Inability to sleep; Dyssomnia; Sleeplessness; Wakefulness
Sleeping difficulty can involve difficulty falling asleep when you first go to bed at night, waking up too early in the morning, or waking up often during the night. It can also involve combinations of these patterns.
See also: Insomnia
Everyone has an occasional sleepless night, and this is not a problem for most people. However, as many as 25% of Americans report occasional sleeping problems. Chronic sleeping problems affect about 10% of people.
The lack of restful sleep can affect your ability to carry out daily responsibilities because you are too tired or have trouble concentrating. All types of insomnia can lead to daytime drowsiness, poor concentration, and the inability to feel refreshed and rested in the morning.
Most adults do best with about 8 hours of sleep each night until age 60, after which 6 hours may be enough. Even though the elderly need less sleep, almost one half of people over 60 experience some degree of insomnia.
The best measure of the amount of sleep needed is how you feel. If you awaken feeling refreshed, you are getting enough sleep. For some people, this may take only 4 hours. Others may need up to 10 hours to feel rested.
Using medications to treat insomnia can be useful in certain situations, but there are potential risks. Antihistamines (the main ingredient in over-the-counter sleeping pills) can lead to dependence, tolerance and over time may affect your memory. Sedative medication should be used under the close care of a physician because they can also cause dependence and tolerance. Stopping these medications can cause rebound insomnia and withdrawal.
It is rare for a life-threatening disease to be the cause of problems with sleep. For many people, poor sleep habits are the cause. However, because insomnia is a key symptom of depression, you should be checked for depression if you are having trouble sleeping.
Insomnia may cause:
It may help to see a psychiatrist or another mental health provider to evaluate for psychiatric disorders that can lead to insomnia. If you are depressed, antidepressants can help both the sleeping problem and the depression. These medications do not carry the same concerns about tolerance and dependence as sedatives.
Counseling may help with nightmares and dreams that interfere with sleep.
Sleeplessness in adults may be due to:
Most newborns wake several times during the night, but by the age of 6 months they usually sleep through the night. At age 1, babies will sleep an average of 16 out of every 24 hours. Two to three hours of this sleep will be during the day.
Sleeplessness in infants may be due to:
Mahowald MW. Disorders of sleep. In: Goldman L, Ausiello D, eds. Cecil Medicine. 23rd ed. Philadelphia, Pa: Saunders Elsevier; 2007:chap 429.
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