alcohol and other substances without respite can also lead to chronic insomnia.
If you suffer from acute insomnia and can identify the cause, you often can cure the condition on your own through changing some of your habits and following good sleep hygiene. But if you suffer from long-term or chronic insomnia, you first want to consult with your family physician for a physical check-up. Before that, you should keep a sleep diary (recording what happens each night) to share with your physician, who may then advise you to get a full sleep evaluation and treatment.
Sleeping aids and pills can provide short-term relief, but they can lose their effectiveness quickly and also result in unwanted side effects. The best cure is a life-style and health evaluation and then addressing and treating everything that you and your health care professionals discover.
Sleep is too important to overlook, so seek help immediately if you’ve been experiencing any insomnia or other sleep problem lasting a month or more — the sooner, the better.