How does Insomnia develop?
Frequently there is an initial stressor that causes a person to not sleep as well. This could be either a happy event such as a wedding, or a stressor such as a job change. It is normal to have disrupted sleep for a short while. This is called acute insomnia.
Chronic insomnia is defined as lasting more than one month. In this case the person has frequently developed thoughts and habits that perpetuate the insomnia, even after the initial event is over.
What are treatment options?
The primary goal is to treat the underlying cause of the insomnia. There are both prescription drug treatments and behavioral treatments for insomnia. When insomnia is due to a medical or mental disorder the underlying disorder must also be treated.
Behavioral treatment for insomnia is a well-thought out approach that addresses several contributing factors in a systematic way. The therapeutic components include:
– Relaxation techniques. Example: Focusing only on the breath, breathe in slowly for a count of three, out for a count of three.
– Stimulus Control therapy. Example: Be in bedroom only when drowsy or asleep.
– Sleep Restriction therapy. Example: Limit time in bed just to the time spent asleep. In other words, no long periods of lying in bed trying to sleep.
– Education about sleep. Example: Waketime determines when you will get sleepy, so setting a consistent waketime will allow you to fall asleep easily at bedtime.
Research has shown that behavioral treatment for insomnia is more effective than prescription drug treatment, even two years after treatment.