Insomnia, the most common sleep disorder

According to the American Psychiatric Association (APA), insomnia is the most common sleep disorder. nearly one-third of all adults report insomnia symptoms and 6 to 10 percent have symptoms severe enough to be diagnosed with insomnia disorder.

What is insomnia? Most adults need between 6 and 8 hours of sleep. People with insomnia may have trouble falling asleep, staying asleep, or may wake up too early and be unable to go back to sleep. Insomnia can lead someone to feel fatigued or sapped of energy, which can interfere with daily activities and work performance.

Insomnia, the most common sleep disorder

According to the American Psychiatric Association (APA), insomnia is the most common sleep disorder. nearly one-third of all adults report insomnia symptoms and 6 to 10 percent have symptoms severe enough to be diagnosed with insomnia disorder.

What is insomnia? Most adults need between 6 and 8 hours of sleep. People with insomnia may have trouble falling asleep, staying asleep, or may wake up too early and be unable to go back to sleep. Insomnia can lead someone to feel fatigued or sapped of energy, which can interfere with daily activities and work performance.

Types of insomnia

Primary insomnia is insomnia that is not caused by any other condition. It is generally caused by life changes.

Insomnia that occurs as a result of an underlying health condition or lifestyle habit, such as a mental health condition or excessive daytime napping is called secondary insomnia. Doctors often call this type of insomnia comorbid insomnia.

Acute vs. chronic insomnia

Acute insomnia is short-term and lasts for days or weeks. Most adults will experience acute insomnia at some point in their life. Often it is caused by life stressors like work, problems at home, jet lag, or a short-term traumatic event. Generally, acute insomnia will resolve over time when the stressful event has passed.

Chronic insomnia lasts for a month or longer. Chronic insomnia can be a primary problem or may be related to an underlying medical condition or medication use. If poor sleep is negatively impacting your daily life, it may be time to reach out to your primary care physician.

Symptoms of insomnia

  • difficulty falling or staying asleep
  • waking up during the night
  • feeling fatigued after a full night’s sleep
  • increased number of errors or mistakes while performing daily activities
  • irritability or anxiety
  • daytime sleepiness
  • inability to focus or remember things

Having just one bad night’s rest does not mean you have insomnia; insomnia is characterized by a persistent inability to sleep over a period of days to months.

Can insomnia actually harm my health?

One bad night’s rest will likely not take a significant toll on you. However, a chronic lack of restful sleep can have a negative impact on both your physical and mental health. As a whole, people with insomnia report a lower quality of life than those who sleep well. Research from the National Academy of Medicine found that chronic insomnia increases a person’s risk of:

  • Obesity in adults and children
  • Diabetes and impaired glucose tolerance
  • Cardiovascular disease and hypertension
  • Anxiety disorder
  • Depressed mood
  • Alcohol use

What are the risk factors of insomnia?

According to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Resources, insomnia is more common in women than men. Although insomnia can occur at any age, it is more likely to affect older adults.

Additional factors that increase the risk of insomnia are:

  • Significant stress levels
  • Depression or other mental health disorders
  • Emotional distress related to significant life events, like divorce or death of a loved one
  • Having lower incomes
  • Working at night or have a work schedule that shifts frequently
  • Long distances travel, especially between different time zones
  • Having an inactive lifestyle
  • Certain medication, especially antidepressants, stimulants, and  hypertensives
  • Frequent use of stimulants like nicotine or caffeine
  • Alcohol use
  • Pregnancy, menopause, or other events characterized by hormonal changes
  • Other sleep disorders, such as sleep apnea or sleep paralysis

Insomnia treatment

Experts recommend taking the following steps to optimize your chances for a good night of sleep:

  • Get to bed early
  • Avoid sleeping late
  • Keep a consistent sleep and wake routine
  • Get some sunlight
  • Don’t rely on alcohol to help you sleep
  • Get some physical activity during the day
  • Power down devices and avoid strenuous activities before bed
  • Relax before bedtime

When adopting good sleep hygiene, relaxation techniques, and other bedtime habits aren’t enough, other treatments may be necessary. These treatments can include sleeping pills, therapy, and cranial electrotherapy stimulation (CES).

