7 Symptoms of Insomnia

Insomnia is the consistent inability to sleep. Most everyone experiences acute insomnia occasionally due to a stressful day at work, not feeling well, or due to a disruption of their normal sleep routine. Chronic insomnia occurs over a long period of time, at least three times per week, and can be linked to many different causes. Some causes of chronic insomnia include depression, anxiety, chronic stress, and extreme pain or discomfort at night.

There are different types of insomnia. General insomnia refers to an overall insufficient amount or quality of sleep. This may be due to difficulty going to sleep, waking up in the middle of the night, or waking up too early. Idiopathic insomnia begins during childhood and continues into adulthood. Usually, this type of insomnia is related to a physical imbalance in the body. Psychophysiological insomnia means that you worry so much about not sleeping that you cannot sleep. It is a vicious cycle and may require behavioral therapy to overcome.

How do you know when a few sleepless nights have become insomnia? There are several signs of insomnia and anyone who experiences these symptoms for longer than four weeks, or if these symptoms interfere with daily activities or a person’s ability to function, should consider speaking with a doctor. These are the seven symptoms of insomnia of which everyone should be aware.

1. Sleeping difficulty

Difficulty sleeping can occur occasionally and not be related to a more serious issue, or it can be one of the signs of a sleep disorder such as insomnia. On occasion, about 30% of people experience difficulty sleeping due to stress, work schedule, or changes in their normal routine. Too much stimulation such as watching television or using a computer right before bedtime may cause a person to experience problems going to sleep. The anticipation of starting a new job or going on a trip may cause you to have difficulty sleeping.

Most of these causes can be remedied by making a change in your routine. Instead of reading on an e-reader before bed, read a regular book instead. An alternative to having the television on might be a radio or white noise machine. If frequent trips to the restroom wake you up during the night it could be necessary to see a doctor or you may just need to stop drinking fluids sooner in the evening. If there doesn’t seem to be a reason for your difficulty sleeping and it affects your daily life, then it is important to seek help in case it is a symptom of a sleeping disorder.

2. Daytime sleepiness

Everyone has experienced being tired during the day after staying out with friends too late the night before. This type of daytime sleepiness will be resolved by getting a good night’s sleep and being back to your regular routine. Some people experience excessive daytime sleepiness that can cause them to doze or fall asleep while reading, sitting in a meeting, watching television, or driving. If you are not sure if you should see a doctor, you might try a self-evaluation using the Epworth Sleep Scale which involves answering a few questions and getting a score that will give you an idea concerning the severity of your daytime sleepiness.

3. Lack of concentration

Lack of concentration is the inability to focus your mind on a single subject for more than a short period of time. You may find that you try to think about one thing and end up thinking about something completely different without even realizing when you strayed from your intended train of thought. Having a lack of concentration can cause problems in completing work assignments or in personal relationships. Many people report not being able to finish what they started, or the exact opposite; severe procrastination. Some people have trouble even getting started on a project because they cannot focus long enough to do so.

4. Slowness in activity

A person who is affected by insomnia may notice a slowness in regular activities. This is due to brain cells working at a slower than normal pace which in turn causes physical movements to occur at a slower than normal pace. Lack of sleep can slow the nerve cells ability to process information and to translate visual cues into conscious thought. This will cause a person to react slower to what is going on around them and make some activities, such as driving, dangerous for themselves and people around them. It has been suggested that the slowing down of brain activity is an indication that parts of the brain are dozing while others are operating as usual.

5. Depression

It is not completely clear if depression is a symptom of insomnia or if the reverse is true, but the two seem to go hand-in-hand. Signs of depression can include a lack of interest in activities that are normally enjoyed, being socially withdrawn, lethargy, and declining physical health. Physical signs may be more noticeable to close friends or family and consist of changes in appetite, erratic sleep habits, and severe irritability. It is not important to know for sure if the depression occurred before insomnia or vice versa if you or someone you know exhibits any of these symptoms medical attention is needed.

6. Headache

Waking up with your head hurting may be a sign of not sleeping as well or enough as you should. Having a headache upon waking on a regular basis could be a sign of insomnia. Head pain brought on by lack of sleep is often labeled as a tension headache, but in reality, the pain is felt in a different location, is different in duration, and responds differently to analgesics. Many people may think that napping to cure a headache is the best option, but that nap can then cause you to not sleep again that night beginning a cycle that may be hard to break. It may be best to power through and resume your normal sleep schedule.

7. Irritability

Irritability is recognized as being extremely sensitive to stimuli. We have all noticed when a loved one or co-worker is abnormally short-tempered or speaks to others in an impatient tone. Many times, these actions are attributed to being irritable, but there are many causes of irritability, two of which are not sleeping enough and not sleeping well. Irritability is thought to be caused due to a lack of serotonin, a chemical made by the brain while we sleep. Serotonin helps us to feel calm, so when we do not sleep and do not produce enough serotonin we become grumpy or irritable.