Insomnia – Part I: Types and Causes

If you are reading this at 2 a.m. because you are having trouble sleeping, you are not alone. Approximately 50 to 70 million Americans suffer from sleep disorders such as insomnia.

Shell Point’s Staff and Consultant Pharmacist, Yaw Adu Sarkodie, Pharm D., was the featured speaker at a recent Health Connections program. Dr. Adu Sarkodie shared some insights about the types and causes of insomnia and diagnosis and treatment goals. Part I focuses on types and causes of insomnia.

Sleep is essential for mental and physical restoration. During REM sleep cycles, memory is stored and processed. REM deprivation can result in both cognitive and personality changes. Periods of prolonged wakefulness and chronic sleep deprivation can lead to a progressive malfunction of the mind and abnormal activation of the nervous system, resulting in sluggishness, irritability, and even psychosis. Females, the elderly, the unemployed, those who are separated or widowed, and people from a lower socio-economic status suffer from insomnia at a high rate.

Insomnia is defined as an inability to sleep, abnormal wakefulness, or disturbed sleep patterns resulting in a feeling or perception of insufficient sleep.  Symptoms include daytime sleepiness, frequent yawning, disturbance in functioning, decreased concentration, fatigue and myalgia. When insomnia is chronic, it can lead to medical complications, such as headaches, depression, and heart disease.

Primary Insomnia occurs when there is sleep difficulty despite adequate circumstances and opportunities. It is usually designated as “acute” because it typically results from changes at work, grief, daytime napping, eating or exercising before sleep, jet lag, shift work, physical or emotional stress, or an environmental disturbance.  The duration is approximately one month.

Secondary Insomnia is a result of an underlining medical/ natural condition such as psychiatric illness, terminal illness, alcoholism, drug abuse, chronic pain, menopause, or aging. Chronic insomnia itself can become the cause of medical conditions like depression, alcoholism, or drug abuse.

Shell Point’s Resort Services Department coordinates The Health Connection, which introduces residents to Shell Point’s Health Care and Wellness services and provides a variety of classes, lectures, programs, and panel discussions centered on physical health and wellbeing.

Check back for Part II to learn about diagnosing and treating insomnia.