Sleep medication and stimulants

Some people with insomnia may turn to sleep aids or take a sleeping pill for relief. Some individuals may respond well to these. However, these medications can cause harmful residual side effects and may not be the best treatment for chronic insomnia. The Journal of Clinical Sleep Medicine published a meta-analysis on the efficacy of commonly-prescribed medications for insomnia such as benzodiazepines is limited at best. Additionally, many insomnia medications can have adverse side-effects, such as:

  • Dependence
  • Drowsiness
  • Difficulty concentrating
  • Headaches
  • Dry Mouth
  • Nausea
  • Frequent oversleeping
  • Nightmares
  • A “hangover” sensation
  • Sedation
  • Cognitive impairment
  • Motor incoordination
  • Ataxia (the loss of full control of bodily movements)
  • Dizziness
  • Gastrointestinal upset
  • Increased risk of falling (especially for the elderly)

Cognitive behavioral therapy

Cognitive behavioral therapy for insomnia (CBT-I) is a well-established practice. Medications often target symptoms instead of underlying causes, CBT-I teaches you to recognize and alter thoughts and behaviors that impede restful sleep.

Other drug side effects

They also associate antidepressants used as insomnia treatment with:

  • Suicidal ideation
  • Increased mania/hypomania in patients with bipolar disorder
  • Exacerbation of restless legs syndrome

Public safety can also suffer the effects of medicinal sleep aids. These include impairment of next-day driving, the risk of motor vehicle accidents, and “sleep driving” according to the FDA.

Multiple risks are associated with prescription medications to treat insomnia, and alternative approaches such as cognitive behavioral therapy and cranial electrotherapy stimulation (CES), are becoming more widely adopted.

CBT-I may involve different strategies, including relaxation training, stimulus control therapy, or light therapy. These therapies can be combined with other lifestyle changes – like exercise and good sleep hygiene – to promote long-term quality sleep. CBT-I is often as effective as medication for treating chronic insomnia but avoids the harmful side effects.

Cranial electrotherapy stimulation (CES) 

Another alternative to medications is cranial electrotherapy stimulation (CES), an FDA-cleared treatment for insomnia. The brain has electrochemical signals that control whether we are asleep or awake. CES is the use of a small medical device to deliver pulses of low-intensity currents to the brain in a specific pattern called a waveform. The current is so low that most people do not even feel it. However, these pulses modulate the brain’s electrochemical signals and bring them back into balance.

CES is a safe and effective treatment for chronic insomnia. It can be used on its own or combined with medication or therapy, making it a flexible tool for combating sleep disorders.

Alpha-Stim and insomnia

People with insomnia can enjoy healthy sleep with Alpha-Stim® AID. It is an FDA cleared CES medical device used to treat chronic insomnia and improve overall sleep quality.

Alpha-Stim’s technology is based on an exclusive, patented waveform that’s the most researched and proven of its kind. The waveform passes between two electrodes clipped to your earlobes, restoring balance in your brain and reducing insomnia.

Alpha-Stim can be used in the comfort of your own home or while at work. To everyone else, it just looks like you’re listening to music with earbuds.

Using the device between 20 minutes and one hour once a day is all you need to safely and quickly treat chronic insomnia. Over time, you can decrease treatments to every other day, then to 2-3 times per week.

Alpha-Stim effectively combats chronic insomnia: in one sleep study, the number of subjects who reported poor quality of sleep dropped from 60% to 5%. while using the device.2 After only 5 Alpha-Stim insomnia treatments, military Service Members with insomnia reported an increase of 43 minutes of sleep. Surveys also shows patients feel better with Alpha-Stim than with medications when it comes to treating insomnia.

The number of subjects rating their quality of sleep as poor dropped from 60% to 5%.2