The word “Insomnia”  comes from the latin word in-somnus, that means sleepless. It is the unpleasant experience of not getting enough sleep as we would.

Types of insomnia

There are different kinds of insomniac problems:

  • Initial: having problems falling asleep
  • Middle: having problems maintaining your sleep (es. many awakenings)
  • Terminal: waking up too early in the morning and having problems falling asleep again.

Depending on its causes, it can be primary or secondary.

Primary insomnias

They are  not attributable to other medical or psychiatric causes or sleep disorders. When we talk about primary insomnias we refer to: Psychophysiological Insomnia, Idiopathic Insomnia and Sleep State Misperception.

  • Psychophysiological: it is the most common kind and it is usually caused by stressful life periods. Its main features are the intense worry and anxiety that accompany sleep; the person is very often trapped by worries about the day about to begin, the foregone day, not getting enough sleep and about the catastrophic consequences that not sleeping enough could possibly lead to. This kind of problem can extensively benefit from cognitive behavioural psychotherapy.
  • Idiopathic: it is a chronic and rare type, present upon birth and life-long. No visible causes can be found. Scientific research suggests that it is caused by an inadequate wake-sleep system regulation.
  • Sleep State Misperception (or Paradoxical): it is a particular condition where the person has a wrong perception of his own sleep. He can mistakenly report to not sleeping at all during the night, or he significantly underestimates or overestimates the number of hours slept. On the contrary, they often have normal sleep patterns.

Secondary insomnias

They are caused by the presence of a medical condition, pain, another sleep disorder, medication or substance use.

Insomnia consequences

Regardless its categories, the are several consequences of having a persistent trouble in sleeping:

  • intense tiredness during the day;
  • sleepiness;
  • irritability;
  • depressed mood;
  • trouble in concentrating;
  • memory problems;
  • weight gain;
  • weakening of the immune system;
  • little daily accidents;

Long-term consequences can be much more severe:

  • obesity;
  • alcohol use;
  • depression;
  • anxiety;
  • diabetes and impaired glucose tolerance;
  • cardiovascular disease and hypertension.

Insomnia treatment

Insomnia can be effectively diagnosed and treated seeking a sleep disorders’ specialist.

Generally, depending on the specific kind and origin, different treatments are available: pharmacotherapy can be prescribed, such as hypnotic medications.

When a psychological component is involved (e.g. psychophysiological o secondary to psychiatric problems), natural remedies, such as psychotherapy and counselling are effective tools.

NICE guidelines suggest that Cognitive Behavioural Psychotherapy should be used if psychophysiological insomnia’s symptoms persist.

A Cognitive Behavioural Psychotherapist can help you in managing your sleeping troubles using different techniques, such as:

– stimulus control: it is used to restore the positive associations between your bedroom/bed and sleep;

relaxation techniques: they can help you in getting a relaxed state before going to sleep.

– Sleep hygiene: some behavioural rules that everybody should apply to get a better sleep. If you want to read about them, click here.

– sleep restriction: to help you decrease the time that you spend in bed without sleeping and increase the time in bed that you spend actually sleeping.

– Cognitive restructuring: to work on those beliefs causing you anxiety and those beliefs about sleep that are counterproductive to your sleeping activity.